If you attended Advertising Week this year you couldn’t avoid sessions devoted to millennials, mobile and … audio. Yes, it’s true. Audio is back and hip enough to get attention at the advertising industry’s largest gathering. The other interesting thing about the audio sessions Monday and Tuesday – they were all standing room only.
Last year, XAPPmedia’s panel on Internet Radio advertising was one of only two devoted to the audio space. The Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) held the other slot. RAB was back this year with a fast-paced and funny panel on podcasting that included celebrities Adam Carolla and Perez Hilton. Not to be outdone, podcasting dominator NPR brought out its stars Ira Glass, Guy Raz and Molly Wood for another packed room late on the first day.
Pandora and Spotify Share the Stage
The largest audio industry draw on day one was a joint interview of the Chief Marketing Officers of both Pandora and Spotify, Simon Fleming-Wood and Seth Farbman respectively. Pandora made a couple of provocative statements that advertisers couldn’t ignore. Wood said Pandora streams more audio in one day than YouTube streams video and 85% of its listening is now consumed on mobile. Farbman discussed Spotify’s strategy of ubiquity and suggested that the launch of Apple Music validated that streaming is the future of the music industry. Both agreed that the industry was at a stage where audience growth still has a lot of runway and stealing market share from other services was unnecessary.
iHeartMedia’s Gayle Troberman is another audio industry CMO that is cultivating a large Internet radio presence. She participated on the RAB podcasting panel and drew a large audience on day two for her session interviewing Ryan Seacrest about “Sound Strategy” for reaching millennials. They both shared approaches on how brands can work with artists to burnish their image among young consumers. Troberman also hosted a session on Monday that discussed, in part, how brands can help shape culture by creating links with music instead of just chasing it.
Internet Radio Growth Data
The most data-oriented Advertising Week session focused on audio was hosted by XAPPmedia and included Slacker, Triton Digital and iHeartMedia panelists. Triton shared data from August showing an average of 4.2 million concurrent listeners on Internet radio – about a 5% rise from just a few months earlier in the year. XAPPmedia’s Pat Higbie discussed data from eMarketer and Statista that shows Internet radio has both a larger U.S. audience than Facebook and about double the intensity of usage.
A Perplexing Presence by Tidal
It was definitely a surprise to see audio go from just a couple of sessions over the entire 2014 Advertising Week to six on the first day alone of 2015. However, the presence of Tidal as a sponsor and host of the featured nightly musical event Wednesday was a shock.
As a streaming app publisher with big name musicians backing the service, you might think of Tidal as a logical choice to arrange evening musical talent. However, when Tidal launched earlier this year it included no advertising component and the executives clearly expressed their opinion that advertising wasn’t a good economic model for artists. The strongest anti-advertising company in the industry turns around and becomes a sponsor of the largest conference that celebrates advertising. Hmmm. Maybe this move foreshadows a strategy shift by Tidal to introduce an ad-supported listening model to complement its subscription service. Probably not.
Even IAB Got Into the Audio Mix.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) also added an audio element to its MIXX conference that runs concurrently with the first two days of Advertising Week. A satellite interview with Spotify CEO Daniel Ek was the featured session on the opening morning. That was followed by a workshop on reaching millennials led by Spotify. On Tuesday evening the IAB MIXX awards included a digital audio ad category for the first time. Axe won top honors and XAPPmedia client NPR/Mack Avenue Records was a finalist.
Audio on the Rise
You can’t ignore the numbers. Advertisers know that over half of U.S. consumers now use Internet radio streaming services monthly – with a high concentration among millennials and mobile users. They also know that podcast listeners are young, affluent and dedicate a lot of attention to their favorite shows. Internet audio presents a unique opportunity to reach mobile consumers. The increased interest at Advertising Week in terms of sessions devoted to Internet audio and standing room only attendance is further evidence of growing advertiser interest in the channel. More advertising dollars are sure to follow.