Readly: Quality Campaigns – Next Level Production Automation
Production automation is all about empowering brands and designers to combine creativity with performance. One such brand at the forefront of this movement is Readly.
Readly is a digital newspaper and magazine subscription service which features content from over 800 third-party publishers, and offers access to 5000 different titles, via a browser and mobile app for a monthly subscription fee.
Active in 9 markets worldwide, every campaign must work in at least 5 languages, which quickly adds up to 100+ individual creatives for every campaign produced.
We spoke to Design Manager at Readly, Charlotte Gudmundsson about how both her and her team produce global display advertising and the role the Bannerflow platform plays in enabling them to reach the next level.
Tell us about a recent display campaign you are proud of…
Charlotte Gudmundsson, Design Manager, Readly: Recent work that we are pleased with are our first two quarterly campaigns for 2021 – launched across display and social. They are fairly simple designs, but as with any campaign it’s about how many full-paying subscribers can we get and how can we maximise that performance.
The other thing that we wanted to test was how we could narrow our message a little bit, and be more specific. This is because usually we try to advertise the breadth of our selection, which is well over 5000 titles.
Previously this was reflected in our designs by having graphics that display a dozen magazine covers. However, viewers have about three seconds to look at the creative and this can get a little overwhelming, so this time around we decided to focus on specific titles.
In the past we have also used a single product shot, so we have a device with our UI, or our app, mocked-up into the screen. This time around we used three devices, each with one magazine cover mocked-up in the product, so people see three titles instead of a dozen. That’s what we wanted to test with this particular campaign.
Which design challenges were the most satisfying to solve?
Charlotte Gudmundsson: The question is simple – how do you bridge the gap of showing the breadth of our offering (that we have 5,000 magazines on offer) but communicate that in three seconds flat?
People don’t have the patience and don’t register a message very quickly, so you have to put that message upfront immediately. Therefore, we felt having a big cover of Time Magazine is more recognisable than having a graphic with 20 rotating magazines.
We now aim to keep the graphics a little more simple. Additionally, we focus on the copy, and are very mindful of not keeping the text too long either, partly because people don’t read it. Not only that but designing for five different languages, and laying out typography in five different languages is a challenge too. German words are very long and Italian is quite wordy – so having an ad design that solves this particular problem is useful.
In general, how do you tackle the design process of building campaigns?
Charlotte Gudmundsson: We are a small in-house design team of three designers, including me. One is based in Berlin, and the other, is based in Stockholm too.
Generally, when we develop larger campaigns, like our quarterly campaigns, we work with an external agency that will produce some designs, such as a couple of master banners or hero videos (that we will also use on social). We then take those designs and adapt them to work across all of our channels, including partnerships with other companies.
When it comes to Bannerflow, our agency creates maybe a handful of banners, three or four, and then we take those master designs and scale them to the volumes needed for a campaign. That process we split between the three of us in-house, mostly based on who has time and availability. We work very collaboratively. And we’re always working together in Bannerflow.
How many hours does it take to build a display advertising campaign?
Charlotte Gudmundsson: Just counting our last large campaign… ads were needed for nine markets, with five languages, to work across quite a few different channels, Google Display, Facebook, Amazon, etc. In total, the campaign added up to 315 individual banners of different sizes. A huge number of individual design assets.
Today, one of our designers, worked about four days, full-time on this campaign; almost a week, 32 hours. And this sounds like a lot of time – but before we started using Bannerflow we would produce using just Photoshop or After Effects and campaigns could take weeks. Therefore, going from two weeks of two designers working 70 percent of their time on a single campaign to one designer working four days, and spending all of her time on this, is a game-changer.
Does the context of where the campaign is to be placed influence your ad designs?
Charlotte Gudmundsson: When it comes to display ads, the biggest problem there is for us is how do we work with a skyscraper ad, which is a very awkward format to work with. Therefore, we try to keep it very simple across our ads, a handful of bold colours, copy that’s under seven words, or eight words, and then one big product shot. Our mission is to communicate that this is our product immediately.
When it comes to social media ads, we have a little bit more room to be creative. But in the interest of time we also keep it a little simpler, and that is because of the fast nature of our work at Readly. However, we plan to create more advanced animations, definitely, for our social campaigns
What is it about the Bannerflow platform that makes designing ads smoother?
Charlotte Gudmundsson: I think one of my favourite things is the preview view, where you can see your whole creative set and you have the text form on the side. Here you can just write, or replace a bit of text, and then it populates automatically across all of the selected banner layouts. It’s such a time-saver for us.
Being able to update text across the board on a banner set is super-helpful for us. It also makes it so easy for us to create all the different versions we need. It enables us to change the ad copy for different languages, in minutes rather than hours. A big change compared to when we were not working in Bannerflow.
Which Bannerflow platform features have helped you take ad production to a higher level?
Charlotte Gudmundsson: Oh, so many things. Dynamic content is definitely helping us speed up processes. We now connect our asset library of 100s images to a live product image with different magazines in it, meaning we don’t have to go and constantly update it. Also, what I really like is that you can have presets. This means you set your own preset, of brand colours and logos, so you have a template set up, which is really useful.
And, of course, just the scalability, the automated production. The fact that you can take a square banner, duplicate it into a tall, vertical banner and still keep most of the assets and general placement of the design elements – it’s really useful.
The basic animation settings as well. It takes a second to add a little motion to it. It’s not the most advanced animation but you don’t really need it for the format that we work in.
How do you remain agile and reactive in your advertising?
Charlotte Gudmundsson: We work very closely with our Growth Marketing Team, who are about 45 people. We’re always communicating with them over Slack, and that’s how they get our designers’ attention for specific tasks. We also use Asana too to work on bigger projects.
Our Acquisition Team focuses all the time on our banner campaigns, and track results. They monitor how well they’re working, and we have regular weekly catch-ups with them to debrief over how a specific campaign is performing. Based on the outcomes of those meetings we then update copy or product images in real-time to our live creatives.
As a designer, how do you continue to find inspiration for your work?
Charlotte Gudmundsson: I actually use Pinterest a lot. I set up many different boards focussed on logo design, Fifties advertising, minimalist advertisements. It acts as a sort of inspiration library.
Personally I’m very interested in going back and exploring design over the last century. I’m a huge fan of Wiener Werkstätte and the early 1900s in Vienna. All of those guys had their own specific little watermark logos for themselves. They were very much about logo designs.
While I take inspiration personally very much from old school designs, I occasionally also get it from TikTok as well. Our team discovered a great tool for creating product mock-ups through it. It’s a tool called Rotato, which allows you to create advanced 3D animations of devices like an iPhone, or an iPad, and helps us when featuring our product.