Clear Channel Radio has developed an advertising platform that contextually matches ads to the songs queuing up to play on the radio. It works similar to the method Google and Facebook use to match paid search ads to keywords and terms. The company has been testing the system for at least a year, but introduced it into the market on Thursday.
The radio network can now tag digital broadcasts, so ads run adjacent to specific songs or other ads. The audio spots automatically insert after specific programming or commercial spots based on the content.
Dubbed contextual advertising or semantic advertising, the technology has been credited for driving the growth of the Internet. Now, Clear Channel believes it can take a similar technology to drive the re-growth of broadcast radio.
"Media-buying agencies collaborated with Clear Channel to build the platform," says Michele Clarke, Clear Channel spokesperson.
Test campaigns for national advertisers VISA, Geico and Wal-Mart, produced results that led the platform out of the test phase and into implementation. One campaigns paired ads with programming content to support Wal-Mart's exclusive retail sales contract for AC/DC's Black Ice album last fall.
MediaVest and Clear Channel Radio created a program where a Wal-Mart ad for the album ran immediately after an AC/DC song on a select group of 106 Rock and album-oriented rock stations in 91 markets. If no AC/DC song played on the station's playlist, the 30-second spot appeared after a song by a similar artist.
Clear Channel says Wal-Mart moved 784,000 copies of the album during its first week in stores. It turned into the second-largest debut week for a new album to date in 2009, according to Billboard magazine.
The switch to digital from analog enabled Clear Channel to deploy the Internet-like technology. Once the broadcast went digital, it created an opportunity to digitally tag the content. Clear Channel had a relationship with Google, but the two parted ways last year.
Google dropped audio ads in February 2009, just three years after it entered the market. Google Audio Ads and Google Radio Automation were formed to create a new revenue stream for broadcast radio, produce more relevant advertising for listeners and streamline the buying and selling of radio ads.
Last February, Google decided to exit the broadcast radio business and focus efforts in online streaming audio. The company began phasing out Google Audio Ads and AdSense for Audio products and put plans in place to sell the Google Radio Automation business -- the software that automates broadcast radio programming. It's not clear if Clear Channel became part beneficiary of that product.