The End of an Era – for the Sake of the Environment.
9 mins read

The End of an Era – for the Sake of the Environment.

REWE: The Switch.

For generations, Germans have planned their weekly shopping with the help of offer flyers that, unfortunately, end up in their trash. This is now a thing of the past: Grocery Retailer REWE is switching off this essential advertising, promotion, and communication channel to save more than 70,000 tons of paper, CO2, and the annual energy consumption of a small town. No other advertising channel has a comparable ecological footprint.

This Case Study represents an entry in The Internationalist Awards for Innovation in Media by OMD Germany for Grocery Retailer REWE. It is honored as an extraordinary example of how Marketing Makes a World of Difference.

This decision gives REWE a decisive first-mover advantage.

Printed flyers will no longer be ecologically sustainable for anyone. The path that REWE is already taking as a pioneer is therefore still ahead of all other supermarkets.

Courage alone is not enough.

We’re all responsible for our planet. At the end of the day, however, REWE is also a responsible employer for thousands of people. The decision can therefore only be upheld if it does not have a negative impact on sales and REWE does not get into financial difficulties as a result.

We are therefore faced with two tasks:

(1) Continue to provide consumers with REWE offers.

(2) Developing local and innovative alternatives to the product catalogue with a broad reach in order to secure sales.

Two tasks lead to three challenges.

We have to orchestrate nothing less:

(1) The REWE app is at once the most important channel for offers – even though it is still under-utilised.

It brings the supermarket’s offers digitally into our pockets. But compared to the old paper catalogue, too few people use the app. In order not to lose out to competitors whose offers continue to flutter through letterboxes, people need to understand that REWE is saying: “Goodbye paper brochures, hello digital offers!”

(2) The more than 2,000 REWE retailers across Germany are facing an enormous challenge.

While the competition is still busy distributing flyers, REWE is missing a fundamental communication component for the local offers of its retailers. Tried and tested, localised media such as digital, social or outdoor help to compensate for this. Of course, the first step is to orchestrate these channels. However, availability alone is not enough to compensate for the brochure. So we need to rethink local – to get ahead of the competition.

(3) When it comes to reach, we cannot avoid TV.

So far, product flyers have achieved one thing above all else (from a media point of view): massive reach. There is only one channel in Germany that can compensate for this: TV. Showstopper: The immense costs of year-round TV offer communication. Unless, of course, you reinvent the TV channel in parallel with the offer communication…

Homework first.

To continue to reach people with relevant offers, we must first do the obvious, tried and tested: Massive communication through social, digital, outdoor, radio and daily newspapers. All channels that are known for their ability to regionalise. This is classic media craftsmanship. Correct and important. But not enough.

In addition to excellence in craftsmanship, the most comprehensive and complex REWE campaign of all time solves the challenges posed by the switch-off of the paper flyers on three levels.

  1. To maximise awareness of the app, we focus on reach and take the central idea of the campaign literally.

The central idea is simple: “Goodbye paper flyers, hello digital offers!” In one of the biggest integrated campaigns of recent years, we are using TV, online and social, outdoor, radio and daily newspapers to present the app and its offers as the new centrepiece of digital offer communication. We emphasise the message with a special focus on ‘hello moments’.

  • Think local where there was no local before.

While we are already using the channels we can control locally, we are opening up further opportunities where no one has thought of a local approach before! For example, we are bringing the local offers of more than 2,000 REWE retailers to television for the first time. For each individual TV screen, always based on the nearest store.

  • Other supermarkets hate this trick: we hack a TV campaign from REWE for REWE

We invented the world’s first frequency capping in classic TV and replace our own image campaign with ads for the REWE app – whenever the image campaign was facing the threat of an individual wear-out effect. With this revolutionary approach, we create a permanent presence for REWE’s digital product platform. On TV. Without a cent of additional media costs.

Our way into a new era of flyer-free offer communication… With three first movers.

  1. Contextual fit through placements in “hello moments” convince users of the app.

On TV, “quarter-screen-overlay-ads” in moments of greeting or meeting (e.g. in daily soaps) create contextual proximity. In the running programme. Outdoor placements create the same effect when the weather changes or for commuters. The highlight is a digital outdoor first mover at two major railway stations: situationally adapted creatives for arriving trains. Precisely targeted, directly on the track.

  • In addition to the obligation to use local channels for customised offers, we are pushing the boundaries of channels that were previously only used nationally.

For example, on connected TV-devices: together with Germany’s largest TV vendor, we are creating a new infrastructure with a direct connection to a product-data-feed that uses AI to automatically, dynamically and in real time place up to 100,000 products on TV every week. Hyper-local advertising on the big screen, always based on the viewer’s nearest market. This is unique in the world!

  • Our “self-hijacking” approach turns one TV campaign into two… for the price of one.

Using connected TVs, we can measure ad impressions per device and exchange ads individually in real time. And we do this whenever our research shows that the REWE image spot has reached the ideal contact dose for a person. Threshold reached? Then we replace the next contact with a message for the REWE app – precisely targeted at those who have already seen a sufficient number of image ads. Not only a world first, but above all an approach that will fundamentally change efficient TV planning in the future!

All in all, a campaign with a measurably lower environmental impact than communicating offers with paper flyers.

By pulling the plug on printed flyers, REWE was the first food retailer in the German market to take on the central marketing challenge of the 21st century. We took on this challenge with the absolute conviction that new, bold, individually tailored media approaches are essential to meet this challenge.

By doing just that, we can proudly say: We did it!

Our strategic approach proves it:

– We are confirming our status as a pioneer for an entire industry. REWE’s competitors are still turning a blind eye to the environmental impact of their flyers, but sooner or later they will be forced to act. We’re showing the competition how it’s done and proving the success of new ways of communicating offers. Until then, REWE will have a decisive competitive advantage.

– We are proving to marketers all over the world that it pays to be bold! Protecting nature and being economically successful are not mutually exclusive. You can be successful while choosing the ecological option – and not only that. You can be even more successful. A win-win situation that should inspire marketers around the world to break boundaries #StealWithPride

Three challenges, three achievements:

  1. the integrated campaign, and in particular the “hello moments” of our Switch campaign, motivate 61% of respondents to use the app. And more than one in three download the app.
  • the hyperlocal TV campaign for REWE retailers increases the likelihood of buying in the nearest REWE store by 34% (71% overall).
  • the own-spot-replacement leads to 39% higher app awareness and 18% more app downloads compared to the surrounding weeks. Without any additional media investment! 

The Switch brings a decisive competitive advantage.

Marketing Germany did not expect this: The most extensive and complex REWE campaign of all time generated a positive sales trend compared to the competition (+0.6pp) in the first few months – and this completely without an offer flyer. In the context of a market worth 180 billion euros, this effect is massive!

The path we have taken is not only exceeding all economic expectations – it is also making a massive difference to the environment. And every year from now on:

73,000 tons of paper saved.

70,000 tons of CO2 saved.

1.1 million litres of water saved.

380 million kWh of energy saved.

A new era in quote communication. And we ushered it in.