Rubicon Project

Rubicon Project, one of the world’s largest programmatic advertising exchanges, says it is seeing more of its clients dedicate dollars from their marketing budgets to audio advertising purchased programmatically. In an interview with Media Village, Nina Harvey, Rubicon’s Head of Strategic Mobile Accounts and Programmatic Audio, says they’ve seen a “healthy increase” in activity. “Some brands have been testing and then reinvesting in audio buying programmatically, and new sellers are making inventory available,” she says.

Among clients Harvey mentions that have been embracing audio are Coca-Cola, Dell, Allstate, T-Mobile and Xfinity. But she says marketers across a variety of categories such as telecom, retail, automotive, finance and consumer goods are seeing results from their campaigns. “We're seeing huge growth coming into the marketplace consistently, which is a testament to audio as a medium,” she says. Harvey says what has helped stimulate interest is the increased sales efforts by Spotify and Pandora, which has helped “legitimize” audio in the minds of some CMOs.

“The ease of audio activation as another format for buyers and sellers to transact across has meant spend has transitioned relatively easily into the audio space,” Harvey tells Media Village.

One reason why marketers are gravitating to audio is the opportunity to have one-to-one engagement and a complete share of voice with an individual consumer, Harvey explains. “You're literally between that person's ears. It's such an intimate environment. When it comes to anything else – on a phone or on desktop or even out-of-home – there are so many other stimuli.”

Yet due to its one-to-one architecture, digital audio requires a different creative approach than broadcast radio. Marketers should not, for example, repurpose a radio ad or the audio track from a video spot for streaming audio. “Digital audio is a unique environment and you should plan your campaigns and your creative appropriately,” Harvey contends.

Thanks to high audio consumption among Millennials and Generation Z, more advertisers are making podcasting part of the digital audio campaigns. But Harvey says what is hampering a bigger programmatic sales effort for podcasting is the fact that many podcast listeners download instead of stream shows. That has made it difficult for marketers to determine whether their spots have actually been heard. And if it is listened to, the advertisers may not be able to detect when. “So, if you're trying to buy something in real time and that content then is not listened to, it represents challenges to effectively monetize and make sure your dollars are being spent wisely,” Harvey says. “This is not a programmatic issue—this is buying into the downloaded environment challenge.”

She calls streamed audio “more advanced” because it’s happening in real time, similar to programmatic buying, making it a “very natural” transaction for advertisers. Nevertheless, Harvey thinks podcasts will play a greater role in marketing decisions. “For brands, there might be some limitations but there is a huge amount of opportunity,” she says.

For now, programmatic audio sales remain smaller than some other digital formats such as display. And even though Harvey says there are some “nuances” to audio, that’s no different than the learning curve that marketers face as they consider video, mobile or digital out-of-home advertising options. The bigger challenge may be inside the ad agency itself, she says. “There are still challenges with getting audio out of the agencies' broadcasting teams and bringing it more into the digital team and mainstream digital conversation,” Harvey explains. “That just helps the money flow more effectively from the buy side over to the sell side.”

Read the MediaVillage Q&A with Nina Harvey HERE.