Audio In The Spotlight As Advertising Week Showcases Hottest Media Trends.


As the audio industry stares down a bumpy patch in the economy, working in its favor is a renewed sense of interest in the medium. That was on display this week at Advertising Week in New York where the message to marketers is that not only has technology changed, but so too have consumers.


“The first thing that I think advertisers are thinking about is just being able to meet the users where they're spending a significant amount of time,” said Sarah van Mosel, Executive VP of Digital Sales Operations at iHeartMedia. During an Advertising Week panel this week, she pointed to eMarketer data that shows the typical American spends an hour and 40 minutes per day listening to audio as smart speakers and other connected devices make the non-screen media more attractive. “There's just a tremendous amount of ability to reach users in new places now,” van Mosel said.


DAX North America CEO Les Hollander thinks what has also helped to drive the media buying shift is new data that allows marketers to follow consumers further down the funnel from audio ad exposure to purchase behavior.


“Advertisers are looking for innovation,” Hollander said. “They're looking for some first-to-market opportunities.” That is working in audio’s favor with more places to buy audio ads emerging, such as in mobile video games.


The willingness to invest is a change from the past when marketers have typically spent little on creating their audio campaigns. But Google Head of Audio Partnerships Nadia Ghassemi sees “real innovation” now occurring in the audio space as marketers develop 360-degree campaigns that move beyond such things as geography and time of day to tap into how the audio is consumed, whether it is in headphones or on a smart speaker.


“Advertisers are thinking about how they can have an interactive experience and really craft something that actually feels cool and engaging, not corny,” she said. “And people are thinking about their audio creative instead of just repurposing a piece that they made for another medium. It's that thoughtfulness that is really key to effectiveness.”


Changing How Podcasts Are Bought


The audio industry renaissance has been driven in a large part by advertiser interest in podcasting. And while that business continues to mature, Hollander thinks the coming year will bring a shift in how marketers buy the medium.


“You'll see podcasting move toward a much more audience-based buying opportunity,” he predicted. “I think host reads are wonderful, but they're extremely hard to scale, so it'll become more of a boutique part of the business and people will be buying podcast audiences in comedy, in sports, in financing, health and wellness.”


Van Mosel agrees there will continue to be a “blurring of the lines” between different types of audio, something she sees working in iHeart’s favor since it has both a big reach on traditional radio and online. She said it is why the company is moving forward on initiatives that will allow advertisers to “scoop into that big bucket of audience” and have it delivered across a range of properties.


“I think programmatic is finally going to come to podcasting in a way that we've been hoping that it would for years, and that's going to help with this audience blending,” van Mosel said. She also expects that brand safety will continue to be a growing factor for marketers.


New Opportunities In New Devices


How people listen to audio is also changing as smart speakers continue to find a place in even more homes and streaming radio takes hold in the dashboard. Ghassemi said Google Assistant data has allowed them to track the growth of smart speakers, especially during the pandemic, and that has led the company to expand Google Ad Manager to support programmatic ad sales on listening devices.


“We definitely see it as a as a future platform for audio,” Ghassemi said. Google is currently working with a few buyers and publishers to test out voice-activated ads.


The collapse of the walls separating the various audio media is being helped by technology that Hollander said allows for more seamless integration of ads across the different audio platforms and publishers. But ad demand has yet to catch up.


“We get asked about it all the time, but we've only seen a few advertisers that have dipped their toe,” Hollander said. But he is optimistic that as use grows, so will advertiser interest – and CPMs. Hollander thinks buyers will be willing to pay higher CPMs for smarter impressions that are targeted to different devices. “That spray and pray mentality is kind of gone,” he said.

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