Panel debates the challenges facing digital audio advertising

IAB Australia hosted its Audio Summit in Sydney this week where it explored the current Australian digital audio advertising landscape, with industry experts discussing trends, challenges and opportunities in the space.

Audio advertising remains a strategic part of any marketer's arsenal but challenges in the disjointed nature of the nature and demonstrating its impact holistically remain hurdles to be overcome, several industry pundits say.

During the recent Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Audio event in Sydney, a panel of radio and agency representatives shared their views about how brands can assess what is a good place to start with audio advertising and how they can fit it in with their wider strategy. And there were some bold predictions about how audio will assume primacy in a screen-less future.

Publicis commercial director of performance, Brooke Aniseko, noted several important considerations in devising any modern audio advertising strategy, such as targeting audiences, the creative video being used and how it aligns with the different kinds of pillars of the digital audio. There's also the question of whether you're looking at devices, or a one-to-one interaction with your target audience, versus one-to-many.

However, Aniseko drew attention to the challenging aspects of the digital audio advertising landscape. In particular, these included “disjointed nature of the channel and being able to collectively position them and demonstrate the advantages to each".

"How they work together is going to be key,” she said.

In terms of digital audio, Spotify head of automation A/NZ, Liam Hickey, expanded on the difficulties of buying digital audio in relation to the streaming music platform. For one, there’s the direct business, which locks in an audience without any optimisation. The other way is programmatic

“That's part of my role, to educate buyers why programmatic is potentially a better way to to transact, but we're quite agnostic. However, if buyers want to trade, we're happy to do that. But we're actually seeing that trend is more and more to trade programmatically,” Hickey said.

On the subject of measurement, Southern Cross Austereo head of digital commercial, Jonathan Mandel, said publishers have a role in educating and explaining in a common language along with the role and process of measurement. He also suggested there's an onus on the agencies to be more open to learning about measurement.

Australian Radio Network (ARN) national digitial commercial director, Rick Howells agreed it’s in publishers' best interests to be working harder to ensure buyers understand measurement and the different types of audio and audio advertising. 

“It's making sure we can have the most informed buyers and the more they know the better, but it's down to us, the people with that knowledge,” he said.

Again, Aniseko emphasised the importance of consistency as key. “Things like the audio buyers guide is important so you’re not hearing different information from different publishers or tech providers,” she said.

Howells agreed it's beneficial for all of those in the digital audio advertising industry to make sure there's that measurement or messaging or training and education across the ecosystem. However, in relation to radio at least, he admitted, there aren’t a huge amount of metrics, rather it’s all about planning.

“But they [advertisers] know that it works and it works incredibly well," he said. 

By contrast, with digital there is so much data and so much analytics and almost “too measurable”, Howells continued.

“Digital audio kind of sits in the middle of that void, which is a difficult spot to be in, but things like frequency, reach, but in digital audio, the most important is around the planning,” he said. “With planning, it’s the people you're trying to target, what are they listening to, when are they listening, how are they listening, what kind of device are they on? And then the metrics and come back from that. What are you trying to plan? And this is what we're actually doing against it, whether it's programmatic or direct.”

For Mandel, the best thing anyone can do is get in touch with the publisher partners during the planning.

"At that earliest point, get an understanding of the type of inventory you might be looking to buy,"  he advised. "What is targetable on the inventory, streaming inventory and podcasting inventory? And what is measurable on each? They’ve both got to have a place in the plan, but it’s important not to measure one with the wrong metrics.”

Targeting tips

The panel also spoke on the opportunities of targeting. Hickey said the best approach he’s seen, in terms of music streaming, is balancing the different types of devices which are being targeted and some devices have more scale than others. 

“And also brands which are utilising different creative messages in those different environments. We see better results for the client,” he said.

Mandel explained how he’s seeing the “emergence of that comfort we have with other digital platforms, in terms of targeting capabilities, now coming to audio”.

“The most sound advice I've ever heard is to make sure you're targeting is just a tactical strategy within your holistic approach and not the entire campaign strategy. You don't want to just solely rely on a hyper niche or hyper targeting,” he said.

Howells finished by explained how the industry has moved in less than a year from a focus on streaming to a focus on podcasting and “consumers and brands are leading it very, very quickly”.

“That's what no one knows - how much revenue? How much media spend is going to happen this year in the space?” he asked.

Predicting what will be the catalyst for the explosion in growth, Howells nominated measurement through data, Hickey nominated data, while Aniseko said a holistic approach to the total audio strategy, how the different modules interact and what their place is in the total media buy. Mandel also higlighted the explosion of device and screenless future.

“If you’re not focusing on an audio strategy, holistically, as an advertiser and for your business, you’re going to fall behind," he added. "Everything that comes out from here on end is going to be built from a voice-first perspective. Google itself announced that it no longer has a mobile-first strategy, it has a voice-first strategy.”

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