Wired For Sound

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a medium where the audience has never been able to pause or skip the ads and has always accepted them as part and parcel of the experience? A medium without any history of falling revenues, caused by a race to the bottom for scale?

And a medium where revenues have always remained resilient because there’s no competition for the user’s attention while they engage with the messaging.

Last month, I was re-introduced to this medium at the 4th annual Rain Summit Europe in London. It does exist and it is of course audio.

When I say I was re-introduced, I don’t mean that I never listen to commercial radio. I’m woken every morning by digital radio, and I stream audio via podcasts. What I mean is that my professional focus has for too long been on digital display, while audio advertising has largely been left behind.

However, more people than ever are now consuming radio and audio on digital sources.



According to estimates by Rajar’s Measurement of Internet Delivered Audio Services (MIDAS), 17 million people stream digital audio in the UK every week.

Since 2013, digital audio streams have increased 97% year-on-year and now account for somewhere in the region of 15 billion streams.

This inventory scale has been achieved without any of the issues around fraud and viewability that display embroils us in. Plus, it spans multichannel ranging from digital radio and social networks to podcasts and music streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify. From a programmatic perspective, this is also a great new source of audience data.

So why aren’t we embracing audio more programmatically?

It could be because we don’t know enough about listener behavior and whether they react differently to an ad that comes as part of using a free streaming service compared with say, an ad on Kiss FM.

At least with display, there’s a measurement mechanic in place in the form of click-through-rates. With audio on mobile devices, you’ll always get high listen-through-rates but demonstrating the real worth of the ad is, for most publishers, still a long way off.

It is, however, the perfect time to reinvent audio advertising and there’s real signs that it’s starting to happen. The audio landscape is ripe for a dynamic approach that principally targets the behaviors and emotions of the listener. If the right ad can be produced in real-time, according to where the listener is and what they’re likely doing, then the resulting audio could have a real emotional and meaningful impact.

Just this month, Spotify has opened up its inventory to programmatic media-buyers with a private marketplace offer. The music streaming service has a 75 million-strong user base and a wealth of first-party data, allowing it to offer age and gender targeting generated by both listening and subscription data.

Advertisers can also target Spotify audiences based on their declared activity, such as ‘Workout’ and, according to user playlists.

This is a huge stride towards offering unique audience insights and better performing ad formats to marketers. Programmatic has a new member in its eco-system to drive effective results.

Now, it has a real opportunity to show its true potential by transparently targeting our ears, as well.

1 comment about " Wired For Sound".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 31, 2015 at 9:38 a.m.

    Radio's real problem is that many advertisers doubt that audio-only commercials are anywhere near as effective as TV commercials in capturing attention and getting their messages to consumers. As we point out in our upcoming annual, "Intermedia Dimensions 2016 ", in the distant past, radio held a huge edge over broadcast TV in CPMs and this encouraged it to do some ad recall research which showed that radio spots, on average, had about 65% of the recall value as TV spots. Since radio's CPMs were about half of TV's the idea was that you got " a bigger bang for your buck" using radio.

    Unfortunately this ploy didn't work with most national advertisers and radio's sharp pricing surge in the late 1990s and early 2000s, coupled with much lower audience levels shown by the PPM ratings, relative to diaries, has greatly reduced its former CPM edge---especially in view of the advent of  national cable and TV syndication buys. At this point, there is virtually no research worth a damn to guide advertisers who might be interested in radio, about how the medium's ads perform compared to their TV counterparts and, to be fair to radio, I can see why, as the results of an objective study might not be all that favorable. In short, it takes more than audience data to sell a medium to advertisers.

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