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Programmatic audio: Why brands should stay tuned

06 Aug 2019  |  Steve Wing 
Programmatic audio: Why brands should stay tuned

As it enters a new growth phase, Steve Wing highlights how advertisers can get the very best out of programmatic audio

It’s time for buyers and sellers to turn their programmatic audio strategy up to 11, as recent figures show that 78% of advertisers are planning to increase spend across music and digital radio over the next year. As with display and video, programmatic technology will help brands target consumers through the audio medium. And with more and more people streaming music or radio everyday - whether that’s during activities such as cooking, driving or exercise, or just for the pleasure of listening to your favourite tunes - the rise in screenless media is THE opportunity for programmatic audio to grow.

On-demand streaming is definitely the most important space to watch, as the industry has recently seen a 49% bump year-over-year (2018-19) in on-demand streams. Not to mention the many other forms of audio consumption growing alongside music streaming. So, it is time for brands to perk up their ears and hear all about how programmatic audio will help them forge deeper connections with their audience.

Programmatic audio vs the world

From an investment perspective, there is a pronounced growth trend for programmatic audio spend, with both Google DV 360 and Pandora adding programmatic audio inventory to their platforms in the last year. For those thinking about whether to make use of this new inventory, it is useful to know exactly what this form of advertising offers versus traditional formats.

Firstly, one of the biggest advantages of programmatic audio is a high share of voice. Think about it: when streaming music or radio across most audio environments - particularly on mobile devices - you have a uniquely personal and highly engaging experience with what is heard, whether that be the content or ads delivered. Unlike display advertising, programmatic audio can offer brands a 100 percent share of voice in a one-to-one setting so advertisers don't need to worry about sharing inventory space with others.

Additionally, there are no ad blockers available for audio advertising, so brands can be confident that their ad will truly be heard. Being free of these major challenges faced by other formats means audio is already shaping up to be a robust medium for brands to connect with their audience. Programmatic buying continues to offer brands the ability to target a listener at the right time, in the right place and in the right context across the medium of audio. And the results speak for themselves: Google says brands have seen a 58% increase in reach by bundling audio with video and display advertising.

Targeting the lonely listener and the group listeners

Because of the headphone and invite-only environment, audio streaming offers agencies and brands the chance to deliver ads with a very personal character. For example, buyers can infer a person’s mood by analysing the playlist or genre they are listening to, enabling them to deliver more personalised, relevant ads. So instead of listening to the same creative as everyone else, brands can deliver customised creatives by segmenting individuals with other like-minded/located/interested audiences.

Frequency is a creative management platform that uses dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) technology to help advertisers create audio ads that resonate best with listeners. During one campaign with a UK energy provider, Frequency used DCO to combine the listener’s location and current weather with ad sequence, music mood, and moment data. As a result, the energy provider saw 52% uplift in recall, 49% uplift in engagement and 2.4 times more conversations with those listeners that received these personalised creatives, compared to those who did not. This really goes to show the power that programmatic audio has to offer.

But remember - it is not just about those people who stream audio alone on their headphones. With the emergence of smart speakers in recent years, listening to music, radio or any other form of screenless media has become more of a group activity than it has been since the iPod was invented. And with programmatic audio, sellers have the ability to identify what kind of listening environment their audience is in - whether it’s a 1:1 environment through a mobile app or a 1: many environment through smart speakers. Aside from some challenges around how many people may be listening to a piece of content through smart speakers, this gives a brilliant level of control and granularity to both buyers and sellers to ensure the right ad is delivered in the right context.

It’s a learning curve

Ultimately, we are only at the start of the journey, despite what programmatic audio can already offer. This means for the next year programmatic audio is going to be all about education, as there is still a lot that brands, advertisers, and publishers need to know about the new format.

As well as educating, the industry needs to address the challenges around download podcast monetisation to help money flow into this space. With the explosion of new podcasts that have resulted from platforms like Spotify expanding up their offering, many new podcast-brands have blossomed. This means a big challenge here involves reaching podcasters’ targeted audiences, who marketers are not yet fully acquainted with. The upshot of working through these challenges will be that we can show producers how they can benefit from programmatic audio and drive reinvestment.

This article was updated 09/08/2019 to add clarity.


Steve Wing is managing director - UK, Ireland & Nordics at Rubicon Project


Mediatel are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine.

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