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Horizon Next Creates Podcast-Focused Ad Buying Unit To Support Podcasting Growth.

As podcast creation, consumption, and ad revenue continue to grow at an unprecedented rate, Horizon Next, the affiliate of Horizon Media focused on driving sales overnight while building brand over time, is expanding its existing audio practice by launching a refined Center of Excellence dedicated to podcasting strategy and ad placement.

The move comes as Horizon Media continues to put more focus on the audio channel. During the past two years, it has been working to address some of audio’s measurement challenges with moves it says Horizon Next has been able to bring more transparency and attribution to a channel that has been difficult to measure and historically has not optimized data-powered decisions. That effort included working with a group of clients such as Sleep Number, United Healthcare, eHarmony, and Turo, among others, to embrace a test-and-learn strategy when it comes to audio. The results are paying off for Horizon. As a result of its new approach, Horizon Next has increased its podcast client media investments by 70% during the last ten months, which is well above the double-digit growth rates that the Interactive Advertising Bureau has reported for podcasting.

“Next is proud to extend our advanced analytics solutions to cross-platform audio channels,” said Horizon Next President Gene Turner. “A focus of ours in ‘22 was to bring more rigor and accountability to audio which we believed would unlock opportunity for our clients. We remain committed to data powered decisioning across all touch points as budget fluidity is critical for driving accelerated business growth for our clients,” he said in the announcement.

The new Center for Excellence audio practice is led and managed by long-time dedicated audio specialists Lauren Russo, Executive VP/Managing Partner, Innovation and Performance Audio, and Maria Tullin who has been elevated and promoted to Senior VP Managing Director, Performance Audio. Together, Horizon says they will support the continued growth in podcasting and other audio platforms.

“Mergers and acquisitions within the podcasting eco-system indicate this is a continued area of growth and opportunity,” Russo said. “We’ve seen sizable investments and strategic partnerships from leading digital audio publishers and broadcasters with new offerings in measurement and attribution, brand safety, behavioral targeting, and dynamic ad insertion,” she said.

Russo, a 25-year veteran of audio buying at Horizon Media, has been among the medium’s biggest advocates in the advertising community. She sees the new Center for Excellence as the next step.

“We leverage our long-standing agency partnerships with leading digital audio publishers such as SXM Media, Spotify, iHeart in addition to tech leaders in the podcasting space including ArtsAI, Barometer, and Magellan to enhance our measurement and brand safety approach to ensure our client’s messages are in brand safe and suitable contextually relevant environments.” she said.

By forming a team focused on podcasts, Horizon also hopes to convince even more advertisers to turn to the agency to handle its buying in the medium. It reportedly has already secured podcast ad-buying duties from several brands in recent months.

“We’ve known for some time that the influence and authenticity of podcast hosts drive brand consideration and lower funnel conversions but being able to prove it against other media channels for holistic planning and measurement is key to the organic growth we’ve seen among our portfolio of brands,” Tullin said. She said the Center for Excellence’s customized strategic approach will give clients the confidence to navigate the podcast ecosystem, while Horizon’s tactical delivery and reporting information will provide the performance results they need to continue spending in the channel. “As the variety of content available expands alongside listenership, we can now provide opportunities to test and learn from new placements, tactics and audiences,” Tullin said.

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