Backtracks, the end-to-end podcast and audio management, advertising, and data analytics platform, is adding dynamic client-side ad insertion for audio. The move gives publishers, advertisers, and creators “over the top” ad insertion capabilities by using the audio components that are part of the video ad serving template that is standard in the digital advertising industry to access ads from multiple servers and destinations. They will be paired with measurement and analytics provided by the Backtracks platform.
Backtracks will allow ad buyers to use the versions of VAST from 2.0 to 4.2 to buy ads on podcasts, pre-recorded audio, and live audio through its platform. The addition of dynamic client-side ad insertion will open new opportunity for advertisers. While a baked-in ad cannot respond to triggers like the time of day someone is listening or the weather in the listening location, the technology brings new contextual ad and episodic targeting capabilities by allowing a spot to be spliced in over the top before playback by the client.
“You could know that it's sunny outside or raining, and then make an ad play at that moment for that circumstance,” explained CEO Jonathan Gill. “That's the client side that is not part of the original audio, but the technology allows you to add additional audio in place, and you can actually make it so the listener can't skip the ad.”
Gill said dynamic client-side ad insertion is something that marketers are demanding, and it is part of a wave of ad tech coming online designed to make the medium more appealing to ad buyers. “The difficulty with some advertisers that approach the podcast space is that the buying experience is not as streamlined as it might be for video or other formats for them, so they either stay out of podcasting or they treat it as an experimental budget,” said Gill. “To get podcasting to the next level, there's some things you'd have to enable. And this is part of that.”
While it may sound odd to use VAST – a system designed for video – Gill said since 2018 the audio functionality of ad insertion has been part of the video standard to use the same ad service auction technology for audio as for video. That will allow podcasting to essentially stand on the shoulders of video, he said, as programmatic ad selling continues to be a larger part of the audio business.
Backtracks has added several new functions and capabilities during the past year, and the latest will push it closer to what could be the eventual launch of its own programmatic auction exchange by marrying data and capability with ad buying capabilities. For now, Backtracks says the announcement marks the first of “multiple innovative product releases” it plans in the next few months all aimed at further “modernizing the podcasting industry through the development of technology and tools that gives advertisers and publishers greater access to the best fit of content, ads, and audience.”
Backtracks is already working with podcasters including Wondery and This American Life, who leverage its analytics and AI capabilities. Gill said they are also benefiting from traditional print publishers that have never worked in the audio space waking up to the opportunity that lies in podcasting, often working with existing producers.
“Other organizations are realizing people's special connection to audio. And that's been good for us in kind of the way that we approach things,” he said. “While we definitely focus on audio and podcasts, we like to have a good view of different businesses and ecosystems. And we're starting to see that those trade winds are helping us out in great ways. And I think they're helping everyone in audio.”