Media buying agency Spark Foundry has teamed with iHeartMedia to build a new training curriculum for staffers at the Publicis Media-owned shop. Branded as the Audio Academy, the purpose is to educate agency personnel about the growing complexities of buying audio. According to MediaPost, the academy has two training modules. The first, developed mostly by iHeart, offers a primer on the “evolving audio ecosystem.” Spark Foundry developed the second module, which delves into planning and buying the audio medium.
The alliance came out of a series brainstorming sessions between the two companies about the increasingly sophisticated audio universe, which entails content distribution through mobile devices and connected cars, the explosive growth of podcasting and the expanding adoption of sonic branding.
“While it’s not unusual for media suppliers to provide information, and technical training to advertisers and agencies about the media they sell – big digital platforms do that all the time – it’s usually more about technical aspects of executing advertising and media buys on that medium than about strategy, planning and explicitly buying that medium,” MediaPost Editor-In-Chief Joe Mandese points out in the article. “The collaboration speaks to a more fundamental change within Madison Avenue, which historically took great pride in its internal media training programs, which were focused on ensuring ‘media neutrality’ and not being influenced by media sales and marketing organizations.”
But Chris Yarusso, VP and National Audio Investment lead at Spark Foundry, says the focus is on learning, not pitching. “I think we were very cognizant not to have this be an iHeart sales arm,” he told MediaPost. “This was meant to be educational.”
Spark Foundry, a global agency with offices in nine major U.S. cities, is bullish on audio. “Brands need to start understanding just how much effort they should be putting into creative in the audio space,” Andrew Klein, Director of Content Innovation at the agency said in a Q&A with AI.Music, which uses artificial intelligence to help brands use audio in their marketing strategies. “There’s so much fragmentation in the audio industry and with so much content out there, the consumer can quite easily ‘switch off’ when they hear your message. One broad and generic audio ad with poor creative just isn’t going to get your message across.”