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 blog series, IAB Europe explores how the programmatic audio landscape is evolving across Europe. In the second blog we spoke to Zarpana Kabir, Head of Northern Europe Advertising at Adobe, Matt Bennathan, Senior Director, Channel Partnerships International at Oracle Data Cloud and Hilary Umeh, Director Business Development at The Trade Desk to find out more about the challenges of supply and measurement in digital audio advertising.
Find out more about about the developments, opportunities and challenges in Programmatic Audio Advertising in the first blog of this series here.
Question 1 - We hear that supply of audio inventory is a challenge, why is this?
Audio is still a nascent format when it comes to buying inventory. The legacy, manual buying systems are still in place, and upfront deals are still very much a part of the audio industry. However, ad tech is gaining ground. We will continue to see this play out into the next year. Programmatic-enabled buying marketplaces for audio continue to make big strides in offering the industry an alternative, data driven way of buying audio ads.
There are several factors in play here, including the lack of transparency, limited technical integrations, and restricted measurability. Measurement plays the biggest role here, since brands continue to look for transparency, accuracy, and precision from their data partners to analyse ad effectiveness and inform their media buying strategy. Oracle Moat’s Audio Analytics solution is meant to bridge the gap between brands and publishers / content creators to help sustain the ecosystem of quality storytelling and creative process. Additionally, we’re part of the IAB working group for audio measurement collaborating across what will eventually count as an “Audible Ad.” But even so, there is currently no standard that exists for brands to use as a baseline metric to know an opportunity to engage with audiences was created.
The challenge stems from the simple fact that demand is currently outstripping supply. And the increasing shift to programmatic has magnified this issue – as, instead of the direct buy model that audio publishers have traditionally been accustomed to, programmatic encourages brands to think about their media purchases in a more fluid, adaptable way.
On top of this, finding inventory that is GDPR-compliant is of course crucial. However, this supply is scarce as most audio publishers don’t have a clear way of collecting consent – meaning that it’s currently impossible for the industry to use audience data in EMEA.
The demand/supply dynamic becomes particularly unbalanced at certain times of year – think Black Friday, Christmas – when brands naturally want to up their advertising. However, some publishers and SSPs aren’t currently set up to deal with this fluctuating demand, making the lack of inventory more noticeable – and problematic.
Question 2 - How can the supply challenge be overcome?
The industry will naturally shift to make it easier to purchase audio, especially with programmatic marketplaces.
We saw a wave of consolidation in the last year, proving that Programmatic Audio is becoming more mainstream. Pandora purchased AdSwizz, iHearMedia acquired Jelli. This trend will continue as spending and demand continue to increase for the format. Another area where we will be able to unlock inventory is Podcasts, and we should see this trend taking shape with multiple inventory sources offering in-podcast.
This level of supply democratization is going to make it easier to access audio inventory, from music to Podcasts.
Overcoming the supply challenge begins with the shift in consumer behavior. Studies have shown consumers are changing their content consumption to audio platforms to fit their always-on, on-the-go lifestyles. Because concentration levels are much higher across audio, programmatic audio offers greater intimacy with boosted loyalty. Marketers see this as a way to interact in a profound way with users, where they can almost have a conversation with the end listener.
Once we have measurement of programmatic audio available in ways to perceive and recognise value for the media dollars being invested, brands will look to invest additional revenue and resources towards that audio. In time, the audio ecosystem naturally will evolve, alongside new technology and creative assets and more demand being built in the supply chain.
The solution to this problem is the same as it is for many such problems – allowing programmatic to truly compete with direct buys, in turn revealing what we all know: programmatic can allow buyers to select impressions in an efficient and effective way, and allow publishers to sell impressions more effectively too. This minimises wastage for buyers and maximises yield for sellers – a win-win situation.
We’re actually already seeing some key players make moves towards addressing this issue by offering programmatic packages over key periods - like Black Friday – for the first time this year. Such moves are great news for the industry as a whole, and a sign that we’re moving in the right direction.
Furthermore, audio, much like any other channel, shouldn’t be treated in isolation, but as part of a broader cross-channel strategy. When all parts of the ecosystem are working in a unified, programmatic way, the see-saw between demand and supply will naturally balance out.
And the thing is programmatic won’t just solve issues around supply, but will also enable brands to unify their strategies, consolidate campaign reporting and overlay data insights onto media planning and activation – the utopia of advertising!
Question 3 - Moving onto measurement, how does the measurement of programmatic audio advertising differ from programmatic display or video?
Measurement is still pretty challenging. Obviously, the measurement logic that we have been using for standard digital ads will not apply in this instance. When we think of audio, we’re talking about having a virtual discussion with the audience. There are unique factors that go into these formats that need to be looked at – audio ads are telling a story, there are no visuals, and it’s not inherently interactive (from a direct action perspective). You’re really going to be looking at reach, frequency and its impact on behaviours. You can begin to look at brand surveys that measure propensity to purchase, favorability, and ultimately attribution to really understand audio’s role in driving behaviors and action.
We believe there are currently three differences. First, there aren’t standards for what an “audible” ad is, like there are for viewable display ads, or viewable and audible video ads. Second, there is not yet second-by-second measurement on the delivery of audio ads, on the audible duration, or on variables like the playback speed. Finally, given the prevalence of live reads, there is not always a clear way to distinguish an ad vs. the audio content, itself.
Measurement of audio doesn’t currently differ enough from other types of programmatic advertising – this is something that needs to change. Currently, measurement of audio focuses on similar, standard metrics to other types of advertising, like completion rates, device type, location etc. Now, this is partly due to an inherent limitation of the channel in that it doesn’t have as many consumer touch points as other channels.
But it also relates to the lack of data currently used in planning and executing audio campaigns. The more data that’s used, the more detailed and insightful the resulting metrics are.
It’s also important for brands to measure audio as one element of a broader campaign. For example, companion ads – where a banner ad is displayed at the same time that the audio is playing – add another dimension to measurement, as well as making the campaign itself more powerful.
Question 4 - Which key metrics brands should look for?
Aside from the baseline metrics of knowing that an ad reached a human and was audible at start, attention metrics such as audible quartiles, completion rate, when an ad was muted / unmuted, or at which point a user skipped will help provide marketers with valuable data to determine ad effectiveness in audio environments, conduct tests to improve creatives, and find unique and innovative ways to reach their audiences. The data and insights provide publishers with valuable analysis on how to strengthen strategy across editorial planning, best monetize premium content to sustain quality storytelling and creative process, and enhance the overall listening experience for their audience.
Currently brands are able to track, and report on, the following metrics: Start, Midpoint, First Quartile, Third Quartile, Completions, Impressions, Clicks. These are certainly all important and will help contribute to a thorough understanding of a campaign’s performance.
But if brands are to increase cost efficiencies in advertising (including audio), then moving to cost-based goals is a logical next step. The are several benefits to this approach. Not only does it mean brands will pay the right price based on performance, they’ll also reduce costs for better overall performance. On top of this, it also enables them to optimise more deliberately. In other words, making more cost-effective ad purchases enables brands to achieve more impressions – in turn, increasing reach and sales, if optimised correctly.
Experienced Digital Marketer delivering seamless advertising experiences across multi-channel media platforms. Over fifteen years of experience developing Advertising Strategies across Branded Video and Performance ad campaigns for Global Brands & Customers.
Zarpana has spent the last five years as a Programmatic Advertising expert, leading Demand & Delivery teams across the US and EMEA. Currently residing in the UK, she leads the Advertising Business at Adobe, for Northern Europe (UK, Ireland, Nordics).
With 20 years of experience in marketing to consumers, Matt strongly believes in leveraging data-driven insights to make more informed advertising decisions. Specialising in programmatic with leadership roles at eXelate, Nielsen Marketing Cloud, and Oracle, Matt pioneered the UK market. He was recognised with prestigious awards including The Drum Digital Trading Awards “Most Effective Use of Data” in 2016. The Drum independently voted Matt as a “Digerati” within the top 100 UK Digital Advertising leaders in 2017. Matt earned an MBA from Warwick Business School and speaks regularly at industry events.
Hilary is currently Director of Business Development at The Trade Desk, where he works collectively with client services and trading teams to cultivate accounts, build relationships with senior leadership teams client-side, and identify strategic upselling opportunities. Hilary also oversees the laydown of client roadmaps based on individual client needs, working closely with product, marketing and revenue teams to constantly optimise efforts in line with company goals.