Engineering Blog Interview with Emanuel Hoch

by | Dec 6, 2022

Emanuel is Compado's Founder & Chief Executive Officer

Emanuel Hoch is one of the Compado founders and still serves as the company's CEO and CTO-CPO. Emanuel started Compado in 2016, together with Andreas Hoogendijk, and developed Compado into a global Tech Platform that "automates and individualizes brand recommendations" (Tech Times). As the Platform's CEO, Emanuel oversees Compado’s technologies and technical infrastructure, as well as Compado’s publisher cooperations and the company’s business model diversification.

This interview has been led by Compado’s editorial staff, remotely, with Emanuel residing, at the time of the interview, in Bavaria, Germany, on Thursday, November 10. Press-related enquiries can be submitted here.

Engineering Blog: Compado trades as “Tech Platform for Contextual Advertising and Content Monetization” – What makes Compado a Tech Platform? And how does the Compado Tech Platform work?

Emanuel Hoch: What we developed in Compado, essentially, is a machine – a machine for highly efficient Contextual Advertising. As with every machine, ours got several parts.

For instance, we’ve developed crawling and context-identification technologies that help us find and categorize commercially viable contexts – contexts where Purchase-Motivated Audiences can be found and where we can display our brand recommendations.

We also developed technologies for content monetization: For example, publishers are able to monetize their content inventory with the help of our proprietary brand-recommendation frontends – graphical user interfaces that display contextually relevant brands. Picture contextually targeted frontends such as rankings or quizzes.

What I am very proud of, too, even though hardly anyone sees it, neither brands nor users, is our Backend: We developed proprietary Backend technology, a Compado CMS if you will, for effectively managing the inventory of brands that we recommend and to manage Compado-distributed content, which is displayed throughout our publisher network and our own network of intent-based media sites.”

Engineering Blog: If you had to name three areas of technology where Compado excels, what are those?

Emanuel Hoch: Sure, there’s our ranking technologies, a suite of technologies that was developed very early on and that Compado was built around. Technologies that are able to score a brand’s attractiveness and that can rank all brands of a given industry in real-time – as a basis for brand recommendation.

Another thing that we excel at and that serves as an example for how we work in Compado is our proprietary Content Management System: We have automated the vast majority of all content management tasks and are, by now, able to operate a network of 1.000+ owned intent-based media sites with no more than 3 employees.

Third, I also want to highlight our frontend technologies: In Compado, we operate more than a dozen frontends that are used to display our brand recommendations. For example, quizzes, brand battles that contain 2 brands, podiums that contain 3 brands, or banner-style widgetized brand recommendations. We’ve got a huge number of well-converting frontends and that number is growing constantly.

Engineering Blog: You keep mentioning that Compado uses various “frontends” to match brands with customers. What’s a frontend exactly? Why are there so many? And what are the most popular frontends?

Emanuel Hoch: Yeah, a ‘frontend’ is indeed an important concept in Compado. A frontend denotes a graphical customer-facing interface. It’s how we display our brand recommendations and how we guide and influence customer journeys.

For example, we may display a quiz that a user takes to find a matching brand. Or we may display a ‘podium’, which is three brands next to each other. Different users have different preferences, often depending on the progression of their customer journey.

That’s why we have various frontends in our portfolio. Some users are in the upper funnel, where they just learnt about their need, some are in the mid funnel already, considering a solution, while some have made it to the lower funnel, which puts them right in the midst of taking their purchasing decision. Depending on that stage, they crave different kinds of information: For example, while someone in the upper funnel may be more receptive to a light-weight quiz, someone close to purchasing may be more interested in a ranking list that points out leading brands.

As to what’s the most popular frontend, that’s difficult to tell, really. Every stage has frontends that work particularly well – however, on average, I’d say that tailored quizzes or questionnaires work well along the entire funnel.

Engineering Blog: Compado claims that its advertising is ready for the ‘privacy-first world’? Why is that so? 

We’d also like to know if Compado’s Contextual Advertising uses Third-Party-Cookies – after all, they leave the World Wide Web by 2024¹.

Emanuel Hoch: Absolutely, Compado is ready for a ‘privacy-first world’ – when we use that terminology, what we mean is a world where digital advertising takes the user’s privacy seriously. On the one hand, because we believe that this is the right thing to do. On the other hand, it’s safe to say that ‘privacy-first’ is where the internet is heading: Third-Party-Cookies leave the internet by 2024¹ and device makers and legislators are pushing for restricting tracking in digital advertising further. And, yes, we are ready for that!

For instance, we’re only working with first-party data and data that partnering brands communicate back to us – that means: our platform does not need ‘cookie data’ to function at all.

Compado’s Contextual Advertising does not look into a user’s ‘private space’ in order to display relevant ads – like, what sites the user was browsing before coming in. We do not look at that!

Quite the opposite: Our Contextual Advertising primarily looks at the context – say, what a user is reading – in order to recommend contextually relevant brands. I believe that this way of targeting is much less invasive than cookie-related targeting practices. I also believe that this way of advertising is highly effective – we have, in fact, proven that over and over by outperforming traditional advertising by 5x.

Contextual Advertising, in its essence, is a simple concept: Someone who reads a blog post about learning a new language is, most likely, interested in language-learning apps and schools. There it is – that’s what Contextual Advertising is all about: presenting contextually relevant ads. And this is not just highly effective – it is very much privacy-first.”

Engineering Blog: How does Compado employ AI and Machine Learning?

Emanuel Hoch: “So, we use AI and Machine Learning in various parts of our Contextual Advertising Engine.

As an example, we’re using Artificial Intelligence in our Contextual Identifier, a piece of tech that our platform uses to understand and categorize contexts. As a Contextual Advertising Platform, we need to be able to scan and understand contexts all the time. Like, understanding what a specific blog post is about. Our Contextual Identifier, using AI, is able to do that.

We are also using AI in the vast majority of our frontends: For instance, we’re using AI in all rank-based frontends where brands are scored and ranked based on their attractiveness. AI has a look at all available brands in an industry, scores them and ranks them accordingly. This AI, the ranking one, is one of our best-trained Artificial Intelligences and at the heart of many of our brand recommendations.

I want to add that, these days, in our field, Contextual Advertising, you can hardly work without AI or Machine Learning: Compado needs to run Contextual Advertising throughout the web, at scale. We’re in the business of recommending brands at scale – and our Machine Learning capabilities help us do that.

Engineering Blog: We’ve heard of the ‘Brand Choice Widget’ – a widget that media houses can use to display Compado’s brand recommendations on their sites. 

Can you elaborate how Compado collaborates with media houses and what Compado’s plans are for expanding media collaborations?

Emanuel Hoch: Compado collaborates with media houses in different ways. I want to illustrate two of them.

First, we deliver content to media houses, especially content geared at Purchase-Motivated Audiences, such as shopping guides or reviews. We’re experts in putting together content that shoppers want to look at before shopping – and we share our high-grade content with media houses. 

Second, and very dear to me, we help media houses to monetize their content through our proprietary contextual Brand Choice Widget. The Brand Choice Widget is a piece of code that media houses can add to their sites, to integrate and embed contextual brand recommendations. 

By showing brand recommendations that match the content a user is reading – for instance, picture an article about low-carb food that features brand recommendations for low-carb meal-kit brands -, we’re making sure a media site runs relevant ads and is able to earn money from their premium content – we call that ‘Content Monetization’. 

That’s also, generally, how Compado understands itself: We’re a content-monetization partner of media sites, big and small, and help them to turn their content into revenue, with our proprietary and leading brand recommendations. 

So, if you ask me about the future of Compado-media-collaborations, I am tempted to say that what will happen next year [2023] is that (a) more and more media house will receive access to our Contextual Advertising technologies and (b) that I will make sure that we’re able to monetize more and more topics.

There’s a gazillion topics on the web, and, so far, we’re able to provide meaningful Contextual Advertising for only a slight chunk of them. It is my vision, as Compado’s CTO-CPO, to put technologies in place that help media houses to monetize their entire inventory, and not just a few topics – with the help of our very own contextually targeted brand recommendations.”

¹The Drum: Google says, Third Party Cookies leave by 2024