"One of the surprising advantages we had was that our team didn’t have an ad tech background. It may seem counterintuitive, but having a product and engineering team without any ad tech background allowed us to take a new look at things and move faster than other companies."Abe Storey, Rhombus
On August 26, Kargo announced its acquisition of Rhombus, an ad platform built to embed social media content across premium publishers’ sites and apps. The Rhombus social embedding technology will be renamed Social Canvas and integrated into the Kargo platform to allow advertisers highly targeted, cookieless ad placements adjacent to relevant, newsworthy social media posts.
News of the acquisition sparked my interest in how Rhombus first built its innovative, brand safe platform with help from Adzerk — and how its reach and scale will change as it joins Kargo.
My recent interview with Rhombus founder and CEO Abe Storey offers insights into the platform’s creation and evolution, and advice for publishers who want to build brand safety into their ad platforms.
What first inspired you to create your social embed technology?
I realized that the internet had fundamentally changed. We used to talk about the news on social media. Maybe a family member would read an article and share it on Facebook or Twitter. Now, social media is the news. What business leaders, celebrities, sports stars, and everyday people say on social media is what drives the news.
For example, when Kevin Durant left the Golden State Warriors, something incredible happened. And no — it wasn’t that the Nets were suddenly a good team. It was that he didn’t immediately tell management, his teammates, or the press about his departure. The first thing he did was post on Instagram. Then, sports publications scrambled to embed his Instagram post in their articles.
These social posts, or “embeds”, dominate news cycles across sports, politics, entertainment, lifestyle — virtually every inch of the media landscape.
It isn’t just Twitter. Music websites embed Spotify and Soundcloud songs. Entertainment sites embed Instagram posts and YouTube videos. News sites embed Reddit and Facebook posts. There are over 19 social media platforms that include social embeds.
What were the biggest challenges your product team faced prior to your 2018 launch?
We didn’t want to recreate the wheel when it came to core advertising technology such as geotargeting, flights, and so on. This is where Adzerk was a life saver. Adzerk allowed us to focus on our core value — analyzing the data of social embeds — instead of getting lost in creating our own ad server.
Did you discover any big surprises or significant bugs after the launch? Anything you wished you would have done differently?
We experienced numerous bugs in the early stages.
The key learning was ensuring we went through a thorough QA process for every new publisher we onboarded.
What excites you — and your current clients (USA Today, Rolling Stone, etc.) — most about partnering with Kargo?
The depth and scale of their existing brand partnerships.
"Only about a month after the acquisition, a significant portion of S&P 500 brands are Social Canvas advertisers."Abe Storey
How will Kargo expand your social embed targeting capabilities and scaling?
Kargo brings an immense list of tier one publisher partnerships that virtually expands our reach overnight.
How are you preparing for Apple’s new IDFA changes? How concerned are you about these and other data privacy laws, browser restrictions, etc.?
We built Rhombus from the ground up for contextual targeting. So we are lucky that the changing regulatory and browser environment has had limited impact on us (and in fact has helped us).
What additional benefits will the Social Canvas ad product offer publishers that want to increase their revenue and offer advertisers greater brand safety?
Users are increasingly concerned with how social platforms are using their personal data. Social embeds are the perfect alternative.
They are hand picked by editors and placed inside premium publisher content, and they don’t include comments.
Lastly, Social Canvas’ proprietary brand safety technology automatically detects and blocks non brandsafe embeds.
What advice would you offer product teams looking to build innovative ad units/platforms?
One of the surprising advantages we had was that our team didn’t have an ad tech background. It may seem counterintuitive, but having a product and engineering team without any ad tech background allowed us to take a new look at things and move faster than other companies.
Abe Storey was the founder and CEO of Rhombus, which recently sold to Kargo Global, Inc. He enjoys working on product and go-to-market strategy for early-stage companies.
Thanks to Abe for sharing how Rhombus came to be — and what’s next as part of the Kargo team.
Share your thoughts on social embeds and new partnerships with the Ad.Product community on LinkedIn — and your interest in being interviewed.
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