Going global and staying local – How Storytel cuts through the noise
Storytel is a remarkable success story, one where adaptation and best in class localisation plays a starring role. And in terms of display campaigns, Storytel is a brand at the forefront of multi-market, multi-channel advertising.
Headquartered in Stockholm, Storytel is one of the world’s leading audiobook and e-book streaming services and offers unlimited listening and reading of more than 500,000 titles on a global scale. Present in 20+ different markets it prides itself on connecting with customers at a local level.
At the heart of its digital and display advertising are dedicated individuals who are driving the brand towards ever more global success.
We spoke to Storytel’s Kajsa Berthammar, Head of Brand & Campaigns, Sara Waldestam, Campaign Planner, Svante Fjaestad, Motion Designer, and Nikolina Ivis, Design Coordinator about how they achieve their marketing objectives.
What are the challenges facing Storytel when doing digital marketing? In particular, display advertising?
Kajsa Berthammar, Head of Brand & Campaigns: When it comes to digital and display, it’s making all the formats, especially small formats.
Today we operate across 20+ markets, so that means producing a lot of material! That’s always an issue and it’s an issue that’s increasing for us as we grow.
Sara Waldestam, Campaign Planner: The challenge is with the formats, as Kajsa said. In particular, the volume we need to create, especially for smaller markets and verticals.
Kajsa: We also offer a service that is very local, if you compare it to a lot of other streaming services like Netflix or Spotify. Storytel users tend to consume the content in their local language, meaning we need to easily tweak our material.
The same is true of our video creatives – it’s complicated creating video for a global brand and maintaining local relevance.
How is Storytel overcoming these challenges?
Kajsa: We try to automate as much as we can. In that sense, Bannerflow has been really helpful for us when it comes to intuitive format adaptations and those kinds of things; such as the smoothness of adding local images, or localising copy.
But then it’s also the media mix and understanding the bigger picture. For us it’s about creating smart templates and doing whatever we can with data feeds and those kinds of things that can be automated and connected to the product.
How have your display advertising processes changed since using Bannerflow?
Sara: A big change has been that things that once were done by a production company, we now use Bannerflow instead. And with 20+ markets to serve, we can now take a single campaign and push it out to all of those markets quickly.
Kajsa: The general answer is that we have been able to make the markets more self-servant. Now we can provide material to 20+ markets without doing every single adaptation ourselves, which is a huge help.
Sara: Bannerflow enables us to use the right display formats for the right market. Before we were like, no, we can’t make one more size but today we can target better because we can create that extra size. Plus, since our Christmas 2020 campaign, we started creating social assets in Bannerflow – with sound – which was amazing.
How long does it take you to produce a campaign?
Kajsa: It varies because we do everything. Big global brand films, which cover every channel – including display – for those the production process is quite long.
But we also do many performance-focused campaigns. And, of course, this is a much quicker process. For example, it could be: Can we test this? Can we try it in one market and see if it works and then ramp up? etc.
What’s the quickest campaign you’ve ever done?
Svante Fjaestad, Motion Designer: I’m not sure – but the last one for the performance team was 56 still ads, complete with videos for about 50 more, which took 15 hours. However, when the automation works as it should, it goes rather quick!
Sara: We are pushing large amounts of display formats in those sets too. How many sizes do you have in one set?
Svante: Maybe a few hundred, it was a lot – and that’s just for the English template. The local markets will take the English version of the campaign and translate it into their own local language. And the best thing is they don’t have to go into each asset at one time; they just change the image URL, change the copy, and away they go!
What is it like producing and controlling campaigns across multiple markets?
Kajsa: As you know, Storytel is a rather local product in the sense of the content. Meaning that when it comes to titles and book covers (those kinds of things), it’s crucial that we localise.
Failure to do so would just be weird. We simply can’t promote a title that we don’t have in the specific market materials. Yet, it’s also important to find a balance and understanding in regards to what material we need or what should be localised, and when and where it is not as necessary. Because localising is also a very time-consuming process.
How are you able to make sure your localisations are accurate?
Kajsa: We set the master copy for our global communications, either in-house, or via an agency; depending on the campaign. Local teams then translate it by themselves. This is also a challenge – just with translation and localisation. It’s a process that needs to be tweaked all the time, to ensure that we do it in the best possible way.
Nikolina Ivis, Design Coordinator: A big thing for us is using automation but achieving the flexibility we require as well. Usually those two things collide.
We want to automate as much as possible, but we also need to be able to adapt creatives to 20+ different markets. And sometimes that can be complicated, for example, a word in Finnish might be ten times longer than in English, and so on. You always need to find the best way to blend automation with the flexibility to make changes.
In Bannerflow you just translate an ad set in the platform and it’s done.
Are you able to take learnings from one market and apply them to new markets?
Kasja: That’s often what we do. You have an idea of what you think might work, test it in one market and then you scale it out.
Currently, one of the things we are investigating is exploring how much you need to localise and amend. If you look at the time, effort, and resources going into our ad output, what is the perfect balance? And with the setup we now have, it’s possible to start looking at these questions and answering them.
Do you feel your focus on localisation gives you a competitive edge?
Kajsa: We’d like to hope so. It’s one of the things that makes us stick out, I feel. We have a local presence, local offices, and local production processes, in most markets where we are present. And that’s not always the usual set-up.
If you have your ears to the ground, then of course you get the extra sense of what works or what doesn’t. It’s easy to assume what works in one market automatically will work in all of them – when in fact we need to be very open to local differences.
Finally, what is it about the Bannerflow platform that makes designing ads smoother?
Nikolina: The scaling and automation. And just to underline it: today we create something once and then share it to all of the markets to do their adaptations. Before we had to do every banner manually in our team and that takes so much time.
Now, if you just change the copy in the box to the right and then change the image, the creative automation adapts all the assets – easy for us in Stockholm, and easy for all the other teams in different markets. If they want to change an image, or the copy, it’s done and dusted in two minutes.