[Congress speaker Q&A] How Ebner Media targets special interest audiences with effective advertising

For advertisers to tap into the minds of audiences they need to find the touch point between the interests of the audience and the interests of the advertiser, explains Gerrit Klein, chief executive at Ebner, a special interest and business media publishing house with activities in Germany, USA, Poland, China, Austria, India, Dubai, Japan and South-Korea. 

This, he says, is done by analysing data. Once content is created, it is vital that multiple channels across the vast range of platforms offered within the modern-day publishing environment are properly utilised.

Gerrit Klein Ebner ()



***Gerrit will join a panel discussion at the 41st FIPP World Congress on the enduring power of special interest media across platforms. The Congress takes place from 9-11 October in London. You can book your tickes here***


Stepping away from conventional advertising 

But first, the nature of advertising is changing, says Klein. In fact, good advertising in many instances isn’t even conventional advertising at all. Within the special interest environment, audiences are far more open to what Klein describes as “contextually fitting messages” than what would be experienced with a broad audience in a news oriented media environment. “This creates huge opportunities for brands because the audience is already willing to listen.”

He references the work Ebner is doing as Europe’s leading publisher of consumer watch magazines, such as Chronos and WatchTime, which are also published in the US, Poland, Korea, Japan, China and India. “There are various complications built into mechanical watch movements. We created articles and short videos dealing with various aspects of watchmaking such as tourbillons, carousels and chronographs. In the case of tourbillons, to mention one example, this special movement mechanism in watchmaking to negate the effect of gravity is built by more than 20 top watch manufacturers in the world and used by just as many brands. By focusing on the details in relation to this important aspect of watch manufacturing, they connect that aspect of manufacturing in a subtle way with certain manufacturers. Yet, it is not advertising as such. When a brand is mentioned, it is done to explain specific aspects of the manufacturing process as an example and not suggesting that it is the only brand using these techniques.”

The creation of this type of content creates a perfect opportunity for multi-platform publishing. “We made videos to demonstrate how complications within a mechanical watch are working. These videos have been posted on Youtube and Facebook. Furthermore we linked these videos to all online articles we published on our own domains. We atomised the videos into small chunks, dealing with very special subtopics. And we published articles in the printed magazines highlighting these videos.”

He explains that these articles need not be marked as advertising “because it is not advertising. It is the explanation of a special part or function to a special interest audience.”

The response to this approach is positive, says Klein. “When we explain things that are generally not known in detail to a responsive audience of aficionados, it is appreciated and creates an environment of greater interest for brands. When you deal with native advertising in this manner, we are not saying any product is the best, we are using brands as examples to demonstrate techniques and trends”.




Advertising as a constant flow of education, information and entertainment 

Klein warns that considering this environment created by special interest content merely as a perfect environment to place an advert, the approach would be wrong. It goes beyond this. “The danger exists that brands might consider this as a place to publish a one page advert in a print product or a banner ad on a web page. This belongs to history. Advertising these days is a broad array of different communication channels. Brands now have to communicate through print, video, social media, storytelling… We are bundling this together so that there is not one message on one day but a storyline that will last for at least three months, better still for six months or nine. It means that effective advertising nowadays is a constant flow of education, information and entertainment.”


Using data to narrow down your message 

Klein says while strategising about effective advertising techniques within the special interest and B2B domain, they detected that it is not sufficient within the modern publishing environment for editors to commission content about issues that they think audiences will find interesting. “We realised that an audience’s special interest can be measured by using techniques such as looking at Google searches and using specific software tools to have a deeper look into what is happening on social media. We can now monitor the trends that people are interested in. This gives us a precise idea what people’s needs are. If you are going to satisfy this interest of the people, you have a perfect base to communicate this to the advertising community.” 

From this an important principle is born: to match the interests of the audience with the interests of the industry. “If you find the spot where both of them come together, you have the perfect match and the place where you can monetise on it. But you really have to deal with the interests of the audience. To say you have something that tries to reach the audience is merely not good enough, it really needs to be something the audience needs.”    

Here the analysis of data becomes critical. “You have to analyse the data to narrow down your target audience and then you have to try and find the correct content entrance.”

Despite new challenges, advertising within the special interest and B2B environment certainly has its advantages, says Klein. “We are dealing with niche audiences. Our target groups are definable. We can determine quite precisely what kind of people we are addressing. Politics and catastrophic developments around the world do not interest us. We are only dealing with the questions which are of interest to our niche audiences. This helps because we don’t have to look too far beyond the horizon for topics to interest our readers because we can be certain about the set of topics we can use. This makes it easier for us.” 


Print is not obsolete 

Print remains an important and vital part of the touchpoints within the multi platform world of modern publishing, insists Klein. “In niche areas it is vital for every company to be visible – and due to the fact that decision makers are still using printed magazines it is necessary to remind this audience of your existence.” 

He says a study conducted during the past 12 months by the Association of German Magazines Publishers found that 55 per cent of decision makers constantly engage with printed magazines and 81% engage with printed magazines occasionally. “These aren’t only interesting statistics but also proof that print is of great use and that the merits of prints should not be negated. Anyone who thinks that print is obsolete and should not be used any more is certainly making a mistake. It is a vital channel to reach the minds of people. A printed ad remains a constant touchpoint.” 

That said, he stresses once again that that all channels must be used. “You should not use only social media or only the web or only print. You have to use everything, even events. When you combine your channels you have the best chance to reach all of your audiences.”   


Ebner titles ()



‘Page’ – a best practice 

One of the publications Klein references as a best practice to display such an approach is Page – a publication for the graphic design industry. The industry has identified a lack of young people who are interested to enter the profession due to a perception of pay inequality despite the fact that it is highly creative. A further problem is the lack of knowledge about the various branches within graphic design, such as web graphics, social media graphics and app graphics. 

Klein says they set out to create a drive called Page Connect to educate young people about the “millions of possibilities” within this profession. Part of this drive is to publish numerous ‘Page’ brochures and magazines – all paid for by graphic design agencies and media companies. “With this we are connecting agencies and media companies with universities and students. Each magazine explains how a certain strand within the graphic design industry can become a successful career path within specific media environments.” 

These individual magazines, distributed at various universities in Germany, are promoted through social media drives and linked to events, such as open days and the chance for students to visit companies and experience experiential training at the graphic design departments. 

“This, to me, is real advertising although there is not old-styled advertisements in the magazine,” says Klein. “It is education and information that connects students with companies – a direct connect between students looking for jobs and the companies looking for talent. We are the people facilitating this through storytelling.”  


Ebner Page Connect ()



More about Gerrit Klein: 

Gerrit Klein has been heading the Ebner Publishing Group since 2008. Prior to that he served as Managing Director of Vogel Business Media (Germany’s biggest publisher for the machine building and automotive industries), Deutscher Fachverlag (Germany’s biggest publisher for trade and the food industry). In the 90’s he was managing director of the Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ).


Meet him at the 41st FIPP World Congress from 9-11 October in London. Book now.


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