Innovator Insights: Dianomi’s Rupert Hodson

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When Rupert Hodson uses the phrase “content recommendation platforms,” he knows that many people in the marketing community will instantly associate it with the sensationalistic or clickbait-style headlines that appear beneath articles on their favorite websites. 

When Rupert Hodson uses the phrase “content recommendation platforms,” he knows that many people in the marketing community will instantly associate it with the sensationalistic or clickbait-style headlines that appear beneath articles on their favorite websites. 

He also knows that, as soon as anyone takes a closer look at Dianomi, they’ll realize how differently his company has approached this space. 

Headquartered in the United Kingdom, Dianomi has spent nearly 20 years helping brands place native ads with the ideal publishers to reach their target audience. Unlike Taboola, Outbrain or many similar content recommendation platforms, however, Dianomi has remained exclusively centered around publishers serving the business and finance sectors. 

By contextually targeting ads to professionals engaging with the finance vertical, Dianomi has been able to grow dramatically since its 2010 expansion into the U.S., which now accounts for 80% of its business. According to Hodson, its co-founder and CEO, Dianomi’s clientele includes seven of the top 10 global asset managers and six of the top 10 US banks.

Dianomi’s network, meanwhile, now spans more than 350 publishers, which offers brands access to digital channels that include web sites but also mobile apps and publishers Apple News channels. 

“The fact that we sit across all these publishers, and because we have fixed positions, we're not competing with other sorts of demand sources,” Hodson told Brand Innovators, adding that Dianomi ensures the right experience by turning down the vast majority of advertisers that come its way because they’re not the right fit. “For an advertiser, if you're a big US Bank, you can't afford for your ad to appear next door to gut cleansing ads. That’s just a no-go.” Trust,Transparency and Brand safety have always been front and center of everything we do for both our advertisers and publishers

Last Spring, Dianomi completed its IPO, the first of U.K. and Ireland growth investor BGF’s portfolio companies to do so. The next step, according to Hodson, is a move into categories that interest the same high-income earners, but in their off hours. 

“We had publishers who said, ‘We love what you're doing on monetizing our financial content, but we also have lifestyle content. Can you help us there?” he said, giving travel-oriented credit cards aimed at affluent readers who are engaging with travel content as an example. “Premium lifestyle advertisers are an exciting growth opportunity for us but again, it's super important that we remain laser focused on creating a premium advertising environment for both our advertisers and publishers. We see automotive, travel, health and the premium end of the direct to consumer marketplace as key areas of focus.

Hodson shared some additional insights on content recommendation, native advertising and how Dianomi continues to differentiate itself: 

‘Performance Marketing’ Is Best Defined Through A Brand’s Unique KPIs

Dianomi works with plenty of advertisers who are trying to achieve conversions, but this can mean different things depending on the brand in question. Some might be looking for a click through to their website where the reader can engage with their content, but others want people to sign up for a newsletter, download an app,  sign up for an account or apply for a credit card, etc. Transparency on conversion has been a core driver of our ability to work with brands on an always on basis, as is our ability to optimize activity to conversion on a publisher by publisher basis.  

“In many ways, we work like a lab with our clients, sharing the learnings and optimizing the campaigns together and it’s very synergistic. Consequently, many of our advertisers are always-on, bidding to the efficient frontier, because there is really no reason to come off the platform if they are hitting their KPIs.

Even as much of the ad industry is trying to grasp the impact of Google’s recent decision to replace cookies with Topics, Hodson said that Dianomi, having focused on contextual targeting in its purest form since inception, as well as contextual lookalike targeting, is future proofed and well positioned to capture the opportunity that the depreciation of cookies is opening up. 

“We see time and time again that contextual targeting capabilities out perform behavioral targeting, with the latter being what the programmatic advertising ecosystem relies on. The trick is delivering contextual at scale. This is one of our core USPs.”

There Is Still Plenty Of Room For Creativity In Native Ad Experiences

Last year, Dianomi launched what Hodson called “streaming podcasts.” Readers can click “play” directly on a native ad unit and become listeners to the podcast. It’s a good case in point in how native ad creative will continue to evolve in order to provide a better user experience, Hodson said.

“I don’t quite like the phrase ‘snackable content,’ but it is that sort of approach where they're trying to ensure that you keep that engagement,” he said. 

Marketers should work with companies like Dianomi as a sort of lab partner, he suggested, where its algorithm and team can help test variations on a campaign to maximize results. This can lead to some unexpected strategic moves; Hodson recalled one asset manager client which ended up using data it gathered through digital advertising with Dianomi on a nationwide  billboard campaign in the UK. 

Analytics Can Only Help When You Make The Effort To Produce Excellence

With 18 million articles a month running across its network of publishers, Dianomi has developed sophisticated capabilities in terms of guiding marketers to the best placement opportunities. This includes the ability to show data on content that is trending well or identifying “white spaces” that show where audiences are waiting to be provided new or different content. 

That said, Hodson pointed out that native ads need to adhere to what are considered premium best practices. Depending on their goals, for instance, some evergreen content might perform well over a longer period, while other content should be more timely. Information needs to be “digestible” for busy audiences with low attention spans. And of course, native ads have to provide genuine value.

“Our targeting will help,” he said, “but ultimately it's reliant on  the brand producing high quality content that generates interest. That content can be in the form of written articles, infographics, videos or podcasts. It takes us back to the basics of successful advertising: delivering high quality advertising - why we focus on premium brands, into professionally curated and relevant content - our premium publisher partners, in a privacy friendly manner - targeting through context, not user data. And this is all done through our reach to over 440 million unique devices on a monthly basis.”

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