IAB Member Q&A: Programmatic Audio

On August 05, 2020 Research & Resources

In the IAB Australia Audio State of the Nation research published earlier this year, 58% of media buyers were intending to use programmatic audio during 2020 stating targeting capabilities and enhanced reach as the top two reasons for adoption. In this week’s member Q&A some of our Audio Council members answer a range of questions relating to programmatic and automated buying for audio ad inventory. Thanks to Nova, Triton Digital, ARN, Acast, Spotify, Magnite and SCA for their contributions.


Jennifer Stokes, Digital Commercial Platforms Manager, NOVA Entertainment

What advantages (or disadvantages) are there for agencies and advertisers using programmatic to trade audio inventory versus traditional insertion orders?

 Buying audio programmatically offers flexibility and in a way that a traditional media buying cannot. This is valuable, especially now, as advertisers may need to adjust their plans and spends in response to ever changing external factors ranging from updates in Government policies to supply chain issues. The trading desk has full control and with the click of a button campaigns can be optimised, sped up or slowed down, targeting adjusted or the activity paused without relying on publisher ad ops. Campaign reactivity is instantaneous which is a handy insurance policy for the advertiser and the trading desks complete autonomy to control the campaign takes reliance off Publishers to make campaign changes. There are resource efficiencies associated with this that should not be underestimated, in a world where agencies are being asked to do more with less.

 From a brand safety viewpoint, when buying programmatically an advertiser can turn the buy off in response to any market change with 100% certainty that the activity has ceased. This is invaluable for industries like the airline industry who don’t want to be seen advertising after tragic events like plane accidents, or other advertisers where there may have been negative press.

There can be disadvantages to buying programmatically and these relate to supply constraints as programmatic campaigns are typically trafficked after directed ad served campaigns. Where supply is limited and demand is high from direct advertisers, it may mean loss of scale for the programmatic campaign but by working with the Publishers there is usually a solution and alternative supply can be found.


What do you see as the priorities locally for the development of a healthy, sustainable and diverse programmatic audio market?

 Maintaining a diverse audio market is important for successful growth of emerging programmatic channels of Podcasting and Streaming Radio. Education of agency planners and buyers as well as tech and DSP support is key to this so that everyone understands the strengths and weaknesses of each publisher and supply type, where each should be used and how to buy it programmatically. Audio is a nuanced programmatic buy and there are a few simple tips and tricks that can make all the difference to a deal running smoothly. Partnering with the publisher to run education sessions will ensure all the team has current knowledge.

 In audio we often see programmatic planning default to only one streaming music publisher,  where instead advertisers would benefit from a deeper consideration of alternative audio supplies on every schedule. A well planned media schedule should have diversity of supply as we don’t all listen to our audio on one platform, and media consumption habits of agency planners is not always indicative of the wider community. Education helps drive diversity and trading desk teams should be receptive to this.

Trading desks should also be aware that not having audio creative is no longer a limitation to programmatic podcasting/streaming buying. Most publishers (like Nova) can easily make creative for use in programmatic or non-programmatic campaigns using in-house studios and talent. It’s quick and inexpensive and is an opportunity to utilise the best creative minds to produce award-winning audio creative for your programmatic audio campaigns.

 Additionally, some technical limitations exist in Podcasting related reporting and trading desks might find this limiting when the pressure is on to prove success to the client. These reporting limitations are a global issue and publishers and tech platforms are well aware of this and working towards a solution.  Programmatic Podcasting is still in its infancy compared to display which is the equivalent of a teenager now and has sophistication in attribution and reporting. We know podcast advertising works based on the data from Brand Effectiveness & Health Studies and these studies are inexpensive and readily available to all advertisers, even programmatic ones. Further metrics advertisers seek will come as the tech evolves, but until then advertisers should embrace the low ad saturation and highly effective channel that is podcasting.


Richard Palmer, Director Market Development (APAC), Triton Digital 


Are there any overseas markets that you have seen doing a good job of developing their programmatic Audio industry? 

The online audio advertising market in the U.S. is undoubtedly the most advanced as it relates to liquidity, with many factors that contribute to the region’s success.  In addition to focusing on upper-funnel budgets and a multi-channel strategy, another critical factor is that there is a large quantity of inventory available by the widespread adoption of in-stream spot replacement, i.e. the replacement of original over-the-air spots by personalised online ads. 


As observed, opportunities will be missed if there is a lack of capacity within a venue to accommodate the expected guests.  The U.S. proved to be a pioneer in the industry as other countries such as Mexico, Colombia, South Africa, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have adapted similar strategies.  Finally, as audio isn’t bought organically by all brands yet, the efforts and persistence of dedicated audio sales networks, such as Audio Ad in Latin America, DAX in the U.S. and the UK, 365 in South Africa, and Talpa in the Netherlands have helped position audio in the spotlight. Additionally, Australia is well-positioned and has also followed a similar trajectory early on.



What do you see as the priorities locally for the development of a healthy, sustainable and diverse programmatic audio market? 

Diversity is needed on both sides of the programmatic audio market – diversity of publishers and formats (music to talk, streaming to podcasts) and diversity of advertisers and campaigns (direct-to-consumers as well as the well-established, upper and lower funnels). There will always be a first mover advantage but relying solely on first movers will not make the industry sustainable. With all of the challenges related to data leaks and fraud, keeping the audio space clean and transparent should be the priority of its constituents. Finally, as audio remains needing to be sold and isn’t bought organically by all brands, it is essential to keep audio in the spotlight. Educating the industry through events, webinars and various sessions, in addition to joint initiatives such as the Triton Digital and Commercial Radio Australia’s Australian Podcast Report, power awareness and innovation within the global marketplace. 



Richard Howells, Digital Commercial Director, ARN


How would you describe the current state of programmatic and automated media buying of audio and podcast inventory in Australia?

Digital Audio is still being gradually adopted to programmatic buying team plans. Streaming Radio and Music is more prominent than podcasts at this stage, although along with demand for all forms of podcasting, we are expecting it to become a more significant channel for buying teams.


I feel Digital Audio still sits in a hybrid online / offline realm, so as agencies navigate this complex space, we’ll see more succinct planning, buying and activation occur – resulting more campaigns going through programmatic teams.  Unlike with other Programmatic channels and products, Australia doesn’t seem to be leading the way this time. We’re finding other markets are more mature with Digital Audio Programmatic buying, but we’re sure it’ll scale up here quickly.


What advantages (or disadvantages) are there for agencies and advertisers using programmatic to trade audio inventory versus traditional insertion orders?

Some disadvantages are occurring, particularly with more complex executions. The intricacies around 1st Party Data use are potentially significant. Some speciality products can’t be transacted Programmatically nor some dynamic creative executions. The ability to provide value (or not as the case might be) in the planning phase, is a large hurdle, but as the product matures knowledge will increase. Seeing Digital Audio as just another channel and buying across audiences with frequency management, is crucial to the success of the channel programmatically. Most of the programmatic audio buying we have seen, is large radio investor brands, who are looking to test out ways to work with incremental streaming audiences.


Some advertisers, however, see it as a low barrier to enter the Audio realm. By using programmatic streaming as a way of testing out Audio, they can see results without having to commit to large spends. Off the back of good results, most of these advertisers have gone on to invest in linear Radio. Podcasts in particular, are harder to navigate programmatically, as there is typically a lot more effort to integrate the advertising to the intimate listening environment. This is one of the purest forms of advertising, so ensuring the host reads are integrated into the correct shows, takes time and effort and is sometimes lost when bought programmatically. We are also seeing that the podcast hosting solutions are still catching up to the desires of programmatic purchasing, so the inventory volume and complexity of inventory management is still in its nascent stage.


Different creative messaging along with other parameters – such as time of day, device being listened on and content being consumed – gives buyers more control. It can be done succinctly in the Programmatic space using some of the sophisticated DSP functionality and PMP set-ups publishers can offer. We predict the next phase will see video advertisers start to view audio as a chance to extend their reach and facilitate the creative process in converting video to audio for brands. This will be a huge advantage for Programmatic buying and will help increase investment in this channel.



Emily Croker, Commercial Partnerships Director – AU & NZ, Acast


What do you see as the priorities locally for the development of a healthy, sustainable and diverse programmatic audio market?

The industry has experienced incredible audience growth year-on-year and automation for brands to access this pool of inventory is only going to ensure programmatic podcast buying becomes an essential part of the planning mix for agencies.

The priorities for the Australian market to develop healthy, sustainable and a diverse programmatic audio market are:

  1. Education is crucial at both a trading desk and DSP level to ensure buyers are fully informed about the audio medium, and that they plan their strategies accordingly. Podcasts are unique being distributed widely as part of an open ecosystem and consumed across many different listening environments, and so, buyers may find they need to tweak elements of their plan to accommodate the advert playing across many devices and platforms including apps, web and screenless devices. In general, podcasting does not have the same approach as programmatic across display or video.
  2. An awareness to not blindly repeat the same miss-steps as digital media that have moved to programmatic before the evolution of audio. Appreciating that podcasts are uncluttered, have high contextual relevance, and offer low ad loads which ensure cut through for your advertising message. Their rates command a premium.
  3. The IAB should play an important role, as a neutral actor to help raise the profile and awareness of all players within the audio market, as well as the industry itself. The IAB can support the industries’ education and foster best-practise. Brands should also question the metrics of podcast inventory that is not IAB-compliant, which has set the standard for transparency and accurate podcast measurement standards within the industry.
  4. Brands should consider what creative they are placing into podcasts. The creative should be tailored to the podcast medium, ideally not recycled from other audio products. Whilst most programmatic audio is pre-recorded audio, not voiced by the host, brands can leverage a connection with the listen via contextual alignment.
  5. Access to a diverse inventory supply landscape is also important, both in terms of buying points from publishers and platforms, but also in terms of a rich and culturally diverse content. Local publishers such as The Guardian, Schwartz, Freemantle, Pacific, TEN, Newscorp, + many of the radio players, all invest into local productions and the number of independent hosts such as Lipp Media, Sanspants and The Squiz, is growing. More household names such as Julia Gillard, Osher Gunsberg and Abbie Chatfield offer different perspectives and content for listeners. 




Liam Hickey, Head of Automation, Spotify ANZ

What advantages (or disadvantages) are there for agencies and advertisers using programmatic to trade audio inventory versus traditional insertion orders?

There are a number of well-reported benefits of programmatic advertising and audio is no different. It brings greater efficiency, less wastage and the choice of RTB or guaranteed inventory, supply is high quality and formats largely in line with direct IO buys.  It also provides more data points, insights and enhanced targeting capabilities, which leverage 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data across omni-channel buys, which in turn provides a holistic view and greater frequency control.


In the past the programmatic supply chain has had some transparency issues that needed addressing, with greater adoption of automation within audio (and the wider programmatic landscape) both supply and demand stakeholders are invested in improving transparency and ROI for client and agency partners. In addition 3rd party measurement has dramatically improved, giving confidence to the marketplace. Programmatic audio also provides additional benefits around flexibility, informing your buys with data and audience insights to be able to respond quickly to changes in the market, something that is even more relevant in the current landscape we find ourselves in.


How should agencies and marketers be thinking about the role of programmatic audio in their channel planning?

The most successful brands and agencies look at programmatic audio as an audience buy. Spotify has millions of audiences of 1, because each listeners’ user experience is uniquely their own – which we call streaming intelligence. Streaming intelligence is a rich data set of unique insights powered by the millions of listeners who spend hours with us each day.


Because of this extremely powerful understanding of our audience there are a few key things that programmatic audio can bring to the role of channel planning:


  • Broadcast vs Digital Audio:
    • I think we could all agree that the industry is currently battling with itself to understand how digital audio can complement a broadcast audio buy, what advantages it can bring, and the role it can play in the wider media mix
    • Programmatic digital audio builds an additional layer of sophistication to execution of digital audio campaigns this means that agency and clients can feel confident in delivery of an audience based on advanced data signals which goes far beyond what a broadcast medium can deliver.


  • True omnichannel planning:
    • Agencies and clients should see programmatic audio as another way of buying an engaged audience, we shouldn’t concern ourselves with which ‘bucket it sits in’ or whether it’s coming from an offline or online budget. As audiences transition from a linear experience to an on-demand streaming experience we need to consider where the audience and time spent is.


Samantha Elson, Account Manager, Magnite


What advantages (or disadvantages) are there for agencies and advertisers using programmatic to trade audio inventory versus traditional insertion orders?
Whilst an IO gives you a guarantee on the inventory you’re buying, historically a programmatic buy didn’t necessarily give you any guarantee. However now there is also the additional option of buying Audio via Programmatic Guaranteed (PG). In saying that, the programmatic pipes give you ultimate control and flexibility as to what you spend, where you spend it and when. Which is something that can’t get from traditional advertising. This includes real-time measurement, greater efficiency, greater targeting capabilities and increased audience reach. 

Data – making more informed decisions and removing wastage, and finding new data points that help your understanding of the customer
Control –  total control on the impression you choose to buy
Automation – The ability to quickly analyse and improve your buying in real time, as well as faster access to publisher inventory
Transparency – increased level of access to data from both the SSP and the DSP
Increased tool sets – to act on the data for planning, optimising, and adding a greater measure of effectiveness through better total campaign reporting

The ability to pause a campaign or switch out your creative at the click of a button, when user habits and market messaging are changing so constantly is more important now than ever.
Programmatic Audio also allows for the use of Dynamic Audio, where you can truly target your audience on a 1:1 basis, with specific brand messaging for specific audiences at specific times.

What do you see as the priorities locally for the development of a healthy, sustainable and diverse programmatic audio market? 

With publishers ready to jump in and programmatic already proven across other formats, there are a couple of areas we can prioritise to ensure that the Programmatic Audio market continues to grow into something sustainable.
Clearly defined and consistent Audio measurement standards, we aren’t going to look at a click through rate on an audio ad, but instead at things like listen through rates.
Working towards better standards for Programmatic buying and measurement in podcast download environments will be crucial in growing this space.
Additionally educating the traditional broadcast teams on the benefits of buying programmatic audio. Often there is a disconnect between the teams who control the budget and the programmatic teams who are buying media. Bridging this gap through education should be a key priority to ensuring that the Audio market is able to scale to the same degree that Video has in the past. 


Jonathan Mandel, Head of Digital Commercial, Southern Cross Austereo

What do you see as the priorities locally for the development of a healthy, sustainable and diverse programmatic audio market?

Education is fundamentally the key to development of Digital Audio in Australia.  There’s currently a lot of confusion in the market in relation to capabilities, measurement & strategic application within a campaign.  We need greater alignment in training & education from the publisher but also greater adoption & inclination to learn from the agencies. 

I think the fundamental challenge for audio within the digital industry is that we’ve built our entire digital world around the fact that we can see more through digital.  See more insights, see more actions, see more engagement, see more results.   But you can’t see audio and this has been the cause of much confusion for years now.  “How do I measure it if the user can’t click?”  The task is upon us to provide further training & education to the industry to set the right expectations and application of audio within a campaign strategy.  And provide more case studies!

To do this we need to be clear with the market around capabilities & measurement.  Streaming & podcast has nuanced capabilities and measurement, so it’s incumbent upon buyers to speak to their publisher partners more to determine the appropriate strategies for their campaigns.  Creating more meaningful dialogue will lead to better results for the client.


How should agencies and marketers be thinking about the role of programmatic Digital Audio in their channel planning?

Digital Audio has a role across all levels of the marketing funnel so should certainly be a consideration in any campaign strategy.  Audio is a companion medium, it’s on while work, while we exercise, while we drive and while we drink…  Audio as a medium builds trust through word of mouth.  FM broadcast radio has long been considered a direct response medium due to live nature of the content but also has incredibly strong ability to build brand salience in a very cost-effective manner.  The same is true for digital audio but with the added benefits of digital targeting & reporting capabilities. 

We establish connections through audio from as early as in the womb, hearing our family’s voices and music, this builds a type of muscle memory connection that has intrinsically become part of our nature.  To this point I would suggest to agencies & marketers that audio should be considered as a companion to all channels and can facilitate roles of awareness, consideration & response to achieve any client objectives. 

As we progress into a world of smart speakers and appliances, marketers & agencies MUST be thinking about how their brands and businesses operate and sound in a screenless ecosystem.  The proliferation of Smart Speakers is growing faster than mobile phones did in the early 2000s.  For ever search query that occurs on a Smart Speaker, that’s one less Google search that would have otherwise occurred.  That means fewer google search ads, less website traffic for ALL.  So how do we ensure that when one searches for a product or service on a Smart Speaker, that your brand is included in results with any visual prompt?  We all need to planning audio strategies now to ensure that we’re all audio & voice optimised for the future.