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Rubican Project, one of the world’s largest advertising exchanges, says it is seeing more of its clients dedicating dollars from their marketing budgets to audio advertising—and a growing list of those companies are placing their ads in podcasts. 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 to “legitimize” audio in the minds of some CMOs. It also offers the sort of digital scale that traditional radio companies have so far been unable to bring on their own.

“There's a huge amount of value to podcasting,” Harvey tells Media Village. “You've got the rise of Millennials and Generation Z, and they're consuming more and more audio content. You're also seeing adults over 55 increasing their podcast listening.” 

But Harvey says what is hampering a bigger programmatic sales effort for podcasting is the fact that many podcast listeners download, not stream, shows. That has made it difficult for marketers to determine whether their spots have actually been listened to. And if it is heard, 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 great 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.”