Achieving Marketing Nirvana Through Digital Advertising

The Data Possible Podcast

Episode 4: Achieving Marketing Nirvana Through Digital Advertising

Guest: Matt Kelly, Vice President of Advertising, InvestingChannel

Summary: In this episode of The Data Possible Podcast, Matt Kelly, vice president of advertising at InvestingChannel, discusses how having a multi-channel, content-focused approach in place can help firms achieve marketing nirvana. If you are looking to put the right message in front of the right advisor at the right time you don’t want to miss this episode. You will learn:

  • How digital advertising can help get your message and brand out to your ideal target audience
  • How ExactMatch, a tool developed by InvestingChannel and Discovery Data, can add value to your marketing efforts
  • How COVID-19 has affected digital advertising and what the future now looks like
  • The importance of using a multi-channel approach and delivering valuable content

Resources: InvestingChannel | Discovery Data

The Data Possible Podcast is produced by our partner, Advisorpedia.

Podcast Transcript:

Doug: Hello and welcome to The Data Possible Podcast presented by Discovery Data. This is your host, Doug Heikkinen. Today, we’re going to talk digital advertising with Matt Kelly, who’s the vice president of advertising at InvestingChannel. Matt, how are you and where do we find you today?

Matt: Right. Doing pretty well, Doug. And how about yourself?

Doug: I’m good. Where are you today?

Matt: I’m in New Jersey. So enjoying the, hopefully, last grasps of Indian summer here on the East coast, before we kind of make a little bit more of a turn towards winter. It is 70 degrees here. So, it’s a nice day.

Doug: Well, enjoy that ‘cause it’s ending soon. So tell us about InvestingChannel. What is it and how does it work and why is it?

Matt: Sure. And you know, InvestingChannel was founded about 12 years ago. At this point, I’ve been there for 10 of them, so I’m kind of a little bit of a dinosaur at the company. At our core, and we’ve evolved past this, but at our core, we are a publisher group of about a hundred independent financially focused websites with highly engaged audiences. Our sites are authored by experts that produce. generally speaking, non-journalistic analyses of what’s going on in the markets and kind of give them to their audience through their unique lens. As a result, they have very sticky audiences of repeat visitors that range from financial professionals to self-directed traders to buy and hold investors. Our relationship with these sites is basically we allow them to do what they do best, which is produce unique content and we help monetize their site by maintaining relationships with the biggest and largest brands and media agencies and financial services media.

Doug: So, people who are trying to reach these people? For those of us that need digital advertising 101, what is ad targeting and how does it help those who are trying to get both their messaging and brand out there to who they matter most to?

Matt: I’ll start by saying ad targeting is a pretty broad term. Ads take many forms, especially in digital and commune a variety of things, including banners, native, high impact, custom content, emails, social, the list goes on and on. From a targeting perspective, I think the tools that brands have at their fingertips have certainly evolved over the years to allow for more precision, which obviously helps them get hit the Nirvana of financial services marketing, I’ll say, which is putting the right message to the right person at the right time. Examples of what’s available to people and just to give people kind of comparisons are: my firm partners with Discovery Data to offer a product called Exact Match, which allows us to take essentially what the gold standard in the advisor universe, which is Discovery Data, and extend it into the digital space with a hundred percent accuracy and scale via a cookie matching process. So it’s very effective to have that level of precision versus for comparison’s sake site registration data. Data that relies on huge user registration is susceptible to inaccuracies the user enters when they fill out the registration form. There’s nothing to stop you, Doug, or me, or anyone to go to a site and check the box. When it comes to your job title saying you’re a financial advisor or a CEO or whatever crazy thing you might want to put in there for yourself. The targeting in exact matches is just an example of it but evolved to a point that is kind of really allows it to be a little foolproof at a level and more and more brands and agencies are starting to look for that level of accuracy. Not only to identify financial professionals, but investors and self-directed traders as well.

Doug: COVID has cut so many people to be in front of their screens for longer periods of time than ever before. Do you have any data that suggests how it’s affected digital advertising?

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I had kind of done, I would say it’s effected in two ways. I will say in terms of traffic, there’s more important people online today than there always was. I mean, that’s a trend that we’ve seen going that way for a long time. Obviously COVID has affected that even more. So, I would say that at InvestingChannel, we saw our traffic surge across our digital properties by about 30%. I did talk to another financial publisher this week and just talking to them, they they’ve seen numbers that have gone even higher. COVID has affected people’s spending time online. It’s also affected how brands are engaging with their audiences. Initially during COVID we saw a larger set of advertisers, like the larger asset managers of the world, kind of pull back a little bit, not surprisingly. They needed to kind of assess what was going on and how they message to their audiences. First, we saw many of those brands adopt a low volatility message probably up until just now about the start of Q4. I would say we’re starting to see a little more of a product focused messaging that was the norm come back into play. Kind of switching gears a little bit. We work with a lot of brands. We have a hundred sites and 20 million unique. So while we have a great product for reaching financial professionals, the reality is most of our audience does not. We do work with a lot of brands like the TD Ameritrade’s and Schwab’s and E*Trades of the world, and they kind of capitalize a little bit on the volatility wall and during COVID, to attract new users and bring in new assets into each of their firms. It was kind of different depending on what the target audience was. But we’re starting to kind of get back to a little bit more of a normal place. I think in terms of trends, in terms of traffic and advertiser messaging.

Doug: So, a normal place in terms of traffic, or do you think it’s going to sway back a little bit once this, well, if COVID ever goes away?

Matt: I think traffic will probably stay, maybe go back a little bit. What I think is interesting is that there is a new norm and ‘cause I feel like particularly as it pertains to financial services marketers my background prior to InvestingChannel was not in financial services and I mean kind of coming over to financial services, I found they were potentially a little slow to test new things. Now I feel like you’re seeing financial brands looking to new outlets that engage audiences, not surprisingly so that they’re not running out. But there are limited avenues for engaging, particularly financial professionals where there may have been conferences or in-person events. Those are kind of not available to them now. And you know, obviously there’s news this week that we might have a vaccine on the horizon and that might change things and get us back to a new norm. But more than anything, I have seen financial brands start looking towards new outlets to engage audiences and one area in particular that I’m pretty excited about is the CTV space. We’re seeing financial brands starting to go there. It’s kind of at a tipping point where if you were dabbling and I think that’s just my prediction would be for 2021 that you’ll see a lot of expansion from financial services into that space. If you think about CTV versus traditional television, the level of targeting, going back to your earlier question, it’s not even an apples to apples comparison. We could take our Exact Match targeting now and pinpoint advisers while they’re watching TV in a meet, in a form of TV being CTV doesn’t allow really for channel surfing between commercial breaks. So think about how impactful that is to be able to target an advisor while they’re watching a content provider on their Roku device at home versus traditional TV advertising. It’s light years ahead and that space as a whole has really exploded. I think that’s all a stat that e-marketer forecasting nearly $11 billion in ad spend next year, which is a growth of 56% in just two years. So, I think that’s kind of like part of a new norm that I’m very excited about. To kind of see where this environment becomes part of financial services marketing moving forward.

Doug: What are some of the other changes you’ve seen in the way marketers and advertisers are trying to reach their target markets? Anything else new?

Matt: Yeah, I would say that COVID has kind of accelerated a trend that was already happening, particularly when it comes to engaging financial professionals. I believe there’s a need to engage this audience with content they find valuable. Certainly, extends itself to your typical banner ads, as well as digital video, as well as social. When you think about social, for example, when a brand reaches a user in the social space, they need to be mindful that they’re targeting them, what they’re targeting them with because they’re engaging with them in their personal spaces. And they aren’t likely to engage with something they perceive to be an ad. It’s got to be beyond the banner. It needs to be a little more content in focus. At InvestingChannel, we continued to develop our custom studio, which when we combine it with Exact Match targeting. So, you were talking about it, a custom digital ad execution that can be precisely targeted to any view of a financial advisor if possible. That has proven time and time again to be a very successful recipe for engaging that audience. That’s a trend that we’ve seen for a couple of years now. But again, kind of to my earlier point of brands having less channels to engage with advisors, there’s ways to do it in digital that are beyond the banner and a little more custom that focus on content that allow brands to stand out amongst their peer set.

Doug: You mentioned earlier that asset management’s kind of took a pause a little bit, trying to figure out what to do. And for many firms, digital is a very new venture. How can these firms approach the digital space and make sure they have a cohesive plan in place?

Matt: I think that they need to realize more than anything, that there are many elements to digital. You heard me rattle them off earlier and a little bit as I’ve been talking now. There’s standard banners. There’s custom content. There’s high impact executions, native, the list goes on and on. So, I think the most important thing is to really focus on a multi-channel approach to hit users in a kind of a surround session. Brands can’t do just one tactic and expect success. It just doesn’t happen. People are spending more and more times online these days, and they need to hit users through different channels to kind of break through the clutter. I think if you think of it very specifically in terms of engaging advisors, firms have lost some of the avenues. And one thing that I’ve heard is that like many brands are immediately has turned towards email. But I think as a standalone tactic, that’s actually proving to have some diminishing results as too many brands are doing it. And you know, their advisors are just getting pummeled with emails these days. These individuals need to see a repetition of brand messages through all the channels available to a brand to take notice and engage. So you’re not going to try one thing once and then have great success with it. You have to have a holistic approach.

Doug: The death of the cookie is approaching us. Tell us more about that and how savvier digital marketers are going to deal with it.

Matt: I think it’s definitely going to be a scenario where it’s going to make lives more difficult for publishers and advertisers. I think we’ll initially see almost like a back to the future in terms of content and context will be king again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for financial publishers. I think you’re going to see that evolve over time though. I think the, the onus is going to be on publishers to step up their game. I think one thing you’ll see is, it’s already kind of starting to take form, is that user experiences are going to continue to change. And across the digital landscape and that publishers are going to more and more require users to log in, to consume content, even if it’s free. So, it doesn’t necessarily require a digital subscription even for free content. I think almost all publishers are going to require some level of login and that because of the cookie less environment that’s coming our way. If people are logged in and they can identify them and then target them accordingly with ads. Now the push and pull there though is going to be incumbent on the publisher from a value exchange perspective to have users willingly give up that data, to consume their content. Publishers are going to still continue to need to put out great unique pieces of content. And then, so that users, when they come to their website. Okay. I’ll give you my information. I’ll tell you a little bit about myself so that I will consume this content for free or even as part of a digital subscription. And I think in the end now, I feel it’s going to be a little bit of an evolution across digital. But a lot of the same targeting tactics that brands and agencies have at their fingertips now will still be available to them. It won’t really be through a cookie anymore. It’ll just be your different identifiers of that individual.

Doug: So, with all that has changed and everything continuing to change so quickly, would you say that if you’re not in the game, you’d better evaluate your digital marketing? Get there fast?

Matt: Oh, a hundred percent. I’ll give you a little color as we’ve seen this happen at InvestingChannel. Obviously we work with, I mentioned at the top, a lot of the largest brands in the world. I won’t name drop them all, but everyone knows who they are or, but over the years we’ve seen a lot of what. Brands for me is, coming from a financial services background prior to InvestingChannel, I may not have known who they were and we continue to see brands kind of enter the space. And then they add on and add on and add on. And they’re very successful at doing it. So, a hundred percent you have to start somewhere and the sooner you can get into digital, I believe the better because it is. There’s a lot of avenues to do it. And if it’s a need to do a little bit of testing and learning and on the way to engage the end user, whether it be a financial professional or a self-directed investor or buy and hold investors.

Doug: Matt, it’s been quite a pleasure. Thank you.