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How to Use CTV as a Roadmap for Programmatic Audio

Grant Sterling, VP, Global Business Development

April 19, 2023 | 5 min read

As marketers diversify their marketing spend to include programmatic channels such as audio, CTV provides a strong roadmap for how to get audio investment right.  

If you were to draw a Venn diagram of CTV and programmatic audio, there’d be considerable overlap. Akin to audio, CTV media planning focuses on addressable audiences in premium environments, with private marketplace (PMPs) and programmatic guaranteed deals (PG deals) playing a large role in buying.

CTV consumption habits are also comparable to audio, and audio technology is fast-evolving to solve issues such as competitive separation and ad podding. However, audio’s screen-free format and immersive listening environment make it unique from CTV in how it builds connections with consumers.

Here’s a breakdown of CTV and audio programmatic’s similarities and differences — and how their crossover can be used to improve audio media planning to achieve more efficient and impactful outcomes. 

What Makes Audio and CTV Similar?

They’re deal-focused. 

Both audio and CTV are transacted mostly through PMP and PG deals. Private marketplaces are typically “invite only,” giving buyers priority or preferred access to inventory on a semi-reserved basis with agreed-upon pricing. These deals help buyers access high-quality, brand-safe inventory or specific audience segments. In turn, sellers are more able to optimize their fill rates and efficiently monetize inventory. The use of Deal IDs or deal packages on both platforms gives buyers a high level of control over where their ads appear. 

The user experience is similar.

Podcasts are almost a mirror image of CTV: podcasts and CTV content can connect with hard-to-reach audiences outside the purview of traditional media, such as linear television. These audiences are strikingly similar in consumption behavior. Meanwhile, ad formats are identical (with 10, 30, and 60-second ad spot standards that air pre-, mid-, or post-roll). Ad podding and competitive separation business rules are also parallel.

Their ad-serving technologies are both fast-advancing.

CTV and audio ads are served via VAST, so they share the same technical framework. Audio programmatic largely avoids ad skipping through server-side ad insertion. The enterprise technology developed for CTV inventory to improve ad delivery can also be applied to ensure audio ads are delivered seamlessly and efficiently at scale. 

Meanwhile, with audio programmatic, advertisers win the flexibility and efficiency of programmatic tools. CTV and audio ad experiences are similar in that they target addressable audiences — and aim to be relevant to each household and/or listener. 

Brands can target audio consumers by GEOs and locations, demographics (gender, age, language), device types, audiences, and more. This makes campaigns highly data-driven and impactful. 

Audio and CTV build high levels of trust. 

As recent research supports, consumers perceive radio and podcast personalities as highly relatable, trustworthy and authentic. This creates a high level of trust among audio consumers. Audio’s 1:1 listening is uniquely intimate and builds a feeling of companionship with users. This “trust halo” makes audio ads highly impactful: over half of audio listeners trust radio and podcast advertisers more than any other medium.

Similarly, ad-supported CTV environments garner top levels of trust from viewers, even more so compared to social media

What Makes Audio and CTV Different?

Audio is not screen-focused.

Audio listeners often have the screen turned off or don’t use a screen at all (i.e., listening via a smart speaker). This means that marketing “calls to action” should never rely on screen activation or an asset such as a companion banner, as is the case with many video formats. Audio ads instead engage consumers in ways that video ads don’t: i.e., with easy-to-remember discount codes, unique URLs, or by leveraging the power of smart speakers and smart assistants to redirect listeners to nearby stores or sites.

Audio’s distribution platforms are more concentrated. 

While CTV has multiple distribution channels, audio platforms are more highly concentrated — with most listeners listening on primarily two platforms, Spotify and Apple (25% and 20%, respectively). For podcasts specifically, Spotify reaches an estimated 32.5 million podcast listeners per month, compared to Apple Podcast, which has 28.5 million monthly listeners. These two companies take the largest share of the podcast listening pie.

As opposed to CTV, where consumers increasingly opt for free or reduced-cost subscription services, paid subscriptions – which often include ads – are on the rise in audio. More than 60% of digital audio listeners in the US paid for a streaming audio subscription in 2022. That’s up from 36.9%, or 74.1 million people, in 2018. 

Also, unlike CTV – where segmenting audiences are more scattered for manager and control campaigns – audio has more concentrated avenues of listening and fewer distribution options for advertisers. Therefore, it becomes that much more important for brands to understand how to segment audiences in audio. As with CTV, the sell-side is uniquely positioned to help brands improve attribution, with SSPs sitting closer to the audience and their listening behaviors. 

Ultimately, CTV and audio have much in common: they’re both winning greater audience share and engagement. While five years ago, these channels may have been a “nice-to-have,” they’ve both become staples of any sound marketing mix — brands simply can’t optimize their reach without them. 

Looking ahead, time spent listening to audio is only expected to increase among listeners— who now represent nearly three-quarters of US internet users. To deliver on audio’s full potential, marketers can learn from CTV and heed the two channels’ differences while leaning into their similarities.

Tags: Audio, CTV

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