Mobile Advertising and Its Original Medium

Pedestrians with white cables snaking down from their ears used to be walking examples of Apple’s iconic silhouette campaign. Today, the ends of those wires are most likely smartphones instead of iPods or other dedicated music players. Also, rather than listening to ripped CDs or downloaded tracks stored locally, more consumers are streaming music from the ubiquitous “cloud.”

While streaming music services started on PCs, the migration to digital audio as a mobile-first, nearly mobile-only service is almost complete. According to comScore and Millennial Media, 79 percent of online time spent on streaming radio is on smartphones versus 16 percent on tablets, and 5 percent on PC. Even in the car – the most popular place for listening to music – more and more individuals connect their smartphones to an in-car audio system, as opposed to tuning in to terrestrial audio or fumbling with CDs. According to Edison Research, the percentage of cell phone users who have ever listened to radio in the car through phones has increased from about 8 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2014.

This should come as no surprise: music was the first portable electronic medium. Going back to transistor radios in the 1950s, supplanted by the Walkman in the 1980s, and the Discman soon thereafter, generations of consumers have thought of music as a personal medium capable of going anywhere. What’s changed in today’s digital world is that now you can instantly listen to any song you can think of, anywhere, at any moment that it pops into your head.

It’s for these reasons that mobile audio is a familiar, loved, widely adopted medium and is why online radio is a great mobile ad platform. Until recently, it was overshadowed by mobile video, in terms of advertising interest. Yet digital audio in general, and mobile audio in particular, is beginning to come into its own. Marketers realize that digital audio can captivate in the way that only one’s favorite song can, drawing the kind of focus and attention that causes subway riders to miss their stops.

Among other advantages, digital audio represents a less cluttered space with fewer competing ads in mobile advertising. Mobile audio also has strong appeal in the coveted 18 -34 age group – the Millennial mobile users. And mobile devices provide troves of data points for marketers to leverage, most uniquely, mobile location data.

IAB’s Digital Audio Committee has been working hard over the past several years to ensure this part of the digital business achieves its potential.

In April 2015, we released a Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide that helps guide brands and agencies with terrestrial radio experience through the different and rich opportunities that digital audio brings to the table. The guide provides details on the medium’s targeting and measurement capabilities.

To help audio ads scale across publishers and players, we released the Digital Audio Ad Serving Template (DAAST) at the end of 2014. This makes it easier to deliver and report on digital audio ads served. DAAST stays ahead of the curve by addressing needs in various environments, like mobile and in-car radios, to create a consistent measurement functionality cross-platform.

In early September, we will be holding the IAB’s first Podcast Upfront Showcase. This new program will help podcasts come into their own as ad mediums. As audio publishers strive to create the next Serial – and advertisers look to identify and sponsor it, much like the TV Upfronts or the Digital Content NewFronts – holding an upfront will help connect the two sides of the advertising transaction. It also makes sure that publishers with great content ideas get the financial backing to create and deliver them.

We’ve also held a series of Agency Days over the past several years that focus on digital audio. They offer concrete examples and case studies to help brands and agencies unlock the potential of audio in the digital world.

Mobile audio advertising still faces some challenges. Shifting to device IDs rather than cookies to ensure ads are relevant and to measure effectiveness has challenged ad tech vendors and digital audio publishers. While lots of audio is streamed today, much – podcasts in particular – continue to be downloaded for time-shifted or disconnected listening. Therefore, marketers cannot serve advertising in real-time. We’re confident that we will facilitate the creation of guidelines and best practices to address these challenges, and we’re happy to count Pandora and Spotify as members of the IAB’s Mobile Center as we “mobilize” to address the needs of this fundamental part of the digital industry.

Homepage image via Shutterstock. 

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