Audacy: Digital Audio Delivers on Power of Audience Buying

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Scale or targetability? In a perfect world, brands want both, but finding it has been an advertising unicorn. Now, digital audio can help solve the dilemma. With streaming audio and podcasts, brands can reach large audiences and precision target particular consumers with a single publisher.

That was a big topic of conversation during an Audacy Insights webinar on audience-based buying that featured Ken Lagana, Audacy's Executive Vice President, Digital Sales & Strategy; Omer Jilani, Vice President of Sales for the data measurement firm Claritas; Maria Tullin, Horizon Media's Vice President and Managing Director of Advanced and Digital Audio, and moderator Idil Cakim, Audacy's Senior Vice President of Research and Insights.

Among the points that were raised: podcast listeners are active, engaged listeners who are fiercely loyal to their hosts. According to the latest Edison Research Infinite Dial report, the audience is robust, with 38% of Americans, or 177 million users, listening to podcasts monthly.

What's more, podcast ads are highly effective. In a recent Nielsen study, three-quarters of listeners say they don't mind ads and sponsors, because they support their favorite shows. And 69% said they learned about new brands from podcast ads.

To achieve scale and targetability with podcasting, Horizon Media's Tullin said she deploys a three-pronged approach. Step one is host-read ads with a show and personality that align closely with the brand. Then, she identifies category verticals. Finally, she layers in a targeted run of podcasts or show audience segments on a larger podcast network to broaden reach.

"Focusing on audience segments really allows us to broaden reach and get us to a place where we're exploring a lot of genres that a brand's audience might be interested in while maintaining niche," Tullin explained. "It's a great way to build scale while honing in."

Take this hypothetical example: for a running-shoe company, Tullin said she would buy podcast ads in obvious categories, including fitness, wellness and shows about running. Then, she would lean into the brand's first-party data to learn more about its customers. If that revealed they also love learning and comedy, she would add those to the list of podcast categories and buy across a network for scale. Sometimes, the data leads brands to unexpected audiences, like people who buy running shoes might also be avid true crime listeners. That would add another vertical to the buy.

Data and attribution are helping podcast advertising get more sophisticated. "What's possible today wasn't possible even three years ago," Tullin noted. "Publishers have a much better understanding of their audiences, which creates a really good marriage with brands understanding their audiences. We're able to really put that together and create a more holistic and compatible relationship between the audiences we're looking for and being able to find them."

To help marketers, Audacy recently launched the Audacy Digital AudienceNetwork, a one-stop ad solution that enables marketers to activate a campaign across Audacy's portfolio. Now, one campaign can easily buy podcasts, digital streaming and AM/FM radio stations.

"Instead of going to market with a piecemeal approach, we rolled out the network to enable a more holistic buy across our digital audio network," Lagana explained.

As demand for podcasts grows, the biggest stars, like Conan O'Brien or Joe Rogan, are becoming too expensive for some advertisers. By offering more data and making it easy to buy audio, publishers like Audacy can help clients identify other opportunities. That's where podcasting gets exciting, Tullin said. Instead of just the hit podcasts, she can guide clients to other show hosts and verticals. "Depending on the KPI and product, there are so many options [to find] the right person at the right price point," she explained.

Of course, marketers still want to see hard data for buys and attribution. Currently, there isn't a single independent source for podcast ratings and measurement, so the industry relies on a variety of first-and third-party data and custom studies.

Claritas works with both audio publishers and brands to study ad delivery and efficacy. As podcasting matures, more medium and large brands are coming on board, and they have high expectations for targeting and reporting, noted Jilani. Claritas helps them find the best options. "This year, our focus is to get with big platforms and publishers to ensure our clients, the Audacys and Horizons, can enable audience targeting at the niche level or general demo level," he added.

At Audacy, Lagana said the team tailors each media buy to its clients' needs and objectives, and there really is something for every brand. "There's no one size fits all," he said. "There are tactics for every different approach. Optionality is mission-critical."

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