Google Introduces Audio Ads to a Wider Customer Base

Google’s foray into radio advertising is about to be broadcast to all of its AdWords advertisers.

Google has been testing its Audio Ads platform for months, having spent more than $100 million last year to acquire dMarc Broadcasting, whose automated ad-purchasing system for radio stations became the foundation for Google’s Audio Ads platform. It says it’s finally ready to offer Audio Ads to all AdWords account holders in the United States and will be “rolling out” the service during the next month.

“Today, over half of all U.S. AdWords accounts have been given access to Google Audio Ads,” said a Monday posting on Google’s Inside AdWords blog. “And at the end of June, it’ll be available to all AdWords advertisers across the country.”

In an effort to help prospective radio advertisers give Audio Ads a try, Google is offering $400 in Audio Ads credits toward first radio campaigns. To get the credit, customers must use Google’s Ad Creation Marketplace, a directory of ad specialists that help create the 30-second radio spots, and they must launch a campaign by June 30, said Google.

It’s also created a “Beginner’s Guide” that offers ideas about creating successful radio campaigns including information about the types of audiences accessible via radio, keys to effective ads, ways for reaching target customers and more.

The move implies Google is gaining confidence in the amount of available radio ad inventory it has secured through deals with station networks. In April, Google announced it was beginning to sell :30 ads to run on hundreds of stations operated by Clear Channel Radio. The agreement called for Google to sell a guaranteed portion of Clear Channel’s ad inventory over more than 675 stations.

Prior to landing the Clear Channel Radio deal, Google had not been very successful in signing up radio stations. Station owners might have been reluctant to embrace online ad sales because it goes against almost a century of radio ad selling practice — the use of sales people — and, therefore, might undermine the sales arms of their stations.

But in April, Clear Channel CEO John Hogan said the Google deal was a “win-win” for the companies because it brought Clear Channel a vast batch of potential advertisers while offering Google’s existing AdWords customers a new advertising option.

At the time Clear Channel said its sales representatives would “continue to focus on the company’s most lucrative advertiser relationships, and on the many advertisers who seek specialized advertising packages and concepts.”

What radio stations hope Google Audio Ads can offer them is higher CPMs for their remnant inventory. And while the Clear Channel deal and others gave Google the ability to deliver ads to the top 10 stations in 24 of the top 25 U.S. markets, its invasion of radio is another example of how Internet-initiated marketing is working its way down to the smaller, local-level markets.

According to a report by Borrell Associates, almost $7.5 billion was spent last year on local online advertising, a field that is growing at a rate of 31.5 percent yearly. However, “traditional media companies are struggling to keep up with Web sales,” said Borrell, adding that “some have seen growth slip below 20 percent as they scramble to maintain share.”

In an interview, Borrell’s VP of research, Kip Cassino, said Google is using its vast customer base to gain leverage into radio and newspaper marketing “and they are trying to convince businesses and business categories that, in the past, have not done much radio advertising.”

He said radio stations and networks do not view Google as competing with their in-house sales staffs because Google is likely to be selling ads to customers who — for whatever reason — do not already advertise on radio.

“In the end, they’ve gotta have the radio stations on their side,” said Cassino. “They are looking at businesses that have not shown historically a lot of interest in advertising on the radio, and what Google would be doing — if this kind of program works for them — is offering radio stations and networks new business that the radio stations hadn’t seen before.”

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