Top 5 Things to Know about Audio Advertising

Most of the time, when we talk about advertising platforms, we think of ads with displayed content, whether that’s text, images, or perhaps video. One area that’s often overlooked is audio advertising, which is important in the world of music and radio where the attention of customers is sought through ears, not eyes.

So what do you need to know about audio advertising? Here are the essentials.

The same principles apply

What does a platform for audio advertising look like? In essence, the same as it does for other kinds of ads. Advertisers buy access to the users of multiple radio and music services through a single advertising platform, just as they would normally purchase target audiences through advertising on multiple websites and apps.

It has huge reach

Such an advertising platform is a good fit for the radio and digital music industries because of the ways in which these things are consumed—which is to say, mainly via mobile devices, with the ever-increasing ability to listen to digital audio anywhere at any time. This includes AM/FM radio, online radio (streamed and on-demand) and podcasts, which means access to huge audiences.

It’s targeted

The nature of digital audio also means the ability to target very specific audiences. Podcasts and radio come in many flavours, including music, news, sports and politics. Digital audio is also consumed in different contexts, such as in the car, at home or in the office. All of this means that audiences can be segmented accordingly.

It’s not limited to audio

While audio advertising refers mainly to the transmission of audio, music streaming services and platforms—on mobile apps and on the web—typically have interfaces where visual components can be used, such as banner ads that can be used in conjunction with audio ads. On Spotify, for example, a synchronised banner ad replaces the usual square album cover image whenever an audio ad plays.

The platform exists

Last year, Global Radio launched a new advertising platform they call the Digital Audio Exchange, which gives advertisers access to an impressive list of digital radio brands, music streaming services and audio social networks, including Spotify, Blinkbox, Capital, and Classic FM. Advertising partners already include giants such as Vodafone, Virgin Media, Lexus, eBay and 20th Century Fox.

Like many publishers, Global Radio is particularly well-positioned to sell inventory because they can offer their own rich, ‘premium’ audience data, as well as that of reputable partners who can expand their reach.
It’s easy to overlook audio advertising, but in fact digital audio is now more relevant than ever, an increasingly omnipresent fixture in the consumer landscape. This makes digital audio one of the best ways to reach consumers today.

How does a biddable media team work

The online advertising world has seen the rise of biddable media, programmatic bidding where automated auction platforms are used to purchase ad impressions. In essence, the advertiser who is willing to pay the highest price for an individual impression wins that impression.

In some ways, this has simplified how purchasing online ads works. It’s an efficient, transparent and precise means of ad buying that cuts out a lot of the manual input, allows for more specific targeting, and makes the ad-buying economy more organised.

However, while biddable media platforms have all of these advantages, media and marketing agencies frequently fail to integrate the needs of biddable media properly into their agency structure, resulting in a fragmented media team whose priorities can conflict.

So what should a biddable media team look like, what should it do and how should it be structured?

Search versus display

The responsibilities of purchasing ads are traditionally split between:

The search team — responsible for search ads, typically Paid Search where they show up alongside search results.

The display team — responsible for display ads that appear on websites.

However, thanks to the evolution of online advertising where both kinds of ads have grown in complexity, these two sides have merged such that the distinction no longer entirely makes sense.

Search ads include increasingly rich media and social extensions that aren’t fully accounted for by the responsibilities of the search team. At the same time, display ads have also adopted elements of search; for example, targeted native ads that reflect a user’s recent searches.

Biddable media, where advertisers purchase audiences via ad impressions, has grown in popularity because the ability of ads to collect and exploit contextual user data has become more universal, allowing the attention of specific target audiences to be purchased for all kinds of ads–while previously, search ads would ignore the audience data layer, looking only at the immediate context of, for example, search keywords.

So when putting together a biddable media team, it becomes a question of ownership: who should own biddable media when the traditional priorities of the search team are no longer sufficient?

What does biddable media need?

A biddable media advertising strategy needs to incorporate the following stages:

Planning — the team develops plans according to a branding strategy and business objectives.
Buying — real-time bidding for ad impressions, purchasing targeted audiences.
Optimisation — making ongoing changes to the ads according to their performance.
Reporting — evaluating the success of campaigns and citing where they could be improved.
Analysing tech landscape — keeping an eye on current developments in the online advertising world.

This is a process that needs to be at the centre of marketing operations. Programmatic buying should be treated as an integral part of the wider strategy and communications plan, and as such the different teams should be brought in line so that they both serve each of these stages of the process.

Team culture

The aim of a biddable media team should be to foster an approach to the campaign that is adopted by both search and display teams and reflects the process required by today’s biddable media. And there are key attributes to look for in the team.

Experimental — willingness to test, look at results, and experiment with changes.
Analytical — the ability to interpret data and campaign results using analytics tools.
Quantitative — crunching the numbers, being aware of costs, clicks and audience reach.
All-round data nerd — (said with love, obviously!) understanding the overall precedence of data, and looking not only at search data but display data (e.g. which images or videos are effective) and social media reach.

Each team should retain its core expertise and be able to bring that to the table, but with some understanding of the other side of the process. An effective biddable media team requires ‘cross-pollination’, each team learning from the other to synthesise their practises.

This means that team members are likely to need some training in each other’s disciplines. The search team will need greater awareness of audience and brand, while the display team will need to fully understand the implications of targeted ads ruled by data and algorithms.

The result should be a dynamic culture of constant testing and experimenting, with continuous review and improvement of workflow processes. Each member of the biddable media team should be multi-skilled specialists with a full understanding of ad requirements.

Use Native Advertising to Collapse the Purchase Funnel

The marketing funnel—a user’s journey from first becoming aware of your brand to actually making a purchase—is usually thought of in separate stages, each of them focused on different things. Early stages have to do with brand awareness and familiarity, of making your business known to users who may never have heard of you before, while later stages deal with with conversion, turning a user into a (hopefully repeat) customer.

Traditional advertising campaigns have tended to reflect this separation, with advertising units addressing only one or two parts of the marketing funnel, which is broken into “brand” campaigns to build awareness or “direct response” and “performance” campaigns focused on pure conversion.

This has changed with the advent of native advertising. The precise definition of native is somewhat nebulous, but in general it refers to advertising content served in the context of the user’s experience, such as branded content. For example, a news site might share an article “from our sponsors” that, aside from this qualification, looks just like any other article on the site, perhaps even with subject matter that relates to the non-sponsored articles.

A well executed and planned branded content campaign can deliver multiple times the ROI of a standard display campaign.
A well executed and planned branded content campaign can deliver multiple times the ROI of a standard display campaign.

An ROI Growth Engine

The benefit of such branded content is that it helps to collapse the marketing funnel into a near singularity, such that separate campaigns aren’t needed, just one that serves the entire user journey. Branded content can be as media-rich as any of the other content it sits beside—native ads can utilise text, video, interactivity, and other tricks of online advertising to serve every stage of the funnel all in one “ad” placement.

For example, brand awareness can be as simple as “sponsored by” text featuring your brand name; this could then be followed up by a video that “tells a story”, featuring product demonstrations and consumer opinions; and finally, it could use copy to inform the potential customer about a particular product or service and drive them to conversion through a call to action (purchase, register, or download). This roughly follows the order of the traditional marketing funnel, but it’s more important that the ad mixes brand awareness with content designed to influence direct purchasing decisions.

More cost-effective than running multiple campaigns, as well as making the journey simpler for the user, effective native advertising drives ROI and can often yield results that are next to impossible to achieve with standard ads.

Alphabet Soup – Google’s re-org creates editorial feeding frenzy

 I’m hard-pressed to remember more confusing coverage of a business story than what’s going on in the tech and mainstream press regarding  Google and Alphabet. Clearly editorials are going for clickbait rather than informative pieces. Here’s a breakdown from the company’s blog piece.

  1. Alphabet is a new holding company under which several companies will operate. Stock will trade under Alphabet.
  2. Larry Page will become the CEO of Alphabet. Sergey Brinn will be president of Alphabet.
  3. Alphabet will operate the future-looking initiatives such as home (Nest), Health (Life Sciences; Calico) and others including the X lab.
  4. Google will continue to be Google and do the advertising and search stuff as a wholly owned subsidiary of Alphabet.
  5. Google will be run a former head of product named Sundar Pichai.
One example of needlessly misleading headlines today.
One example of needlessly misleading headlines today. No. Not really.

And that’s about it. It’s not “a google rebrand” (Forbes). The google name isn’t going away. Google hasn’t renamed itself (Wired). It hasn’t “blown itself up and started over” (Business Insider).

EDIT: The Guardian has published a super-clear representation of the Google / Alphabet situation.

Guardian Alphabet Chart

52% of UK Internet Users Prefer to Access via Mobile

Ofcom LogoExponential growth can bring unexpected results. How did the long-predicted “Year of Mobile” pass us by?

Year on year growth of UK internet users who go online via smartphones. Souce: Ofcom, “The Communications Report 2015”

An Ofcom report today shows that for the first time the majority of internet usage is coming from mobile devices. For some time it’s been a running joke in the media industry that it’s perpetually going to be “The Year of Mobile”. It seems like the year of mobile is now decidedly behind us. After all, Ofcom has declared that the UK is now a “Smartphone Society?”
How did we go from constantly predicting the Year of Mobile to staring at it in the rearview mirror? The answer lies in exponential growth.

Smartphones have become the most widely owned internet-enabled devices, alongside laptops. In Q1 2015 smartphones were present in two-thirds of households (66%), on a par with laptops at 65%. – Ofcom report

Exponential growth can be a tricky concept for us to get our heads around. That is, it’s simple enough to understand in theory, but it’s not always easy for us to visualise. A familiar example of this is the ‘place a penny on a chessboard and double it for each square’ problem. Before long you’ve got more money than has ever or will ever exist, even though all you did was start out with a measly penny.

How exponential growth works

Growth happens very quickly and shortens the ability to react to the change.
Growth happens very quickly and shortens the ability to react to the change.

A simple, day-to-day example of exponential growth is compound interest. You deposit some money in a bank account, and you get interest on that money per month or per annum at a percentage—say, 1% interest per month. But this additional 1% doesn’t apply only to the original amount you put in. It’s compounded, because every month it takes a total amount including the interest you’ve already accumulated, and adds 1% of that new total.

Warsaw StadiumOver time, in this example, you would see steady growth of your bank account balance. But the result of exponential growth can be a lot more drastic. Chris Martenson came up with a now-famous example of the “magic eye-dropper” to describe how it works. Imagine you have an eye dropper and you place a single drop of water in the middle of a large sport stadium. Every minute, the amount of water added from the magic dropper doubles.

If we assume a drop of water is 0.05mL this would mean in minute one 0.05mL was added to the pitch. About enough to bend the tip of a blade of grass. At the next minute 0.10mL are added to the pitch. In minute three 0.20mL. And so on. Assuming for the sake of the example that the stadium is watertight, how long does it take for the stadium to fill up?
Using Martenson’s example of the Yankee Stadium, he says it takes about 50 minutes. But for the first 45 minutes, the volume of water isn’t very noticeable, or it doesn’t seem like much of a threat—the field has maybe about five feet of water by the 45th minute.

It’s in the last five minutes that the stadium suddenly, rapidly, fills up, leaving you with very little time to escape.
The point of this example is not only to show how exponential growth works, but to demonstrate how it can take us unawares, and how we might not be able to react in a timely manner when it happens. By the time we’ve noticed the growth, the window of opportunity to react to it is very nearly gone.

“The Year of Mobile” Conundrum

With the onset of new technology and the impact this can have on commerce, the result can be similar. For years, we’ve been predicting that next year would be “the year of mobile”, the time when the shift to mobile for media would really happen in a critical way. And yet what if, in the blink of an eye, this event is already behind us?

According to the logic of exponential growth, this could happen almost instantly. That’s because, even though we’ve had our eyes on the growth of mobile, just as we might have been watching the magic water expand in those first 45 minutes in the stadium, we might not truly comprehend the rapid geometric growth that takes place in those last few moments. We keep expecting “the year of mobile” to happen when the critical moment might, in fact, have already happened.

This is why, when it comes to mobile, most of us already feel like we’re playing catch-up. But as marketers, we need to ready ourselves for the surprises of exponential growth and be able to prepare and react accordingly.

Of Note: GIFs find new lease on life in mobile messaging

DAILY REPORT: The GIF Start-Ups Fostering a Visual Language on Mobile

The humble GIF seems to be getting at least third lease on life, this time through mobile messaging.

What started life as a way of simplifying and reducing the file size of digital pictures on the pre-Web online network CompuServe has found yet another role in life. GIFs later found a home on chat boards and Tumblr sites as a way of sharing compressed motion image clips (an example is looping below this paragraph). Now they are being used to do the same over mobile messaging.

Source: For Mobile Messaging, GIFs Prove to Be Worth at Least a Thousand Words – The New York Times