Interactive Advertising Bureau
07 August 2019

Programmatic Audio Blog series - developments, opportunities and challenges

Digital audio is not a new concept but as it grows it is causing a shift-change in the advertising landscape. From streaming our favourite music to listening to the latest podcast , digital audio is a key part of media consumption. In this new blog series, IAB Europe  will explore how the programmatic audio landscape is evolving across Europe. In the first blog we spoke to David Goddard VP Global Programmatic Strategy at BBC Global News and James Brown, Managing Director EMEA at Rubicon Project to find out about the latest developments, opportunities and challenges.

Why should Advertisers invest in digital audio?

David Goddard:

Digital audio delivers a highly engaged user as audio content tends to provide a sound track or a form of escape to a particular event taking place. This could be a commute, cooking, exercise, either way, digital audio provides advertisers multiple opportunities to engage and deliver a relevant message. 

So what does digital audio advertising enable?  If you combine the different mindset audio is consumed in with the fact that it is additive in terms of media consumption, it offers advertisers a real opportunity to expand their media mix.

And this is especially true of podcasts – something we at BBC Global News have been looking at a great deal. In fact we will be launching our latest research piece which uses neuroscience to measure advertising effectiveness in branded podcasts at IAB UK Digital Upfronts on September 24th. Come along to hear more!

The additive nature of audio can now be measured by advertisers too, as digital audio provides greater levels of feedback to measure the impact that audio can have on the entire media plan. 

James Brown:

Audio is an emotional and engaging format in which a listener can develop a highly personal, one-to-one connection, plus the competition for screen time has never been more fierce. One of the powers of audio is that it unlocks advertising opportunities beyond screen time and through the use of programmatic technology, delivers a highly targeted, customised, creative experience.

How are audio and voice developments impacting the digital / programmatic advertising ecosystem?


The BBC is one of the largest podcast producers globally, despite this audio is yet to become a significant contributor to overall digital ad spend, this is reflected industry wide . This could be  why the industry has yet to see significant inroads in digital audio that would demand disruption to the digital ecosystem. However, the launch of voice and the looming 5G revolution could be the catalyst for disruption.

This will provide another challenge for the industry, as voice is such a personal experience we need to be mindful of how we minimise disruption for users, this will require us to find the balance between personalisation and privacy. If we get it wrong as an industry, voice advertising will be quickly rejected from the consumer’s home and I think that door will be slammed shut for a long time.


At a broad level, the rise of our connected lives, driven by the growth in new devices such as voice activated speakers and underpinned by near ubiquitous smartphone usage, has created more opportunity than ever before to access and listen to digital audio.

We have also seen an explosion in content choices, which in turn has helped drive and shape the demand and growth of digital audio. In addition, there has been an enormous amount of activity and ecosystem building from all the main players in the audio space over the last few years - with acquisitions strengthening capabilities, connections and geographies.

What are some of the key barriers you see to programmatic audio growth? How do you think we can overcome them?


There are a limited number of publishers out there with scaled audio supply, restricting programmatic opportunities that thrive on an abundance of inventory, this also limits choice for the buyers and the noise (pardon the pun) in the market about the digital audio opportunity, meaning it is not front of mind in the media or creative plan, which I am sure is half the battle. 


We have just completed a roadshow with Spotify across London, Paris, Hamburg, Milan and Madrid. As part of the event, we surveyed the audience to understand exactly this question and the answer was overwhelming; the primary barrier currently holding back audio growth is access to creative assets.

Additionally, as programmatic audio continues to grow, effective measurement is crucial. Advertisers need to be able to truly understand the impact their activity has on brand metrics and ultimately the ROI it delivers to their business.

What are some of the key drivers? How do you see it developing in the next 12 months


Advertiser and publisher education of the audio opportunity will improve over the next 12 months, which will support future growth, but I think it will take a little while longer before audio truly disrupts the digital advertising ecosystem and this disruption will coincide with the scaling of advertising opportunities in voice. 


At a broad level, the rise of audio can be attributed to our ubiquitous smartphone usage and the growth in new devices. In terms of drivers, smart speakers have increased the awareness of voice and while the majority of online audio reach is via smartphones, over *16% of weekly audio reach is now taking place on voice activated speakers - a key trend that is set to grow in the coming months.

There are other trends worth noting, such as how mainstream the connected car will become in the near future and how innovations like this and the connected home, will play a crucial role in accelerating market growth. Advertisers, brands and agencies with developed expertise in audio messaging are poised to excel in such a landscape. With digital audio these players will have an additional opportunity to connect with audiences using precise data such as device IDs in order to understand, consider and optimise.
*2018 IAB UK Listening Britain Project

Blog contributors:

David Goddard, Vice President, Global Programmatic Strategy, BBC Global News 

David is the Vice President, Global Programmatic Strategy at BBC Global News and is responsible for the strategy and development of global programmatic advertising across the portfolio of BBC properties represented by Global News Limited

Prior to the BBC David was responsible for Programmatic Trading at Gumtree, Ebay inc, at the infancy of programmatic trading in the UK, setting up the Programmatic Direct offering in 2011.

David is also a Member for IAB Europe's Programmatic Trading Committee. IAB Europe's Programmatic Trading Committee aims to help Publishers, Agencies and Advertisers increase their understanding of the programmatic ecosystem and the impact it is having on digital advertising. The Committee delivers a comprehensive pan-European programme of educational activities.

James Brown, Managing Director, EMEA, Rubicon Project

Drawing upon his 15+ years of experience in the digital advertising industry, James  is Managing Director, EMEA for Rubicon Project (NYSE: RUBI), which operates one of the world’s largest independent marketplaces for the buying and selling of advertising.  This includes managing the teams working with EMEA’s leading buyers - including DSPs, agencies and advertisers - and sellers such as online publishers, mobile applications, and online broadcasters.

Prior to joining Rubicon Project, he spent six years at The Telegraph rising to become General Manager, Digital Advertising where he was responsible for global digital advertising revenues. Commercial highlights include the development of the Telegraph Media Group Performance Network, Commercial Content creation business units, the conception and strategy for TMG’s programmatic trading and publisher trading desk.  Before that James was Trading Director of Aegis-owned Diffiniti (now iProspect), responsible for commercial trading relationships with media owners and the media strategy across a portfolio of brands.

Based in London, James enjoys playing golf, keeping fit and a glass of wine!


Find out more about the development of programmatic audio advertising in our next blog of the series which will focus on supply and measurement.

IAB Europe members interested in contributing to this series can get in contact with Marie-Clare Puffett -

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