Tuning into podcast sponsorship, programmatic audio and native audio sponsorships
As brand dollars shift from traditional radio to digital media buying, columnist Kevin Lee explains how, just like in the early days of paid search, online audio is providing big opportunities for marketers.
We don’t call it radio advertising anymore. It’s online audio advertising, and it can live anywhere: online, offline, on any device. With so many ears now online, you have more ways than ever to reach your audience.
A major plus for this kind of advertising is that it’s been largely immune from many major issues affecting other forms of digital advertising such as ad-blocking, viewability bots, and publisher-driven fraud (as far as we know).
Despite the fact that many terrestrial radio stations and broadcast companies are pushing content out digitally, the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) barely mentions the broader spectrum of (non-broadcast radio) audio advertising on its site. I did, however, manage to find a report generated for the RAB by Prohaska Consulting in September of 2015 advising the radio industry to embrace programmatic buying and selling (PDF).
Prohaska’s report provides a sober take on the future of traditional radio, noting that its major existential threat is “falling out of the planning and budgeting flow.” It also provides a very useful, multistep guide for radio stations seeking not to be left behind by the growing shift of brand dollars to digital media buying.
I reached out to Matt Prohaska, who created the RAB report with his team. Prohaska is enthusiastic about all forms of media going programmatic, noting that “as all media become digital, and all standardized media become bought and sold programmatically, every medium can leverage its unique contextual relevance, creative execution and audience data to deliver the combined power of branded environment and targeting for marketers.”
“Plenty of publishers and tech firms successful in ‘digital’ media today are looking to TV, out-of-home and radio/audio to leverage what has worked, and leave out what has not, to allow for multichannel targeting and seamless campaigns,” he added.
It remains to be seen whether programmatic media as a whole follows the path of paid search, the first major form of media to be auctioned off in near real time where prices escalated and priced many marketers out of the auctions for the best traffic and impressions.
Right now, however, it appears that there are major opportunities for marketers to experiment with and apply dollars against online audio — just as there were in the early days of paid search.
The podcast opportunity
[pullquote][There’s a] big opportunity to tell branded stories with music-driven content on streaming services designed to deliver music experiences to fans
— Nathan Hanks, CEO of Music Audience Exchange[/pullquote]
Edison research released an interesting report stating that 67 million Americans listened to at least one podcast a month. These podcast listeners are often difficult to reach through other forms of media.
Alongside podcast advertising (available via specialized networks as well as show-specific sponsorship advertising opportunities), I’ve witnessed an explosion in programmatic audio ad inventory. Programmatic audio — just like programmatic display — allows for first-party targeting (retargeting), third-party behavioral advertising, content targeting, lookalike audiences, and even custom audiences. Buying can be done via open marketplaces or private deals.
When engaging in online audio advertising, one needs to think carefully about the listener’s state of mind. The wrong messaging can doom a promising campaign.
Nathan Hanks, CEO of Music Audience Exchange, has taken his firm in a unique direction by creating what might be called “native” sponsorship opportunities that directly involve the bands creating the music.
Hanks was kind enough to chat with me and indicated that he believes there is a “big opportunity to tell branded stories with music-driven content on streaming services designed to deliver music experiences to fans.”
A similar kind of “native” sponsorship might involve the podcast host doing a “live read” of a promotional spot, leveraging the trust and affinity that he or she has developed with the listenership.
Things to consider with online audio
If your audience is niche and well-defined demographically/psychographically, with personas factored in, you may be able to find a niche podcast to sponsor where the waste factor (exposure of your campaign to those outside your specified audience parameters) is low. (Remember, the effective cost per thousand to reach your specific audience includes any waste, regardless of which type of media you are using.)
Niche audiences are often easier to reach using first-party or third-party data within a programmatic buy — for example, via retargeting of your site visitors or by accessing third-party, in-market or demographic qualifiers.
One very important advantage programmatic audio buying enjoys over the direct buying method is better control over the frequency of ad impressions. While standalone direct podcast buys can result in low frequency against occasional listeners and high frequency against heavy listeners, programmatic delivers frequency control not only within one show but across the entire programmatic audio buy.
The Trade Desk (TTD) — a leading DSP (demand-side platform) — did a head-to-head evaluation (PDF) concluding that “programmatic audio outperformed a direct audio buy in a head-to-head test.” The cool thing about DSPs that execute programmatic audio and programmatic display or video is that they can easily control cross-format frequency. The TTD evaluation results achieved a “32 percent efficiency in CPC and 1.51x higher CTR compared to a direct audio buy.”
If you have an extremely broad audience definition and are using the same marketing messages to reach each of the segments within that audience, then perhaps podcast sponsorship of a general category might deliver the low waste and tonnage you require. It all depends on price and efficiency.
Having access to cheap CPMs due to a large general buy sponsorship may work very well for CPG (consumer packaged goods), telecom and beverage marketers, for example. Niche marketers need to be more focused in their approach.
If you’ve ever considered terrestrial radio advertising but were scared off by cost, waste factor (not enough listeners in your target audience) or by costs of production, I highly urge you to consider the forms of digital audio advertising discussed above.