Could digital audio be our brand safety saviour?

Rubicon Project ANZ country manager Simone Krakowiak
By Rubicon Project ANZ country manager Simone Krakowiak | 4 July 2017
Simone Krakowiak

More than ever, brands want to interact in the digital space but they want to do so without fear of appearing alongside questionable content. Platforms such as Spotify and SoundCloud have a distinct advantage in this area offering marketers a clean, premium environment in which to play.

In February, Marco Bertozzi, Spotify’s European Vice President commented that he joined the music streaming service excited about the data opportunity. But he did not expect to discover that the streaming service had “the single most impressive media inventory environment of anyone in the business”. Spotify achieves this, Bertozzi said, by having its users 100% logged-in which thwarts traditional forms of bot fraud. This is impressive given that traffic fraud identification company, Are You a Human, has found 58% of internet traffic to be driven by bots. Bertozzi is understandably excited to be going to market “with inventory that leads the market”.

Even better than analogue

With logged-in user bases, platforms such as Spotify provide brand safety that not even traditional analogue audio can match. As IAB Australia CEO Vijay Solanki pointed out in his AdNews piece earlier this year, “There's no certainty about the audio environment a shock jock might create with a rather racy storyline just before your ad is scheduled to run.” We’ve seen far too many examples of this in the past to mention across both the AM and FM dials.

The surging popularity of digital audio provides a welcome and alternate safety zone for brands and the growth looks set to continue. According to recent research conducted by Advertising Age and The Trade Desk alongside Advantage Business Research, marketers will, on average, be allocating 11.6% of their advertising budgets to audio this year, more than double that of 18 months ago. Couple that with figures from a recent IAB study which found 80% of media buyers have already bought streaming digital audio advertising, with half planning to buy programmatic inventory in the coming 12 months and the opportunity is vast. From a consumer perspective, the IAB study also found 12 million Australians are now consuming music and other audio content on mobile devices every month.

Pandora recently hit stop on all Australian operations. Read more here.

The medium’s credentials see it poised to become a trusted mainstay of the media landscape. Already digital audio offers 100% share of voice and unskippability and by its nature, it has the kind of viewability (or ‘hearability’) metrics that knock other formats out the park. However, as the buying and selling of more and more digital advertising becomes automated, ensuring continued brand safety is a must. In this space, we have already seen Spotify launch a global programmatic audio product in July 2016. More recently, SoundCloud launched its global programmatic proposition and digital audio advertising platform TargetSpot has also made its inventory programmatically available.

As it currently stands, existing programmatic platforms which help mature the audio market will play a massive part in the sector’s success, and collaborative initiatives between technology providers, publishers and advertisers will help disrupt the market while ensuring the premium nature of the format remains intact.

Adding voice to the equation

Expanding on the digital audio promise, voice command is also another future opportunity as Siri, Google Home, Alexa and more start to penetrate homes and become commonplace. With predictions that by 2020 more than 200 billion searches will be voice-activated, ensuring brand safety in this environment will be tantamount.

Digital audio still has room to develop before it truly competes alongside other more established digital formats, but in this climate of digital distrust, it has all the foundations in place to gather pace in 2017. The ability to offer advertisers opportunities in attribution modelling, cross-device tracking and listener data from which they can gain insights to inform future campaigns will all be a big step towards audio carving out a healthy slice of brand budgets.

There’s certainly no denying the power of digital audio. In the UK alone, some 48% of adults reported listening to audio delivered via IP during a week, tuning in to either live, on-demand content or audio podcasts. Globally, Spotify has more than 100 million users, Chance The Rapper dedicated his Grammy to SoundCloud, and Milo Yiannopolous’ podcast may well have affected the outcome of the US election. The influence of digital audio in people’s lives is growing and marketers are tapping into the opportunity that it presents, enjoying the fact that as a medium it has inherited radio's effectiveness but brings the added benefits of proprietary data. Given all this, it could well be a marketer’s dream come true.

By Rubicon Project ANZ country manager Simone Krakowiak

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