What’s Next In Digital Audio Ad Targeting? Identity Graphs.


As digital audio listening continues to grow – from online radio to podcasting – advertisers are following the ears. The number of Americans who say they listen to podcasts on a weekly basis jumped 17% during the past year, according to the Infinite Dial 2021, and 62% of the U.S. 12+ population are now weekly online audio listeners. “Both brands and agencies are increasingly turning to streaming audio to drive both brand and direct response campaigns,” says Richard Kosinski, Managing Director, Head of Audio & Video Gaming Partnerships at Tru Optik, a data and measurement company focused on connected TV, streaming audio and gaming.


As they have with digital video advertising, marketers are replacing traditional age and gender demographics with more advanced tactics like behavior and propensity targeting to reach specific audience segments. Tapping into consumer data is helping advertisers ensure the right ads are being delivered to the right people. “As ad-supported audio continues to grow, having advanced targeting capabilities for all audio components is table stakes for digital audio sellers,” says Kosinski, who was Westwood One’s Chief Digital Officer from 2008-2010.


Audio sellers who offer “a coherent approach to data” that ties streaming audio to an advertiser’s over-the-top and connected TV campaigns will reap the rewards of bigger cross-channel ad budgets, he contends. “It’s the ability to consistently reach the same audience across multiple platforms that wins every time.” At the core of Tru Optik’s business is a database of 80 million U.S. households that enables household-level identity, targeting and measurement across connected TVs, smart speakers, gaming consoles and other connected devices.


Advertisers increasingly look to use the first party data they have collected about their customers, or from their media partners, to target their campaigns and get ahead of data privacy concerns. But that means more than just partnering with data management companies. “A critically important piece is understanding your specific streaming audiences in online radio, audio on-demand or podcast listeners,” says Kosinski. This is done through a process known as identity resolution that aligns a digital audio audience with both third and first-party consumer data.


Building An Identity Graph


The result is an “identity graph” which can be based on households, devices or people. Before choosing a data management and identity graph provider, Kosinski suggests conducting a simple match test between your audience and the provider’s identity graph. “The higher the match rate, the higher the scale and accuracy in applying data to your audience to deliver the campaign,” he says. “A robust identity graph that is densely populated with a range of signals can also provide a bridge as [mobile ad IDs] and cookies are phased out.”


Advertising attribution software provider LeadsRX is also bullish on building identity graphs. With a greater focus on consumer privacy and with cookies going away, the company says it is using more than 1.6 billion anonymous customer personas for what is known as “cookieless tracking,” to help clients better understand how marketing contributes to their topline revenue. “We collect personas for anonymous individuals – not a personal identity but the characteristics or demographic attributes that make up the type of customer or customers represented by their digital experience on devices, browsers, and apps,” says LeadsRX CEO AJ Brown. These identity graphs are only used within the LeadsRx product, and the company doesn’t release graph identities or share graph matches across its clients. “We can stitch together those different personas, tying them to their path to purchase, and provide real-time, persistent, reliable data to determine their journey to conversion,” Brown says.


Last November, ad agency Horizon Media and iHeartMedia formed a data partnership to integrate their respective data platforms for audio targeting. The integration combined iHeartMedia’s programmatic SmartAudio ad sales platform – which has mapped first-party listening data for 270 million listeners by market, station and daypart – with Horizon’s connected marketing platform, blu., which has access to 283 million individuals in the U.S., a 90% household penetration. “This data integration will be the first time iHeart has mapped an agency’s full identity graph within our SmartAudio platform,” Justin Nesci, Executive VP of Advanced Audio & Data Revenue for iHeartMedia said at the time.


Offering these advanced targeting capabilities can benefit both buyers and sellers. “Buyers get to target the audiences they want with both scale and accuracy leading to better outcomes as more prospects receive more relevant ads,” Kosinski says. “For sellers, increased targeting capabilities mean higher CPMs and higher yields, but perhaps most important – happy clients, larger commitments, and more frequent renewals.”

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