Without a universally accepted currency provider, digital audio faces a measurement dilemma. The challenge is complicated by the varying forms of audio encompassed by the growing channel, from the online streams of AM/FM stations to podcasts and streaming audio pure plays. Not to mention the growing number of devices where digital audio can be consumed.
The performance measurement shortcomings are explored as part of The Drum’s Audio Deep Dive with experts from Amazon Music, iHeartMedia and Spotify explaining how they address the challenge.
Measurement is of growing concern since no digital ad segment grew faster in 2021 than digital audio. The Internet Advertising Revenue Report, released in April, found that digital audio ad spending soared 57.9% to $4.9 billion. And digital audio’s share of the total digital revenue pie expanded too, as its share grew slightly from 2.2% in 2020 to 2.6% in 2021.
Among the challenges marketers face is media planning, buying and measurement for audio often uses the same metrics utilized for visual content, but the metrics simply don’t translate to audio. Secondly, digital audio is frequently used by marketers as a branding medium. “Linking the impact of brand advertising to short- and long-term sales is always a challenge – and brand marketers also have to be able to prove out value,” a spokesperson for Amazon Music tells The Drum. “So while this challenge isn’t unique to audio, it becomes more salient given audio campaigns are generally aimed at driving branding and awareness.” Toss in a cornucopia of digital audio formats, ad units and devices and the measurement headaches start piling up.
All of this makes getting a holistic picture of digital audio consumption nearly impossible, which has led to individual vendors measuring different pieces of the consumption pie.
But the challenges are far from insurmountable as the major digital audio platforms tap into their own first party data while collaborating on new hybrid approaches with third party measurement firms.
“In a piecemeal environment riddled with technical challenges, major platforms and publishers have been forced to get creative,” writes The Drum Senior Reporter Kendra Clark. For example, iHeartMedia’s in-house measurement capabilities include pixel-based solutions that enable advertisers to measure attribution and ad effectiveness. The company has also developed its own proprietary analytics platform to show clients what’s working and what’s not. And a small group of external partners, including Claritas and Neustar, supply deeper measurement solutions to the company.
“It’s a myth that audio is not measurable,” iHeartMedia Chief Data Officer and President of Revenue Strategies Brian Kaminsky tells The Drum. “Some of [that notion] was truer in the past certainly than it is today. It may be still true for some select radio companies and for some podcasters, but not for iHeart. We’ve built this set of tools and this platform that we work on, and it really has enabled a tremendous amount of insight and confidence in our customers.”
With reams of first party data from its e-commerce parent, Amazon Music can provide tried and true metrics like reach, frequency and total impressions to advertisers, along with custom metrics for brands that sell products and services through the online retail behemoth.
Spotify uses a portfolio of first-and third-party tools built expressly for digital audio. “Ultimately, advertisers want measurement choice and options – media ecosystems should provide a range of first-party and third-party measurement solutions to drive more transparency and accountability,” says Khurrum Malik, Head of Advertising Business Marketing at Spotify.
So while there is no industrywide digital audio measurement provider, the largest platforms are upbeat about solving digital audio’s measurement challenges. “From [an independent] bike shop measuring their web traffic, e-commerce sales and the number of people in the store on the days they’re running media, all the way to the most sophisticated media mix models from the Procter & Gambles of the world, audio is highly measurable,” says iHeartMedia chief Marketing Officer Gayle Troberman. “[Audio] prices are more efficient, typically, than video and [advertisers] can get a lot more reach and even more frequency for the same price. So they tend to see immediate, big lifts in ROI.”