The game changer for radio in 2018 may not be a smart device or a shiny new app. What’s increasingly shaping the industry’s conversation with advertisers is how big data can be harnessed to give clients a bigger bang for their marketing bucks. The data genie is out of the bottle and radio is in the early stages of a watershed movement to collect, analyze and segment its audiences to elevate the medium’s value with advertisers.

Spanning both proprietary company initiatives and partnerships with third party providers, Cumulus Media, iHeartMedia, Entercom, Beasley, Emmis and others are tapping rich datasets across the life cycle of an ad campaign, from planning through activation and optimization to post-campaign analytics to illustrate the impact on client objectives.

Radio took a major step forward in October 2017 when, in an industry first, Westwood One began offering advertisers a return on investment guarantee. In a partnership with Nielsen, the initiative pretests radio spot creative and measures the ROI of the campaign. The program was launched four months after Westwood One became the first radio company to launch a data management platform with the Nielsen Marketing Cloud.

Suzanne Grimes, Cumulus Media executive VP, Corporate Marketing, and Westwood One president, tells Inside Radio the two initiatives prompted their phones to “ring like crazy from major brands and ad agencies” and have “made a massive difference” with both existing advertisers and new clients, generating millions of dollars in new revenue. The one-two punch has "fundamentally changed not just the way people buy, but the conversations at the beginning of a relationship with a brand,” she says.

The ability to align radio listening metrics with consumer purchase data is at last putting radio in agency conference rooms for more strategic and sophisticated conversations with advertisers, who are more willing to divulge their marketing challenges and discuss measurable solutions. With data tools in its quiver, radio can now move into a more consultative role with its biggest clients.

The importance of proving return on investment is certainly nothing new among advertisers and agencies. But Google, Facebook and other digital players have put data in the forefront of that conversation, upping the ante for traditional media and making data table-stakes to sit at the grown-ups table. “Radio can now play in the data sandbox, providing digital-like data proof of performance,” says Bob McCurdy, corporate VP of Sales at Beasley Media Group. “This will require us to ensure that our salespeople quickly embrace these data-generating tools, become comfortable explaining and interpreting it, and guide their clients to take action upon it. This requires a change of mindset and the acquisition of new skills.”

Like other broadcasters, Beasley is in the early stages of using data to showcase its audience and provide proof of performance. In addition to aggregating user data from station websites, mobile app and online streaming, Beasley also uses first party data from its email newsletter databases to collect and generate opt-in lists for advertisers on specific topics. And it plans to resume collecting registration data from its mobile apps and websites this year.

Beasley and other broadcasters have partnered with firms like Analytic Owl, Veritone and Futuri to show clients which piece of copy, dayparts and stations trigger the most visitors to client websites. “We can seamlessly recap endorsement and sponsorships, providing impressions, age and gender breakouts along with access to each endorsement or promotional mention,” McCurdy says.

In March 2017, iHeartMedia launched SmartAudio, a digital data ad product for its 850 broadcast radio stations. Using data from roughly 110 million registered iHeartRadio listeners, and tens of millions who visit station websites, advertisers can more precisely target their broadcast radio ads using hundreds of audience segment profiles, ranging from business travelers to fitness and health enthusiasts to auto intenders. Part of its private SoundPoint programmatic ad marketplace, SmartAudio also taps into second- and third-party digital data, consumer and behavioral resources and social networks.

“SmartAudio provides broadcast radio with a more expressive, detailed and near real-time set of audience profiles than traditional broadcast radio research has been able to provide,” Brian Kaminsky, president of Programmatic and Data Operations, iHeartMedia, says. “It enables marketers to include broadcast radio when they plan to reach specific audiences with other mediums like digital and advance TV.”

Westwood One’s ROI Guarantee

Data is helping radio speak the same language as advertisers accustomed to more granular audience segmentation and attribution from their experience using digital media. By loading PPM listening data from all of its content into the Nielsen Marketing Cloud, Westwood One can link listeners to its NFL and NCAA play-by-play programming and syndicated shows to credit card and grocery shopper card data to map out purchaser profiles of over-the-air audiences. “That begins the conversation and allows us to recommend particular content or context to our advertisers,” Grimes says. “We find the good and the bad,” she adds, meaning the data sometimes produces surprising results – a show that doesn’t match up with a specific advertiser or category like you thought it would. “There are outliers on both extremes, so we’re making intelligent choices and that leads to good results,” Grimes says.

Westwood One parent Cumulus Media is also using the Nielsen data for its O&O stations. But due to PPM sample size limitations, the purchaser profiles are broken down by formats, not individual stations. “You can’t profile one station but you can derive pretty significant value at the format level and we’re looking at other ways to build tools that work at that more granular level,” Grimes says.

In addition, Cumulus is working with NextRadio to prove radio's ability to drive store traffic at the local level. Tapping into datasets associated with a smartphone’s device ID, it can offer detailed demographics like income, education, age, sex and ethnicity for the one million consumers who use the smartphone app. Cumulus and others can track who heard the ads and looked at the interactive ad unit that pops up in the app. Using geo-location software, they can track which stores consumers have visited. “By comparing shopping trips among consumers who heard the radio ad to those that did not, the lift in store visitations can be determined,” Grimes says.

Measuring Campaign Impact

Entercom, Townsquare Media, Univision, iHeartMedia, Beasley and Bonneville are among the companies working with broadcast attribution and analytics platform Analytic Owl to show advertisers how to optimize their campaigns and measure their impact. The tool tracks and quantifies the impact of on-air campaigns on web conversions and online lift. Broadcasters use it to help advertisers identify which creative performs best and which dayparts are most effective in sending listeners online to learn more about their products and services. The platform uses time-stamps of when spots air and an algorithm measures new and returning visitors to the client’s website, along with search traffic and keyword data. It strips out unrelated traffic from bots and then geofences the data to the specific DMA of the radio station.

A top benefit for advertisers is testing creative as it airs and then changing the spots, based on what’s ringing the listener bell. “If you want to know what works better, free shipping or 20% off a product, we now know which one gets more response,” says Analytic Owl founder David Ballinger. “We can’t change the audience the station has but we can change the creative and the scheduling of where that commercial airs.”

Adjusting these two elements for maximum results is giving advertisers a roadmap for where to take their campaigns. With a digital marketing and auto dealership background, Ballinger says the platform also helps prevent clients from canceling their campaigns. “Ultimately we’re helping the advertiser do a better job and get more response,” he says. Auto advertisers are the biggest users of the product, followed by financial services, healthcare and home services.

As broadcasters work to make radio more effective and prove return on investment, stakeholders believe their reliance on data will only continue to grow. “This is an extremely important discussion, something the industry needs to engage in,” says Brad Kelly, managing director, Nielsen Audio. “Digital, and the big boys in particular, are writing the playbook when it comes to ad sales. At this point, traditional media is playing catch up.”

PART TWO: Agencies: Technology, Data Hold Promise For Industry Growth.