In the wake of iHeartMedia's announced launch of iHeartLand in online game platform Roblox – including a stadium for digital concerts and gaming neighborhood, both sponsored by State Farm – and its recent concert featuring Charlie Puth on gaming platform Fortnite, iHeart CEO Bob Pittman talked with Ad Age Editor Jeanine Poggi about the company's Web3 plans.
“Our strategy is to be where our listeners are, with the products and services they expect from us,” Pittman said. “The metaverse is very big these days, so we need to be there.” Addressing the importance of Roblox and Fortnite, he added, “We see these as important new platforms to interact with our consumers. [These platforms] love us because we reach 90% of Americans. Whereas [with] most things they do, they have to generate the traffic, when we come to Fortnite or Roblox, we bring our traffic with us – we promote it, we tell people about it the same way we build podcasting, the iHeartRadio app or our big events.”
Pittman pointed out iHeart's social media presence as a key driver to Web3 destinations. “We have seven times the number of followers that the next largest audio player has on social because radio is about companionship, so [it is] very easy for us to translate that into this bigger and broader relationship. When we say we're going to Roblox, or to come to our [Charlie Puth] concert, they respond to it. Anytime we do a partnership, that's what we bring, the same way we do with advertisers.”
For endeavors such as Roblox's State Farm Park, where players can not only collect in-game rewards and exchange them for “iHeartBucks” but also run their own radio stations and unlock songs and playlists, Pittman sees greater opportunities for ad revenue generation. “Having the avatar for Jake in the State Farm Neighborhood is not a 30-second ad, it's a relationship with the consumer,” he said. “[On Fortnite] Charlie Puth reached about 50 times the number of people he would have had for a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden, so these become very valuable venues because there's such a larger scale. For an advertiser, you can connect in new and different ways.”
Pittman also sees “iHeartBucks” as a way of building consumer loyalty, something the company has found to be a challenge up to now. “Tokens finally give us a way to build a really robust loyalty program,” he said. “For activities you do, you can get tokens and then get special treatment. [For example, for] Jingle Ball in New York, everybody wants the best seat, everybody wants backstage, they want to be able to buy tickets [which] sell out immediately. Can you get special interviews and special access? We are looking at this as an opportunity to deepen the relationship with the consumer, and from a business standpoint, to obviously monetize it for us and for our advertising partners.”
Noting that iHeart's mission involves leveraging its existing broadcast and podcasting audiences to expand into the metaverse, Pittman said, “We have seen this roaring success. We've got these hosts, shows, brands and consumers [who] want to extend that relationship. Some of our podcast hosts do live appearances and sell out venues, so, clearly, we've got the kind of engaged consumer that's needed if you want to build things out.”
During AdAge's interview, Pittman also offered his take on the current AM/FM and podcasting advertising marketplace, along with thoughts on the current state of broadcasting.