Apple launches programmatic mobile ad-buying for iTunes Radio; AdsWizz partners

itunes radioStarting today, Apple is making digital ad buying easier and more targeted for marketers in iTunes Radio, the company’s non-interactive online radio service. iTunes Radio competes with market leader Pandora, which has invested heavily in a network of localized sales forces in major radio markets.

One of the first outside partners to offer iTunes Radio inventory is AdsWizz. iTunes Radio inventory is now available on AdWave, the company’s global audio ad marketplace.

In a phone call with RAIN News, AdsWizz CEO Alexis van de Wyer noted that the entrance of iTunes Radio into the automated buying market is good for advertisers: “iTunes Radio is becoming more available to advertisers, which is very big news for advertisers. It also is becoming available to programmatic buyers, which is important.”

For AdsWizz, Apple’s entrance onto the AdWave platform is a competitive advantage. “It’s another significant, premium publisher joining AdWave. That’s obviously very exciting. We are setting up a premium marketplace with about one-billion impressions every month, before Apple.”

Apple’s Pivot

The development is a pivot for Apple, which is leveraging its iAd program that was launched in 2010. iAd was started as an enterprise to grab share of the mobile advertising buying market. Apple is injecting programmatic functionality and opening iTunes Radio inventory to the platform.

Effective programmatic platforms engage audience segmenting and targeting. Apple’s advantage in data collection is the in-house universe of existing customers, some percentage of whom listen to iTunes Radio. (Apple does not break out iTunes Radio audience metrics.) Using a program called Customer match, Apple now offers audience targeting to programmatic buyers.

This is a pivot of the business model, too. As noted in Ad Age, Apple concentrated on premium, high-cost advertising sponsorships when it launched iTunes Radio in the fall of 2013. Adding a programmatic layer mixes software campaign management with iAd’s traditional human-powered sales force, and markets smart impressions to advertisers rather than comprehensive brand affiliations with Apple’s service.

Most programmatic buying extends across publishing brands on platforms that offer huge amounts of user-targeted placements in real-time. In those systems, advertisers and agencies buy impressions based on audience intelligence, regardless of the publishing brand where the users are parked. An important programmatic trend is the launch of private markets, sometimes comprising a small network of collaborating brands that can offer a favorable set of audience characteristics. The Apple/iTunes Radio venture is what you might call a hyper-private buying platform composed only of iTunes Radio.

Apple was late to the online radio party, but remains a powerful and much-watched force in digital music. As the company rolls out its CarPlay digital dashboard integration, and maintains an impressive footprint in the mobile smartphone market, iTunes Radio remains favorably positioned in a broad swath of American consumers.

Brad Hill