As programmatic media buying extends its reach beyond display and into video and perhaps eventually to TV, John Rosso, president, market development, Triton Digital, is hoping that agencies will look at their trading desk dashboards and realize that they could be bidding on audio ads, too. “This is the first audio ad exchange, a supply-side platform for audio, that can plug into programmatic audience buying and real-time bidding,” he says. But unlike some RTB display ads, an audio insert is never missed. “The beauty of audio is that it is always above the fold. An audio ad replaces content. It is native, interruptive and always audible.”
Triton already has a deal with Xaxis to appear on their trading desk, and it brings the company’s long-standing connections with online radio broadcasting to the table. It has provided software as a service tool to radio and TV companies for years, including loyalty programs, metrics and the infrastructure for Internet radio. But now it is taking those connections and bringing 40 million uniques listening to online radio into the RTB universe. Publishers like CBS, Cumulus and Townsquare already have inventory in the system.
Rosso says that in one sense RTB in audio is no different from display. “When you tune in or launch the player the first thing we do is a cookie match to see what we know about you. We set and read cookies in the player as you would in any browser for behavioral targeting or retargeting of an audio ad. It is the same process.” The buyer can pull in third-party data or also layer in Triton’s first-party data about the nature of the content being played. The buyer can target not only a specific audience but also a listening context such as classic rock or top 40.
The technical trick comes in the audio insertion process and making that seamless across many formats and listening conditions. While fades to black are a traditional signal in TV and video for transitions to commercials, dead zones in audio are heard as jarring to listeners, so an audio RTB system has to ensure seamless moves from content to ad. Triton’s RTB platform, dubbed “a2x” puts up a bid request and pre-caches audio ads when the stream is loaded so that it has the ads ready for breaks, which are not always predictable.
Rosso says that it would be hard to categorize the inventory that streaming media companies are putting into the system as “remnant.” “Not based on how it is priced,” he says. “When you add targeting and the cost of data it can be more expensive than the un-targeted directly sold stuff.” He says that RTB is giving audio advertisers targeting capabilities they never had in over-air or online radio before, and the post-exposure cookie tracking can give them new levels of attribution precision.
It also brings new advertisers to the medium. Publishers choose to dedicate a percentage of available spots to the exchange, from 10% to 100%, and Rosso says he sees a typical pricing floor of $8 CPMs, which compare favorably to typical spot radio CPMs of $12 and up.
One of the most intriguing possibilities attached to audio RTB is creative. Rosso believes there is great potential for retargeting listeners with sequences of audio spots. Since audio breaks are more likely being heard than display ads are predictably being seen, an advertiser could retarget a listener with episodic ads. “Once I know you have heard one ad, I can serve you the next episode,” he says. “The technology exists. We haven’t done it yet, but it isn’t hard to connect the dots.”
Harder dots to connect will be the mobile piece. Rosso admits that tracking and targeting just are not up to snuff on devices yet, even though about 40% of the listening he sees on the platforms are already on mobile. But he sees audio RTB to devices as a clear monetization path for publishers because it is less disruptive and more bandwidth-friendly than mobile video. “We think audio ads are just the right size and shape.”