Addressing Financial Audiences
in Human Terms
An Interview with Dianomi EVP Dianomi USA, Rachel Tuffney
INTRODUCTION: Gramercy Institute Chief Analyst Bill Wreaks recently met up with Rachel Tuffney, EVP Dianomi, USA. Tuffney leads North American growth and operations for this fast-growing London-based financial marketing firm. Tuffney boasts an impressive background in financial marketing on both the media and client sides of the business. If there is a consistent thread throughout her resume, it is in her ability to create meaningful partnerships. This propensity made itself evident during our conversation.
Dianomi is a native advertising platform for financial brands. With contextual relevance at their core, the company provides financial marketers around the world with the opportunity to market their financial content across the world's premium financial publishing partners. Dianomi began in 2003 and today serves over 9.1 billion native ad impressions each month for over 300 different financial clients, reaching over 202 million unique users.
Wreaks engaged with Tuffney to better understand the financial marketing world that we are all navigating today, Dianomi’s key value to financial marketers today as well as the growth, success and North American potential of this fast growing company.
WREAKS: We are living in uncertain times right now. Particularly in our world of financial services marketing. Let's begin with a question that's easy to ask--but not so easy to answer. What is your advice to marketers at financial services brands right now?
TUFFNEY: Given the scale of the crisis, I think it’s important that we start off by making sure that we think in Human Terms. By that I mean, that marketers are engaging a professional audience but behind the job titles and audience descriptors there are individuals who are facing insecurity, turbulence and difficulties. Now more than ever, marketers (in fact everyone in the eco-system) need to ensure that their engagement is thoughtful and helpful.
Brand marketers have a unique opportunity in times of crisis, to make a positive impact on individuals and businesses so long as the message is relevant, thoughtful and crucially, helpful.
I say opportunity and I genuinely mean it positively because this is both a health and an economic crisis, it stands to reason that individuals (and B2B professionals) will respond positively to the organizations that engage them in the right way, with the right content that empowers them with information to help their decision making process in this difficult time.
Finally, I’d say that panic is not a strategy (and neither is “keep calm and carry on”)! Every marketer needs to re-evaluate their strategy and re-align it with the market situation and the business/personal impact that our customers are facing.
WREAKS: OK, then. So, given the uncertainty of the times we are in today, what is it that “humans” really need at the end of the day?
TUFFNEY: People need reassurance, insight and leadership and the brand’s that lead with thoughtful and helpful insight will win huge trust and favorability in the future.
WREAKS: Rachel, talk to me please about relevancy and financial marketing. How difficult is it today for marketers at financial firms to connect with their target audience in truly relevant ways? And when I say relevant I mean ways in which a commercial communication adds real value to the experience of the target audience.
TUFFNEY: Well I love that question. Your definition of relevancy is exactly what I’m trying to express. Marketing’s role, more than ever is to ensure that the information we’re providing (to the professional customer) addresses a very clear challenge and provides a tangible set of insights or solution. Content, in a professional context enables brands to quantify the “why”. I think there are therefore two steps, the first is to truly understand the problem that you are solving and the second is to position your message in just the right place (to ensure that your customer is grateful to receive it!). In the context of our business, Dianomi’s technology can handle the second step (perfect contextual placement) but the brand is best placed to ensure its message is truly helpful.
WREAKS: I, myself, am old enough to remember a time when accurate measurement in financial services marketing was a bit of a dream. Today, financial services marketers have a pretty good handle on the measurement of the marketing. My question to you is this: Can you please tell me how well you feel that marketers today are actually able to use or leverage the data that they measure in their future marketing plans?
TUFFNEY: I actually don’t think that this is an outdated problem and I believe that people would forgive me for saying that it is probably still one of the industry’s greatest opportunities (as in each time a brand gets it right, the gains seem to be enormous).
Like so many things, simplifying the approach is a good start and by this, I mean ensuring that there is a business logic behind the measurement process (vs an ad-tech logic which doesn’t tie back to the business scorecard).
The most important data-point is the ultimate action the brand is looking to drive.
If you can “partition” a section of your budget for controlled experiments, you can carry out effective tests to gauge the performance of different tactics or vendors on your (real) results. Remember to test for scale and not just cost per outcome.
Organizations with deeper resources are re-building MMM (Media Mix Modelling) and MTA (Multi Touch Attribution) systems that enable them to find the most cost effective and scalable channels (where all digital activity is tracked via a central system and linked back to the actual sales). Native will almost always prove out as the most effective channels.
Beyond this type of “performance data” there is also invaluable information-points you can get back from your partners that will help you determine other factors for the media plan (and also messaging / creative etc). For example, at Dianomi, we partner with leading business & finance publishers and collate data around performance against variables like headlines, content type, positioning etc. It's all about optimization, analyzing the data to see where the most engagement is coming from and within which context.
WREAKS: There seems a little doubt that the US, the UK and most likely all major world markets are headed towards recession at this moment. Perhaps many of them might be technically in recession at this moment. How will this fact change things in our financial marketing world as we move forward past this pandemic and into 2021 and 2022?
TUFFNEY: I think rapid change to the economic situation, especially the scale at which all of our lives have been affected has also created the opportunity for marketers to drive through the changes they’ve been eyeing for some time.
WREAKS: Rachel, are you suggesting that, long term, some of the challenges we’re being forced to face right now could serve long-term benefit to us, as an industry, down the road?
TUFFNEY: Marketers and publishers are looking much more closely at partners and technology that bring significant efficiency. The concept of waste is brought into sharp focus when business and profits are down. This is therefore a change opportunity for the channels and partners who can produce the very best returns in terms of engaging the right audience in the right place in order to produce a return against the business outcome.
The same goes for financial publishers who are actively leaning into opening up their inventory and audiences to enable us to help marketers access their site within the context of an overall premium audience buy.
So my summary is that the change to the financial marketing world is a large focus on eliminating waste.
WREAKS: Rachel, I think you agree that content is a very powerful force in financial services marketing today. Can you please explain to me why? In other words, what makes content so important in marketing. More specifically what makes it so important today in financial marketing?
TUFFNEY: Content consumption is at record levels, we quantify this in our inventory availability across our platform (which reached record levels in the past week).
At the same time, professional audiences have a heightened need to understand the trends in the market, the wider trends and, of course, a need to find the right answers and products in order to respond.
WREAKS: So what’s the big challenge, then, with content and content marketing?
TUFFNEY: We might have stopped talking about it but marketers & agencies are also still working hard to address the changing landscape which forces us all to adapt to much tougher privacy regulations in the US and a looming change to the way we can use cookie identifiers to target audiences/consumers. The challenge is heightened for financial marketers who already have to deal with fair lending.
Content will therefore become one of the principal methods for identifying the right audience (versus the traditional cookie) and you can already see financial marketers prioritizing native advertising within their media mix. Moreover, as we discussed earlier, branded content (that provides clear, helpful information and solves important problems) needs to be distributed in the most efficient way possible in order to generate actual returns against the measures brands are putting in place.
WREAKS: To shift gears here, Gramercy Institute research shows that unlike the situation found in other recessions, financial brands are not going dark now. Quite to the contrary, financial services firms are marketing or planning to market, with great vigor in the months ahead. They may shift specifics, but our research shows they are very eager to market. Why do you feel this is? In other words why have financial marketers now understood that it's important to "keep the lights on" during times of crisis?
TUFFNEY: I am not an economist, I’m a marketer but my strong sense from clients and agencies is that they are reacting to the economic downturn whilst also gearing up for what will be a surge when businesses and individuals are able to return to operating and consuming.
Keeping the lights on is a great analogy, we see marketers who are keen to continue to engage their audience and we see agency and brand teams doubling down to ensure that they are ready for the return to business in H2.
WREAKS: Let's talk about the future of financial marketing. In your career, you've seen quite a bit of change and advancement of what we are able to achieve with our marketing. What is your outlook for the future? Let's speak beyond the effects of this current pandemic financial crisis. What do you see for financial marketing five years out? What kind of world we be marketing in? Feel free to paint the picture.
TUFFNEY: That’s a big question, Bill! The first thing we’d want to see is what solution the digital advertising industry came up with to replace the cookie in 2023. There will be some kind of identifier that’s shared across all the publishers and I would imagine that by then consumers will have clear options in terms of the content consumption (ad-free paid experiences or a free open-internet experience with higher quality/more relevant ads).
I think that a lot of ad-tech companies who have simply retargeted cookies and site visitors will have disappeared because measurement techniques will have exposed the fact that these budgets have simply not driven incremental business.
I imagine that brands will have developed more resources to focus internally on audiences and those teams will enable a richer engagement with the customer. Content will be key and I genuinely believe that the concept of “native communication” will be ingrained in the way we do business.
WREAKS: We all could use a little bit of good news right now. Tell us what is the best thing about working in financial services marketing right now, from your own point of you? It seems like you love your job. Tell me why.
TUFFNEY: Yes, you’re right, I am excited to be leading the Dianomi business. I spent a long time working my way up the ladder at News Corporation & The Wall Street Journal so it is a wonderful opportunity to now head a smaller growth business.
I think the financial space is a community, the contribution that great marketing results makes to the American economy is tangible. There’s never been a time in my career where it means more to help financial businesses drive their results, help their consumers and professional customers.
As we speak there are banks producing content to help ensure that the public and the professional financial services sectors understand their options in terms of the right products to support them through this difficult time.
If our business and my team can help our financial clients get that content and calls to action to the people who need it most and achieve a positive outcome for the client, the consumer and even the publisher – then I genuinely feel that our work is making a difference & that is what I want to be doing for a living.
WREAKS: It seems that you have brought this conversation full-circle back to the very first point you made—a need to consider our industry, before all else, in “human terms.”
TUFFNEY: Yes. I suppose I have.