Originally posted on MarketingProfs.

By Rachel Tuffney, EVP of US Operations, Dianomi

There’s never been a better time to understand the value of brand marketing. In 2021, people are hyper-aware of how brands are positioning themselves (as well as noting their silence) after the roller coaster of a year that was 2020. Moreover, the regulatory climate is compelling many marketers to find alternatives to third-party data and cookie-driven performance marketing.

At the same time, amid financial uncertainty, marketing leaders must defend every penny of marketing spend as CEOs and CFOs look for direct links between marketing spend and specific KPIs or business outcomes.

Yet, although marketers know it’s hard to measure their brand-building efforts, they also know it is that brand building via brand marketing drives loyalty and it can also lead to new consideration and intent that eventually increases demand.

So, how can marketers justify and defend budget for brand-building?

One concrete answer is to integrate brand marketing activity within a performance-driven campaign. In 2021, winning strategies will calibrate brand with performance execution. The secret weapon is contextual, or native, advertising.

Contextual strategies enable marketers to take brand-building assets and amplify them using performance-based strategies. That approach ensures that a brand’s message and content appear in precisely the right context, including the right environment, and that they are distributed efficiently at scale.

The combination can be an exponentially powerful brand builder.

Brand Marketing Within a Contextual Strategy

One approach is to deploy high-quality brand assets—whitepapers, infographics, e-books, or explainer videos—as part of a native content campaign. A contextual strategy allows for distribution of in-depth content—for example, service-oriented educational pieces from a financial services brand aimed at a first-time life insurance buyer—to the right audience (let’s say males age 40+) in the right environments (in business publications).

Most important, instead of using a standard cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) KPI, marketers can measure branded content via a cost-per-click metric in native. That’s a double win: Brand-building creative is delivered via targeted and measurable contextual platforms (wherein the brand pays only for the delivery that sparks a consumer engagement).

As privacy regulations go into effect and upcoming algorithm changes from big tech platforms force brands to rethink their reliance on legacy cookie-based targeting strategies, companies would do well to weave native content into the mix. People are hyper-aware of a company’s voice and reputation. They can quickly differentiate between meaningful and performative social responsibility initiatives, and that’s just as true for business-forward companies as it is for consumer-facing brands.

Contextual distribution strategies with a cost-per-click goal enable businesses to combine levels of quality control, audience targeting, and context that aren’t possible by relying solely on programmatic.

The combination of brand and performance can be an exponentially powerful brand builder—especially as a means to market effectively in an era when we’re still not back to a world of in-person events or business lunches.

Opting for the Right Context

The onset of the pandemic threw the world into anything-but-business-as-usual conditions. Companies and advertisers were quick to pull ads to avoid placements next to COVID-related content, leaving media publications hurting from ad revenue loss just as media consumption was at a high point.

The winners were the brands that didn’t pump the breaks on their marketing, but instead pivoted their creative to hit the right contextual note. Some financial companies, for example, offered timely advice on shifting investment strategies to account for volatility. Other companies, such as location data company Unacast, provided pro-bono data to reinforce the importance of social distancing as an essential measure in fighting COVID-19.

If we learned anything from the Stop Hate For Profit campaign against Facebook last summer, it’s that brand loyalty is on the line across the industry.

In short: identifying the right content is the first major step, followed by the context in which it is delivered.

Synergy of Performance and Brand Marketing

Despite the dynamics of the current climate, marketers are expected to deliver immediate ROI. Now is the time to reassess KPIs, marketing tactics, and creative toolkits, and to consider adding different delivery methods and measurement, such as cost-per-click options, to CPM-based campaigns.

Customers are paying close attention to the behavior, posture, position and positioning behind a brand message, and marketers need to prioritize methods that grant customers more control. Contextual or sponsored content can be a smart supplement or alternative to automated tactics to ensure brand messages are pulling through in a safe, premium environment.

As society struggles with COVID-19 and vaccines that signal light at the end of the tunnel, a strong brand message and presence are critical for companies to maintain customer loyalty. Service-oriented and authentic brand marketing can be important air cover that also influences customer acquisition and retention.

Using the right performance-based tactics to catapult pressing, engaging, and authentic native content in a premium, contextually relevant environment—and in front of the right audience at precisely their moment of interest—is a powerful way to augment campaign plans and deliver meaningful results.

Originally Posted by MarTech Series

By Rachel Tuffney

With third-party cookies gone from the ad industry’s menu, what’s the next substantial solution? Easy. Contextual targeting. While we’ve seen a few industry experts call for tech innovation to replace cookies, advertisers should be leaning in on what consumers are asking for from the ads they are served.

For instance, remember when publishers were blacklisted for seemingly no reason in March when their ads were considered offensive against pandemic-related news content?

Contextual targeting could have immediately been a workaround.

With 67% percent of consumers reporting that they are more likely to engage with contextual ads on trusted publishers, there is an opportunity for innovation in contextual and native advertising. Especially because whichever new identification process becomes the norm, advertisers will need to evolve as very few brands (B2B or B2C) have enough first-party data in their marketplaces.

Why Contextual Marketing?

Before digital advertisers implement a contextual strategy, it is important to understand that contextual targeting has evolved in the past decade. What was considered contextual in the past has, like most things, advanced. By using the latest technology, advertisers are able to identify relevancy at scale. Contextual targeting is privacy compliant since it is not based on consumer behaviors making it a quality solution in a cookieless world.

Another benefit is the transparency contextual provides and the ability for advertisers to look at the traffic being sourced from different publishers and determine which traffic source is the most profitable. Contextual allows advertisers to A/B test and adjust bids accordingly. Ads and content that are contextually aligned also help to improve ad attributions and brand lift compared to when ads and content are not aligned.

Keeping the Consumer Top of Mind

Having easy access to consumer data is something that advertisers have been able to leverage for many years. However, the evolution of consumer privacy law is making third-party data obsolete for digital advertisers.

Contextual targeting does not only meet the needs of B2B and B2C marketers and publishers but it also provides consumers with relevant content while meeting their own personal digital privacy needs. Advertisers should think through working with publishers who have created contextual targeting opportunities that truly understand a consumer’s behavior. For example, a consumer reading up on investment classes like ETFs across top business publications might be served a white paper on ETFs by a blue-chip brand at the end of the article.

Don’t Let Consumer Privacy Laws Scare You Away From Contextual Marketing

There have been many changes to GDPR and CCPA—as well as conversations at the state and national level in regards to adopting similar privacy regulations. This presents an opportunity for advertisers to educate key stakeholders on the importance of contextual as a solution and the opportunity to reach new customers.

While many U.S. companies are still waiting for the looming changes to third-party data, others like The New York Times and Dow Jones have already announced first-party data plans. The New York Times took a proactive approach to ensure the organization is GDPR compliant. The publisher made changes early last year due to a significant amount of subscribers being located in Europe.

Dow Jones, part of the News Corp group, recently shared that the publisher had released a tool that provides first-party data including audience insights both before and after a campaign is launched for advertisers.

New York Times immediately switched to contextual targeting and found they were able to continue to grow ad revenue. Even if a brand doesn’t currently operate in countries or states that have stricter consumer privacy laws they should experiment now with contextual. Californianians voted in November for stricter privacy guidelines with the CPRA signaling a wider trend that other states are already following (and new Vice President-Elect Harris, who championed CCPA in her home state of California, is rumored to be setting up a similar consumer protection bureau at the federal level). This is a trend that is just beginning.

Contextual is right for these times and will continue to play a role in targeting as we move into the new year. It helps publishers at a time when they’ve struggled with being blacklisted and are looking for solutions beyond cookies and third-party data. It’s also great for brands as it allows them to put their messages into context. Consumers benefit from relevant content that contextual provides. In a year in which everything has been turned on its head, marketing campaigns don’t need to be another headache. Consumers crave content they care about, and marketers want to provide the most relevant information to lead to conversions. Contextual targeting is not a maybe as we head into 2021; it is the only way forward.

Originally published on MarTech Series

Unique Ability to Reach the Financial Web Drives 64% YOY Revenue Growth in US in Q3 and Underscores its Role as a Key Revenue Stream for Publishers and In-Context Solution for Premium Brands

In an otherwise disruptive and challenging year in the publishing industry, Dianomi, the financial and business-focused native ad marketplace for premium brands and publishers, reported 58% revenue growth on a year over year basis, as well as an expanded roster of the world’s leading business and financial publishers as well as new brands. The company now serves more than 8.5 billion ads on 220 premium publications, reaching more than 340 million readers per month across the U.S., EMEA, and APAC.

“During the pandemic, we saw media consumption among the professional and business-minded audiences our publishers serve continue to grow and sustain,” said Rupert Hodson, CEO and co-founder of Dianomi. “Brands are seeing that our audiences seek out information to help them manage their businesses, their clients and their own portfolios, unlike the general population, which has experienced dips from news or election fatigue. They also appreciate being able to precisely connect with readers with relevant information about topics they’re actively leaning into, whether that’s more on asset classes like Gold or ETFs or on socially responsible or conservative investment strategies.”

Publishers who have joined or expanded their presence on the Dianomi platform include Dow Jones titles such as Barron’s, MarketWatch and The Wall Street Journal as well as The Washington Post, Kiplinger, The Times (of London), New York Magazine, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and TMX Money.

In addition, financial institutions and other premium brands who have begun working with Dianomi to better reach affluent, professional audiences include Aramco, FXCM and Schroders.

“Readers around the world are seeking out our trusted news, information and analysis to help them make their most important decisions in these uncertain times,” said Dan Shar, Chief Commercial Officer, Barron’s Group and GM, MarketWatch. “Our partnership with Dianomi centers around collaboration as we work together to think creatively about the best ways to provide maximum value to our readers.”

“Though most revenue channels were set back this year, Dianomi has been an outlier, growing monetization against all odds,” said Andy Price, Head of Revenue Operations US for Kiplinger’s parent, Dennis Publishing. “They have been a partner to us for almost a decade now, thanks to the impressive brands they work with and the quality of their content recommendation. Their reliable performance and commitment to quality standards have been invaluable, more than ever this year.”

“Dianomi has been a wonderful partner, consistently delivering advertising content that has exceeded our expectations and objectives,” said Kaja Szczechura, Head of Media Activation & Performance, Net Natives for NYU Stern School of Business.

“I have been using Dianomi’s native advertising services for a number of years, across different organisations and I’ve always been impressed with the reach and effectiveness of the platform. It’s also a real pleasure working with the team who are always willing to discuss different ways to target very niche audience groups,” said Caleb Culverwell, Senior Content Marketing Manager, Barclays Private Bank.

As brands look to reallocate ad budgets from social platforms and third-party, data-targeted display to more brand-safe environments, Dianomi rolled out a premium lifestyle vertical in H2 2020 to answer to advertiser demand for more premium, in-context and brand-safe solutions that operate at scale. Based on the same premise as its financial vertical, Dianomi’s lifestyle network is built on contextually relevant, premium publishers with cookieless targeting and charged on a performance basis. Dianomi has proven its ability to bring premium brands and publishers in the professional services and financial industries together and is building upon that expertise for lifestyle brands and publishers, starting initially with automotive, fashion, travel and hospitality verticals.

  • News & views

Are investors ready to put the difficulties of 2020 behind them? New data from Dianomi suggests that even before November’s market gains, investors’ appetite for news and analysis on leading asset classes was increasing at pace – and that investors were seeking out positive coverage.

Global stock markets rose sharply during the first half of November, as leading pharmaceutical companies announced positive news on potential vaccines for the Covid-19 virus. The gains reflect investors’ hopes that it may finally be possible to begin moving past the pandemic.

However, investors’ optimistic view of equity markets – and of other asset classes – appears to pre-date the vaccine announcements. Dianomi’s analysis of online financial coverage reveals that in October, investors consumed 17.2% more articles about equity markets than in September; even more impressively, consumption of fixed-income coverage was up by 22.9% in October.

Moreover, investors have in recent months been overwhelmingly opting to read neutral or positive coverage of these asset classes. By contrast, only a small proportion of articles consumed, both in fixed-income and in equities, could be characterised as negative, Dianomi’s analysis reveals. This represents a stark reversal since the summer, when the majority of coverage of these asset classes consumed by investors expressed negative sentiment.

In other words, Dianomi’s research suggests that not only are investors seeking out more coverage of leading asset classes, but also that in most cases they are looking for analysis where sentiment is positive, or at least neutral. Negative takes on fixed-income assets and stock markets have accounted for only a very small proportion of the content consumed in recent months.

The data reinforces the idea that investors are beginning to look through market volatility in search of opportunities – and that many investors are determined to capitalise on the potential upside for asset prices. In November, stockbroking platforms in the UK struggled to cope with the volumes of orders posted by investors as prices rose following the vaccine announcement.

November’s Presidential Election in the US may also be part of the picture, with political uncertainty in the world’s largest economy having worried investors for much of 2020. An end to that uncertainty – albeit with the potential for unlikely surprises with President Trump contesting the election outcome – may have boosted investors’ confidence.

Dianomi’s data certainly suggests investors have been shifting to a more upbeat view of the outlook for stocks and bonds. The aggregate sentiment of the stock market coverage consumed by investors was negative throughout July and August, Dianomi’s analysis shows, before turning positive in September, where it has since remained. In the fixed-income arena, aggregate sentiment remained positive over the summer – though only just – but moved sharply higher over the autumn months.

Investors’ consumption patterns when it comes to coverage of real estate and commodities also suggest a shift in sentiment. Overall consumption of content on these asset classes fell sharply during October, Dianomi’s data shows, but in both cases, investors have been seeking out more upbeat coverage. The proportion of articles that express negative sentiments has fallen sharply since the summer in the case of both real estate and commodities.

A move to a more positive outlook across asset classes may presage further gains to come on global markets with investors determined to capitalise on good news. For example, further positive announcements on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments – and a final determination of the Presidential race – offer potential for new market upside given the current sentiment of investors.

Investors appear minded to see the case for the upside. Indeed, October’s most-read article in Dianomi’s analysis underlines the point. MarketWatch’s story, headlined “Most investors now expect the US stock market to crash – why that’s good news”, is a classic example of looking for the positive takes during a potentially worrying time.

As investors plot their next move in financial markets that continue to be characterised by volatility and uncertainty, many are looking for different types of strategies and new opportunities. Asset managers able to help them rise to this challenge will reap the benefits, but analysis from Dianomi suggests understanding what investors want is not always straightforward.

Online coverage of commodities is a good example. Dianomi’s data suggests this was the only asset class for which investors’ appetite for online coverage was relatively higher during September: its share of impressions registered for articles on leading asset classes was up 12%. Commodities articles also score more highly on Dianomi’s Engagement Index – measuring the number of impressions per unique user – than those covering any other asset.

However, asset managers seem reluctant to provide investors with content on commodities. Dianomi’s analysis of content published by 20 leading asset managers last month shows that the proportion of this content focused on commodities fell compared to August; by contrast, asset managers dedicated an increasing share of their content to articles on equities, fixed income and real estate.

In fact, there is good reason to expect investors to be taking a keen interest in the commodities market. We have already seen the price of gold – still regarded by many as the ultimate safe-haven asset – spike higher this year. And as the global economy begins to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, optimism is rising about the prospects for a range of commodities. This recovery will depend on commodity-intensive infrastructure investment, many analysts suggest, with governments worldwide seeking to stimulate their economies by with a broad range of such projects, large small. China’s bounceback, for example, is being boosted in exactly this way.

In which case, investors’ appetite for commodities-related content makes perfect sense – and asset managers need to be providing this support. And to be fair, some managers clearly recognise this; significantly, Dianomi’s analysis shows that the sentiment of the commodity coverage that asset managers did publish last month was markedly more positive than their coverage of any other asset class.

Will we now see an increase in commodities content in the months ahead? Well, it’s interesting to note that in August, real estate was the asset class about which asset managers were most positive in their content; this was followed by a significant increase in the share of coverage they devoted to real estate during September. That experience may now be repeated with coverage of commodities.

More broadly, however, the challenge of identifying content that investors will want to consume remains demanding, particularly when the market landscape is changing so rapidly in the context of Covid-19.

Moreover, in recent weeks, asset managers appear to have become more anxious about the potential for Covid-19 to cause further disruption to financial markets and the global economy. Dianomi’s analysis shows that while the sentiment of asset managers’ articles covering Covid-19 changed markedly from May onwards – moving from being almost universally negative to broadly upbeat – September may have seen another shift. During much of last month, asset managers’ Covid-19 coverage was once again pessimistic.

This may reflect rising concern about the adverse impacts of a second wave of the pandemic, particularly in Europe, where case numbers have once again begun rising sharply. Further restrictions threaten additional economic damage – bad news for investors and for markets.

The change of tone underlines the difficulty asset managers now have in identifying the topics with which consumers of content will engage – and also in getting the tone of their coverage right. But anticipating investors’ appetite for particular types of content and support will be even more critical if volatility and uncertainty spike higher once again.

Originally written for The Financial Brand By Bill Streeter, Editor

Is Google knocking the legs out from under its own success story just as the pandemic reemphasized the importance of digital marketing? Or is it radically changing its role in digital marketing inclusion in reaction to social unrest?

Google posted a big change to its personalized advertising policies that is throwing a wrench into one of digital marketing’s biggest advantages — targeted ads. The search giant has long had policies in place barring ads targeting consumers based on identity, beliefs or sexuality, but this change drills to the core of what many financial institutions do with their digital campaigns: reach the person most likely to take out a loan or open an account with a highly relevant and timely message.

The new rules, which were set to take effect Oct. 19, 2020, prohibit ad targeting by gender, age, parental status, marital status or zip code. The change applies initially to three broad categories of products and services: Housing, Employment and Credit. According to a Google FAQ, the change applies to all ad formats (text, display, video) and all channels (search, display, video).

Facebook rolled out similar targeting restrictions in summer 2019 in response to a settlement with civil rights advocates who had alleged that the social media giant allowed ads to be targeted in a way that was discriminatory. That plus the social unrest that flared into a major and very public situation beginning in May 2020 may have been a factor in Google’s rule change.

“I believe Google has an underlying goal here to avoid any backlash from not being considered diverse, since they’re allowing marketers to run very targeted campaigns to people [who] fall into ‘buckets’,” says Michael Bertini, Senior Director, Search Strategy for iQuanti.

Ad targeting actually benefits consumers by putting a relevant message in front of them versus the usual noisy media clutter, points out Charlotte Boutz-Connell, Director of Client Experience, Strum. However, she also believes that “it’s vital to balance that benefit with equity and inclusion, and that’s what Google is hoping to accomplish with this change.

For digital marketers, this new rule change comes on top of the pending “cookie-pocalyse” — Google’s January 2020 announcement that it is phasing out use of third-party cookies over the next two years. Given that digital marketing has become even more critical for financial institutions since the pandemic arrived, these changes are unsettling.

“The biggest challenge here,” says James Robert Lay, Founder and CEO of the Digital Growth Institute, “is that each time an ad policy changes, so too must ad strategy change.”

With so many financial marketers stretched thin due to the demands of the COVID crisis, Lay finds that many end up overwhelmed.

Beyond that, the impact on bank and credit union marketing budgets and effectiveness could prove significant.

“Losing the ability to target ads has the potential to force financial brands to spend more to gain the same results,” Lay states. However, there are some potential plusses coming out of Google’s targeting restrictions, as well as alternatives that could ease the blow.

Are Marketers Prepared? If Not, What Happens?

It’s an open question as to how many bank and credit union marketers even know of Google’s new ad targeting rules. Marketers whose name appears in their institution’s Google Ads account would have received emails from Google about the change. Most, however, had to rely on their digital ad agency to notify them. In some cases the agency would simply have handled the change.

Either way, Google required a response. “Advertisers had to login to their Google Ads accounts and accept and acknowledge these policy changes,” explains Paul Evers, EVP and General Manager, Financial Services for Merkle. If they hadn’t, he adds, they will be unable to create any new campaigns until they do. In addition, after Oct. 19 (per Google), any existing campaigns covered by the changes will be disapproved and no longer be served.

“Just like with Facebook, these policy changes from Google make it crystal clear who has the power and control in the digital ad space,” Lay concludes, “and it is not banks and credit unions.”

How the Changes Impact Digital Ad Campaigns

The impact of Google’s targeting changes varies greatly. For instance, most current clients of FI Grow Solutions won’t see much change because the digital marketing firm primarily recommends PPC (pay per click) search advertising and doesn’t target based on age and gender. “We depend on our keyword research to ensure we are targeting the correct people,” explains Ida Burr, Digital Ads Manager.

Some financial institutions, however, do target their ads to specific zip codes, which is no longer allowed, according to Patrick Trayes, Senior Digital Strategist at ZAG Interactive. He points out that Google will still let brands geographically target by state, county, city and metro area.

For financial institutions that use Google’s In-Market audiences to target based on specific interests in, say, auto loans or savings, Trayes says that based on the new rules, such interest-based audiences can still be used, but not if they indicate gender, age, parental status or marital status. “Those audiences could still be added as Observation audiences to see how they perform within the campaign, but not as Targeting audiences where a user needs to be in that group to see the ad,” Trayes explains.

“Many financial institutions are looking for alternative methods to combat the loss of ROI from not being able to get as granular with their age targeting.”
— Michael Bertini, iQuanti

Michael Bertini, by contrast, believes many, if not most, banks and credit unions have specific ad campaigns that use the now-restricted factors to get in front of the ideal target audience. “They’re used by all brands I’ve ever consulted with, and rightfully so. They help you get to the most likely person to purchase your product, which maximizes ROI.”

“Take people looking for a home loan,” Bertini continues. “As a marketer, you’re looking to find what’s common among the people who get approved for these types of loans, and then you use those factors to show ads to more people like them; because they’re more likely to get approved and you get a better ROI.

“Let’s assume that people between the ages of 18 and 26 are less responsible with their loans, so you wouldn’t target them in a campaign,” Bertini suggests. Logically, he continues, “marketers would target a somewhat older group of consumers — such as new parents.”

Under the new rules, “all that changes,” says Bertini. “As a result, many financial institutions are looking for alternative targeting methods.

James Robert Lay, like Bertini, sees a large impact from the change. “The vast majority of financial brands are community-focused and have relied heavily on zip codes to strategically place and serve ads to people with proximity to a physical branch location within the community they live or work in,” he tells The Financial Brand. Further, Lay believes the Google change will negatively impact use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to review current account holder data to identify ideal accounts and to create remarketing lists to target the next best product.

The changes will bring to a halt the most advanced types of financial institution ads that target male and female consumers with both age and gender-specific messages, Lay maintains. For smaller financial institutions, Lay expects the changes could force them out of Google altogether, as the bottom line CPA (cost per acquisition) will no longer make sense for their growth strategy.

Along the same line, Rupert Hodson, CEO of Dianomi, a native advertising platform, states: “Given the highly regulated nature of the financial industry and how relatively conservative their marketing campaigns are as a result, [the Google targeting changes] may lead financial marketers to rethink their strategies.”

Long-Term Effects Also Come with Opportunities

While most of the digital marketing experts contacted agreed that the Google targeting restrictions would diminish ROI to varying degrees, several brought up counterbalancing points.

For example, ZAG Interactive’s Patrick Trayes observes that “Casting a broader net can expose your ads to a larger audience who may be in the market for your services, but who Google hasn’t accurately grouped into the audience you’re trying to target.”

At a broader level, Michael Bertini says marketers need to start building their own “walled garden.”

“You should broaden your view to how paid search and SEO [search engine optimization] can work together to drive more to your target audience,” he states. “Start by taking all your paid data, sitting down with your content teams and crafting a new content calendar based on all those paid insights you have. Then remarket to those people and keep sending them informational life-style content until they convert.”

“Email and SEO are about to enter their second golden age as digital ad challenges continue to increase.”
— James Robert Lay, Digital Growth Institute

That advice relates to a prediction by James Robert Lay that email and SEO are about to enter their second golden age as digital ad challenges continue to increase. Email, like ads, can be hyper-targeted, he points out.

“The biggest difference between email and digital ads is that email lists represent an asset the financial brand owns, while ads are leased on someone’s else digital real estate,” says Lay. “This is why email must now be viewed as a strategic asset. And the same is true for content.”

An overarching point raised by Strum’s Charlotte Boutz-Connell, is that the focus of what Google is seeking to promote through this particular change is diversity, equity and inclusion. These attributes are central to financial institution brands across the country, she maintains. “This is an important time for everybody to contribute to these efforts, and financial institutions have an important role in this work, not only as brands, but as employers.”

In addition, Boutz-Connell believes that to the extent that this change inspires financial marketers to try new things, it could be a driver of new and better approaches and performance ahead.

Lay agrees. “This environmental change creates an opportunity for financial brands and consumers to finally begin to collaborate together,” he states. “It is time for financial marketing, sales, and leadership teams to confidently commit to help first and sell second.” Lay firmly believes that the path forward for financial marketing teams is rooted in “transforming their marketing departments to operate more like a content/media brands.”

Originally posted on AW360.

By Rachel Tuffney, EVP of US Operations, Dianomi

One of the highest-profile mergers in the advertising technology and publishing business – Taboola and Outbrain – fell apart this week, nearly a year after its announcement. While it’s difficult to pinpoint any one reason as an outside observer, it’s clearly due to a perfect storm of compounding factors: market timing, new demands for brand safety as well as the world-changing under a global pandemic and waves of a social sea change.

First: timing. Outbrain and Taboola’s business models are similar and both hit by the same threats. I suspect that the “no-frills” business model for Taboola and Outbrain no longer fits into the financial plans needed to make the financing and merger work on the old agreement. Technology and society move so fast, and today, the ecosystem is placing more value on high quality, brand-safe advertising and content with no compromises.

The move towards brand safety

Brand safety has become more and more paramount over the last few years, and this was ratcheted up further by the recent Facebook boycott. Layered on top of the impact that a global pandemic has had on ad spend and overall budgets. It should come as no surprise that two native advertising goliaths that aren’t exactly synonymous with premium or quality content – despite beginning to implement brand safety measures – are swimming upstream against a very strong brand safety current.

The move towards quality and measurement

Digital advertising is only as successful as the strategy behind a campaign. Brands must consider a range of factors to ensure success at reaching targeted audiences. Right place, right time. Native advertising, a subset of digital advertising that Taboola and Outbrain have arguably dominated, is reliant on having the right content, delivered in the right environment to achieve clicks.

But as the industry shifts towards quality environments and expanded measurement tactics (moving away from measuring clicks in isolation), is it still accurate to identify Taboola and Outbrain as category leaders? Publishers are increasingly looking for incremental revenue opportunities that native can provide but balanced very much around maintaining a quality audience experience and an in-context opportunity for brands to have that “right place, right time” assurance.

The move towards publisher-driven technology 

The increased focus on publisher side technology (in terms of in-house products and preferred partner companies who co-develop products and sign up to brand and quality guidelines) – means publishers no longer have to compromise. Taboola and Outbrain may be able to promise quantity and reach but publishers will probably no longer sacrifice quality and flexibility.

The silver lining of these two brands ultimately not clicking is perhaps a greater ability for publishers to maintain a quality editorial environment, as well as a premium reader experience without restricting their monetization options at a time when they are already up against blocklists and decreased ad spend. More publishers and more brands see the possibilities of in-context native advertising, particularly if it can be executed in a premium environment.

  • News & views

In many cases, the biggest impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have been accelerations of existing societal trends rather than shifts in completely new directions. The surge in online shopping, for example, has added to a trend towards ecommerce that pre-dated the pandemic; so too the growth in moves to more flexible styles of working. A third example is the increased focus on investment with an environmental, social and governance (ESG) tilt – and that looks set to continue.

Flows into ESG funds were increasing rapidly well before Covid-19 came along – in the UK alone, the sector was attracting £124m of new investment a week last year according to data from Morningstar. And in a post-pandemic world, we can expect such figures to rise even higher.

For one thing, Covid-19 has prompted people to think about the way they live their lives and to question what is most important to them. But also, the pandemic has once again underlined how it is possible for investors to do well by doing good. For example, when stock markets plunged during March as investors began to appreciate the severity and scale of the Covid-19 pandemics, companies with good ESG ratings provided some protection: such stocks outperformed in 94% of cases.

In this context, research from Dianomi suggests there is a great deal of appetite amongst investors to read about stocks and to find out more about the broader ESG phenomenon.

There are some very obvious areas of interest. For instance, Dianomi’s data shows a massive increase in recent months in the consumption of online financial content offering coverage of healthcare and biotechnology. These sectors figure prominently in many ESG portfolios and are attracting huge interest in the context of their frontline role in the battle against Covid-19. In some months during the spring and summer, the number of investors consuming coverage of healthcare and biotech increased significantly, Dianomi’s data shows.

More broadly, however, Dianomi’s analysis also suggests investors are focusing determinedly on the way all companies behave for good or for bad. The most widely read ESG article online last month was MarketWatch’s coverage of S&P’s updated ESG scores for leading businesses, Twitter, Walmart, Equifax and others dropped by S&P from its ESG index, while Costco is newly included. Elsewhere, Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards 2020, focusing on the impact investments that have generated the greatest societal benefits alongside a financial return, was also widely consumed.

Other top-ranking articles underline the point. Investors are anxious that the businesses in which they invest do not lose sight of the importance of sustainability during these challenging times. As Reuters reported, Goldman Sachs has launched a council of traders, sales staff and others to share expertise on sustainable finance and investing, to meet demand from clients. Business Insider pointed out how consumer-facing businesses are now recognising that “sustainability sells”.

Clearly, investors are determined to examine their consciences in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic – to seek out opportunities to embrace social responsibility, both in an investment context, but also in the choices they make as consumers. Many are looking to build portfolios of stocks with high ESG ratings, or to identify funds that do the job for them, delivering strong returns from investments with which they feel ethically and morally comfortable.

For generators of online financial content – both in the media and the investment industry itself – supporting investors as they pursue these goals will be ever more important. Having decided they do not wish to return to business as usual, investors will be looking for practical advice on how to remain on track with their financial planning objectives while simultaneously embracing ESG styles and concepts.

  • News & views

How will growing concerns about a second wave of Covid-19 across much of Europe affect investor sentiment? Looking back on the turmoil in financial markets in March and April at the height of the pandemic in the West, there is every reason to be anxious. So far, however, markets have proved resilient. European markets rose during the early part of September, though concern about tech stock valuations hit US equities. Investors are not panicking.

Research from Dianomi reveals a similar level of resoluteness amongst asset managers. In August, the tone of Covid-19 content published by 20 leading asset managers tracked by Dianomi remained much more positive than earlier in the year. The majority of articles in which asset managers referenced the virus expressed an upbeat sentiment. Throughout the spring, by contrast, such coverage was almost universally downbeat.

Asset managers are also striking a positive tone in their coverage of leading asset classes. Across equities, fixed income, real estate and commodities, the number of articles with a positive tone outnumbered negative articles last month, a reversal of the picture earlier in the year. Coverage of topics such as retirement planning also took a positive line, Dianomi’s analysis suggests.

In this regard, asset managers are not alone. As separate Dianomi analysis reveals, the sentiment of financial media has also turned optimistic in recent months, with almost two-thirds of online articles published in August taking a positive line.

Nevertheless, there are good reasons to be cautious. For one thing, the market environment does now seem to be one of elevated risk. Not only is the rising rate of Covid-19 infections a cause for alarm, but also, the uncertainties of the faltering Brexit negotiations and November’s US Presidential elections are clouds that now seem to be darkening. Nervousness about the potential for a technology sector correction to hit markets more broadly adds to the sense of unease.

In such a climate, investors will need support and advice on how to continue focusing on their financial objectives while simultaneously remaining mindful of increasing risk. Asset managers’ positive tone in recent weeks is understandable given the progress many countries have made in confronting Covid-19 since the spring – and the relative stability on markets – but any perception that coverage is slipping into blind positive would be damaging.

Content, of course, is just as important as tone. It is interesting to note that the proportion of asset managers’ online content devoted to equities fell slightly during August, from 17% to 16%. By contrast, the managers tracked by Dianomi produced more content on fixed income assets.

The proportion of content focused on equities remains significantly higher than earlier in the year. However, increased coverage of less risky asset classes may make sense if investors are becoming more risk averse. Many will be thinking about about how to position their portfolios for the rest of the year.

This is not to suggest asset managers will want to move away from producing equities-related content in any kind of wholesale way. But there is likely to be increased demand for coverage that balances risk and opportunity – and offers investors a nuanced view of what lies ahead. Practical and actionable commentary will also be at a premium as investors ponder their next move.

Nor should asset managers overlook the potential value of alternative asset classes to investors at this time. The amount of coverage produced on commodities and real estate remains small in comparison to more mainstream assets. There will also be scope to publish more content on topics such as hedge funds and private equity as investors focus on diversification opportunities.

The bottom line is that investors who are focused on the long term, as well as the immediate outlook, will want to continue to take positive steps towards achieving their ultimate goals. But online financial content that is not tempered by a sense of realism given the current challenges may not provide the support they need.

Originally published on ClickZ

Hear from our CEO, Rupert Hodson, on how marketers need to rethink success metrics and KPI’s in a post-third-party cookie landscape.

30-second summary:

  • We need to evolve our benchmarks, KPIs, and other success metrics to meet today’s standards and measure the new, first-party data-driven and contextual ecosystem.
  • While click-through rate (CTR) had its moment as the go-to metric marketers defined success by, it’s no longer able to accurately depict how well our ads are performing.
  • Since marketers are only paying for real visits with a CPC, it’s imperative that we’re analyzing data and ensuring we’re putting forth ads that will perform best and resonate with audiences, ultimately leading to site visit conversions.
  • While we don’t know what digital advertising looks like post-third-party data, brands and adtech companies will need to get creative and look at new strategies in order to reach consumers. However, how we’ll define and measure success in this new era has yet to be identified.

Under the new normal of COVID-19, marketers are under heightened scrutiny. Every penny allocated to each ad investment must be attributed to ROI. Distribution strategies are also being re-evaluated in a pressure cooker social environment (social platform boycotts e.g. Facebook and Twitter) and out of brand-safety concerns. As marketing teams look at ad investments more closely than ever before, it’s time to take a fresh look at usual measurement standards and adopt new yardsticks, especially with the impending elimination of third-party cookies.

We need to evolve our benchmarks, KPIs, and other success metrics to meet today’s standards and measure the new, first-party data-driven and contextual ecosystem.

While click-through rate (CTR) had its moment as the go-to metric marketers defined success by, it’s no longer able to accurately depict how well our ads are performing.

Is it time to say farewell to CTR?

While there has been chatter in the advertising industry to eliminate CTR, it’s still a metric that can shed viable insight into performance.

However, in the new post-third-party ecosystem, we need to look at campaigns more holistically to have a stronger understanding of how audiences are engaging with content.

With privacy concerns dominating the advertising agenda, major players like Google and Apple have made moves ensuring that consumers’ privacy is their main priority. It’s a chance for advertisers to recalibrate how we’re targeting and how we’re measuring a successful campaign.

CTR is less meaningful with a newfound emphasis on performance marketing

Marketers have always been results-driven, but with growth in performance based advertising and the ability for premium advertisers to reach their audiences with a cost-per-click (CPC) model, CTR as a benchmark becomes less meaningful when analyzing campaign success.

As marketers are keen on seeing the ROI of campaigns, advertisers should leverage A/B testing on ad content, readability, and creative.

Since marketers are only paying for real visits with a CPC, it’s imperative that we’re analyzing data and ensuring we’re putting forth ads that will perform best and resonate with audiences, ultimately leading to site visit conversions.

With the phase-out of third-party cookies looming, brands don’t have anything to lose when they are only paying for results across premium publishers.

Brands can measure outcomes more efficiently and in-depth by working on a CPC model. Bounce rate and CTR are only parts of the whole measurement and benchmark process.

Benchmarks for the third-party cookie-less ecosystem

While we don’t know what digital advertising looks like post-third-party data, brands and adtech companies will need to get creative and look at new strategies in order to reach consumers. However, how we’ll define and measure success in this new era has yet to be identified.

While CTR may have previously cut it for advertisers and marketers, old measurement tactics won’t stack up in the new landscape. Other metrics like bounce rate, visit duration, readability, and response time, haven’t typically been top of mind for executives.

These other benchmarks can fill the gaps of what your one or two KPIs aren’t showing.

For instance, bounce rates can indicate that content your showing consumers isn’t resonating, or how if visit durations are consistently short, the information consumers are looking for might not be accessible or easily seen, forcing them to venture off and find it elsewhere.

Furthermore, our benchmarks won’t be the same for all of our campaigns, especially when running with different publishers. Context has a great impact on performance and our benchmarks need to be adjusted accordingly.

While ad spend has seen an uptick in May and June, marketers are scrutinizing these investments and looking to see results and accurately measure ROI.

As we prepare for the new normal, as well as the phase out of third-party cookies, we need to define success differently – touting a strong CTR won’t be enough to ensure your ad dollars are secure.

Marketers need to continue emphasizing performance and ensuring that creative and messaging are resonating with audiences, so ad dollars aren’t wasted in the process. Widening our benchmarks and KPIs is how we can accurately look at campaigns and deem them successful.

Rupert Hodson is the CEO and Co-Founder of Dianomi, the financial and business-focused native ad marketplace for premium brands and publishers. Rupert is responsible for sales and business development at Dianomi as well as leading the company’s geographical expansion in both North America and APAC. Prior to founding Dianomi, Rupert spent five years at Interactive Investor heading the commercial team. He began his financial career in 1994 at Petropavlosk PLC.