Horizon Media Developing Mood-Based Audio Planning Tool

Most radio planning and buying is guided by audience scale and qualitative data. Now, Horizon Media is turning this audio planning model on its head by unveiling a new planning approach that is based on the emotional experience brands want to create or connect with. 

The agency hopes that the new approach will reduce the jolt many people feel when they're in an 'up' mood and suddenly a very serious ad airs -- and the typical reaction is to switch stations. So, for example, if listeners want to feel energized and a quit smoking ad airs, they are likely to either switch stations or just tune it out. No one benefits from this -- not the advertiser, the platform or the listener. 

The result? Wasted ad dollars. The reason? Mismatched moods. Horizon’s mood-based audio tool seeks to resolve this discord.



“By identifying and detailing the underlying motivations that compel people to choose different platforms and content, we were able to construct a fresh approach that transcends the existing audio landscape precisely because it is predicated on a person’s desired emotional or sensory state," says Sheri Roder, chief of the Why Group at Horizon Media. "In the future, we will be able to make planning and buying decisions using mood and emotion as the pivot point, regardless of whatever new technologies and behaviors develop.”

Under this initiative, the agency will marry its consumer emotion and mood insights modeling tools with its recently expanded proprietary planning and activation tool, Audio BrandRatings, to give the agency a sense of alternative targets based on emotion in the right environments. Essentially, Audio BrandRatings enables Horizon's client brands to identify the most effective, targeted and efficient audio environments by combining syndicated and proprietary data along with specific emotional brand attributes to identify more targeted and engaging matches between a brand, its consumers and the artists they follow most passionately.

"Once the desired mood is established by a brand, we know what audio platforms and more importantly what time of day or "key mood zones" to reach a consumer," says Lauren Russo, SVP, managing director of audio & promotions, Horizon. "Our planning and buying will be more targeted as we will look beyond demographics, scale and standard dayparts and focus more on psychographics."

Horizon executives say this platform is a first to market tool. The agency, in collaboration with iHeartMedia Inc., has invested a substantial part of its multimillion dollar R&D budget on this project.

“There’s a missed opportunity for increased engagement when brand planning is primarily focused on day-parts," says Russo. "We’ve always known that audio provides a direct line to our emotions, moods and memories. Now, we have an actionable way to explore this untapped arena so that we can ensure brands connect with consumers through key ‘mood zones’ throughout the day.”

The project originally began last year when Horizon teamed with brand strategy consultancy Sparkler to launch a research study that surveyed 2,000 people, and included some in-depth one-on-one consumer interviews.

Additionally, a number of academic and industry experts were interviewed for input including Professor Simon Frith of University of Edinburgh; Paula Woodley of University of Southern California; Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia; Ryan Seacrest, Producer and TV Host; as well as Kathleen Bohan, Senior Vice President at Univision; and Tim Westergren, Co-Founder of Pandora Radio. 

This research will now be further expanded upon via a dedicated taskforce of 12 experts in audio, channel planning, consumer insights, data management and programming. This group will roll out the project and focus on data management and optimization to enhance plans and better inform investments in audio. 

“The research reinforces the critical role that live radio plays in consumers’ lives, even with so many new and emerging audio platforms,” said  Dr. Radha Subramanyam, President of Insights for iHeartMedia. “Consumers continue to seek out content on the radio with which they have a personal connection and that is suited to their changing moods and needs throughout the day. The audio category, including digital radio, continues to grow and these behavioral targeting planning tools will better leverage the deep emotional connection radio is known to have with consumers.”

The agency plans to launch the new technology in September 2015 and expects 100% of its audio investments to be planned and activated through this platform within one year.

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