Podcasters Turn To Technology To Ensure Brand Safety For Advertisers.

Podcasts have moved from niche to mainstream yet many advertisers remain skittish about investing more aggressively in the fast growing medium due in part to the lack of automated systems to ensure brand suitability across a sea of shows covering an enormous swath of topics. Advertisers want ways to identify brand safety red flags in podcasting, similar to what services like DoubleVerify do for online advertising and connected TV.

“Without a way to validate brand suitability across the depth and breadth of shows, [advertisers] are hesitant to go all in,” UM Worldwide Global Chief Media Officer Joshua Lowcock told Adweek.

Podcast companies are investing in technology to keep advertisers away from content they don’t want to be associated with. In a move to make ad buyers more comfortable placing ads across its network of more than 750 iHeartRadio Original podcasts, iHeartMedia in February said it is investing in and partnering with Sounder, the podcast management and monetization platform. Under the alliance, iHeart will integrate Sounder’s brand safety rating tools for use by ad buyers across its podcast network.

Spotify followed suit last week, teaming up with the digital ad tech company Integral Ad Science to create a third-party brand safety solution for podcast advertisers. They will initially begin with what Spotify and IAS promise will be a “rigorous analysis” of what tools and resources are necessary to ensure podcasters can deliver on brand safety promises to marketers. Ultimately, the two companies intend to create a third-party brand safety and suitability reporting tool to bring more transparency and confidence to podcast advertising. The solution will be powered by Spotify's first-party data and then verified by IAS' independent analysis solutions based on the Global Alliance for Responsible Media's categories and guidelines.

iHeart is expected to formally launch its brand safety technology later this summer. Using text-to-audio transcription, machine learning and AI technology to identify topic tone and keywords, Sounder’s technology powers an automated brand safety tool.

Adweek reported that iHeart has tested Sounder’s brand safety tools on nearly 50 million podcast episodes across the iHeartPodcast Network and has a 90% accuracy rate in identifying content that features drugs, alcohol, arms and ammunition, according to Sounder.

In deploying the brand safety solution, iHeartMedia says it will allow marketers to buy across a deeper, wider array of podcasts with the assurance that the content adheres to industry safety standards. The companies say the technology will quickly expand to also allow advertisers to customize their brand safety guidelines as well, which they say will allow for new and more diverse publishers to provide even more effective ad placements.

In addition to its commercial partnership, iHeartMedia has also announced a strategic investment in Sounder, as lead investor in the company’s Series A round.

While advertisers have used inclusion and exclusion lists to steer clear of unsavory audio content, the need for an automated brand safety system came into sharp relief in early February during the blowback from artists, podcasters and listeners to Joe Rogan’s controversial statements on COVID vaccines.

The IAB’s latest U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue Study includes several recommendations for podcasters, including paying more attention to brand safety concerns. “Buyers will expect advanced brand safety solutions, audience targeting, and measurement, and we look forward to working across the ecosystem to create standards that serve creators, listeners, publishers and brands,” said Eric John, VP of the IAB Media Center.

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