Consumers are listening to more audio content than ever using an array of devices from computers to smartphones to connected stereos and cars, but audio advertising still only makes up a miniscule portion of digital ad dollars. Standardization and education are required for this to change and that’s what the IAB Audio Committee
’s work is focused on.
Advertisers, agencies and digital audio publishers gathered recently for the IAB Digital Audio Agency Day at Pandora HQ in Oakland to learn from industry experts about the future of digital audio and why it needs be included in their media buys. Kurt Hanson, CEO of AccuRadio, presented a history of the radio industry and his predictions for the future, to a stellar panel on the Connected Car with representatives from Spotify, Aha Radio at Harman International, TuneIn and Slacker (left picture). The ever-entertaining Norm Pattiz, Chairman of PodcastOne/Launchpad Media (right picture), proclaimed that podcasts are the future of digital audio.
One common theme has become clear: in order for the digital audio industry to scale, fragmentation at the technology layer must be overcome.
Dean Mandel, Vice President of Broadcast Services at PROXi Digital (Formally Katz360) and active participant of the IAB Audio Ad Serving Template Spec Working Group
, outlines the three key challenges that the IAB’s Audio committee is currently working to address:
1. Digital audio ads are being bought by both traditional radio buyers and digital buyers, and both types of buyers need a way to accurately measure delivery of their campaigns.
Radio buyers are used to “posting” their campaigns based on Arbitron ratings. However, since digital audio is technically online, there is a need for reporting equivalent metrics to other online campaigns. Online buyers are used to providing third-party tags like Dart For Advertisers (DFA) and using specifications like the Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) to track their digital display and video campaigns. Similar standards must be developed and adopted by the digital audio industry.
2. The fact that audio ad units don’t have a visual component makes the use of a “tracking pixel” unpractical.
One workaround for tracking audio ad units is to apply a third-party tag (in the form of a 1x1 pixel) to a companion display banner (a visual component to an audio ad), but not all audio devices have the visual interface necessary to fire a pixel. Accordingly, some advertisers have chosen to only serve audio ads in environments where a companion banner is served, yet in doing so, they are missing a large potential audience.
We must find a better way to track the audio ad unit itself; a way that proves whether the ad has played, how much of the ad was played and any other possible interactions the user may make with the audio ad unit.
3. Several digital audio ad serving companies have developed proprietary methods to apply third-party tracking tags to audio, but there is a need to standardize this technology across the audio marketplace.
The IAB Digital Audio Committee has launched a working group that includes several thought leaders in the streaming-audio industry who are addressing this task. Over the past several months this group has begun the development of an ad serving template specification for audio ads similar to VAST for digital video. Once this important specification work is complete and adopted throughout the marketplace, media buyers will be able to easily run and track digital audio ads in a consistent manner across multiple platforms, similar to the way they do today with other digital platforms, allowing for growth in the digital audio market.
IAB is excited to lead the effort to standardize the delivery of streaming audio advertising in order to ensure that advertisers, agencies and audio publishers may all share in the continued growth of the audio industry.
Stay tuned (pun intended!) for more to come on this topic.
About the Authors
Dean Mandel is Vice President, Broadcast Services, PROXi Digital (Formerly Katz360). Dean was one of the founding members of Katz360 and has been helping the industry to monetize streaming audio for over 6 years. He currently works with audio and video technology partners and content providers to help the streaming sales efforts for the Katz Media Group sellers. He can be reached on Twitter @deanmandel.
Leigh Ferreira is the Director, Industry Initiatives at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and oversees the Digital Audio, Digital Video and ITV Committees. She can be reached on Twitter at @leighleighsf.