“Control and scale” — Programmatic podcast advertising with Ivone Schramm at PBL (transcript)

(NOTE: English is a second language for Ivone Schramm, and this transcript represents her natural speaking style.)

Brad Hill: Ivone, thanks for joining the Podcast Business Lunch. It’s good to see you and talk to you.

Ivone Schramm: Nice to see you and thank you for the invitation.

Brad: Glad to have you here to talk about programmatic advertising in podcasting, a fascinating topic. Podcasting is now traditionally a high-tech media category, I think it’s safe to say, but it has adopted some automated solutions recently, and I’m thinking of dynamic ad insertion whereby the host of a podcast can pre-record a sponsorship message, so then instead of baking it into one episode, it can be dropped across an entire catalog of episodes. That’s obviously a step forward in automation and marketing efficiency for advertisers, but that’s not exactly programmatic, I think. Tell me if I’m right about that and explain the difference.

Ivone: You’re right. That’s not exactly programmatic. So as you explained very well, dynamic ad insertion it’s when a creative ad is recorded separately from the episode and it can be inserted in a catalogue in multiple different episodes for the same show for the same host. And dynamic ad insertion also allows that ad to be replaced every time there is a new download for that episode. So if you download like three weeks after that episode went live, you get one ad and if you download like three months later, you might get a different ad for the same spot because they have been… There is the possibility of replacement. Programmatic is actually the use of automated technology to buy ad spaces. So dynamic ad insertion is part of the process for programmatic to deliver an ad. Programmatic it’s when for buying ad space, buyers participate on an auction, so meaning they bid for the right to insert that episode to the listener. The SSPs or Supply Side Platforms like Triton, they insert dynamic with the winner of that auction into the podcast during the download.

Brad: So pricing is variable?

Ivone: Pricing is variable, and also position is variable, so they can be in the front, at the beginning before the podcast, in the middle of the content, or the end.

Brad: And then what does the advertiser deliver? They must have a pre-produced ad ready to go, so that if they win the auction, they have something to actually run.

Ivone: Exactly. So the advertisers on their side, they use what’s called DSP or Demand Side Platforms, and those Demand Side Platforms, they enter the campaign, the price that they’re willing to pay, how much you’re going to bid, and there’s… A DSP communicates with the SSP during the auction. The SSP gets, receives the bids from different… Today, Triton is connected to 30 different DSPs, so we get 30 different bids for each auction for a spot during a podcast and the highest bidder wins. When it decides the winner, it asks for the DSP, “Do you have the creative?” And the buyer has already uploaded a creative into the DSP side.

Brad: Alright. We’re deep into buzzword territory here. So explain to our audience please, DSP and SSP.

Ivone: So SSP is the acronym for Supply Side Platform. And SSP it’s a technology company. Triton, for example, it’s one as is an audio only SSP. And those type of companies, what we do, we hold a marketplace, and marketplace is where the bid exchange happens where we have, think about as a Nasdaq, for example. This is also a marketplace, but we have one that it’s for audio that is our SSP. So it’s a technology company that provides to supplying, meaning the publishers, the radio stations, the podcasters on space to expose their inventory to the DSPs, so the Demand Side Platforms, and this is used exclusively from buyers. So the buyers will enter… Buyers like agencies, brands, trading desks, they use those DSPs to enter their campaign and in the campaigns are where they upload the creatives, the dates of the campaign, for how long it’s going to run, daily budgets that they have to spend or impressions.

Brad: The advertisers bringing creative with them and auctioning for an opportunity to put that creative into a podcast and into other forms of streaming audio, by the way.

Ivone: That’s correct. In their DSP or the Demand Side Platform, they will also say what type of targeting, so what type of people they are looking for, like what the brand is looking for. And the SSP will take all that information on the publisher side and the supply side where they can put different perimeters for what they want to accept including pricing or priority, and it will automate a solution or a decision for who gets that.

Brad: Okay. We’ll get to those priorities that the advertiser has in a minute, but is there a competition then, is your company in competition with others every time an advertiser comes in with a campaign need?

Ivone: So the Demand Side Platform is there is always a competition. And today, Triton is connected to over 30 Demand Side Platforms or DSPs. So every time we have a listener or a space for advertiser, we expose that to all party DSPs and they all bid back giving what’s the advertiser and the price that they are ready to bid for it.

Brad: Okay. Now, what are the advertisers are actually buying in the way of the demographics or audience segmentation and targeting because I think programmatic is largely about reaching a certain type of audience and a certain listener, is that right?

Ivone: That is right. And what they are buying, it really depends on what the campaign is. For example, in podcasts we see a lot of difference from, depending on the time of the year, right? What type of buying they are seeing. For example, in the United States, we see food and drink being very strong during the holidays, like Thanksgiving and for Christmas. And we see that, that type of podcast having less interest from the buyers at the beginning of the year.

Brad: Okay.

Ivone: In the UK, we see that food and drink it’s interesting for the buyers at the beginning of the year too, when buyers are coming to podcasts, the year for sure, looking for the experience that podcast brings to the buyer. To the listener. Podcast listeners, they are more connected to the content than just like listening to the music while doing other things. Some podcasts can take up an hour, right? So you take that full hour to listen to a subject that it’s interesting for you. And buyers use what we call categories to target those listeners through the podcasts.

Brad: What are some of those categories?

Ivone: One category that is very popular lately is True Crime.

Brad: So to some extent advertisers are buying a topical category in podcasting?

Ivone: Exactly.

Brad: Okay. What other categories? Are they buying audience characteristics, regardless of what kind of podcasts they listen to?

Ivone: In podcast, audience characteristics is not very rich, especially if you compare that with streaming.

Brad: Oh, okay.

Ivone: So when buyers are looking for podcasts, they are looking on for a specific title, meaning a specific show that they know, that they know the host and that they are looking for. Even if they come to programmatic or they are looking for those formats of the podcasts.

Brad: Okay, that’s interesting. And I’m interested in that comparison you made. Is it safe to say as that programmatic buyers of podcasting are less demanding, perhaps, or the audience in podcasting is less well defined, and less granularly targetable, than in streaming audio — is either one of those true?

Ivone: I wouldn’t say that they are less demanding, I would say actually the opposite — that they are really more demanding when buying podcasts. It’s a host that represents a brand within that podcast. So they want to make sure that the client is landing on a podcast that matches what the client believes. It’s more on the data side in podcasts when you’re looking purely at data campaigns. Podcasts never scale as well as a streaming campaign scales — mostly because of type of connection. In other words podcasts are download, when streaming you can have first party data information from the listener. You can have addressability meaning a player sync or cookie sync.

Brad: Is podcasting changing in this regard? It sounds to me if I’m hearing this right, like podcasting has some catching up to do with streaming audio. Is that fair to say? Or is that a wrong characterization?

Ivone: Podcasting is a walled garden, download over the places that you listen, right? So when you were listening, depending on where you were listening to the podcast, those places don’t pass back to the SSP any type of detail. That’s the difficulty that the SSPs have today in selling and passing more data to the buyers for or the podcasts.

Brad: Thank you for being so patient with these questions by the way [laughter]. So, programmatic in podcasting is relatively new. What are the benefits to the buyer? Pretend that you’re talking to a new buyer or a podcast marketer who hasn’t used programmatic in the past. What would you say the benefits are?

Ivone: I think it’s the benefits of programmatic in general, not just podcast.

Brad: Oh, okay.

Ivone: So flexibility in programmatic as being a benefit for buyers, they have full control of their campaigns. They change the creative whenever they need the creative to be changed. The campaign starts when it’s ready to start. So the buyers have that on their fingertips — when it’s time to change the creative, the buyer changes their creative and it’s more reactive.

Brad: So: Control.

Ivone: Control. It’s a big advantage for buyers. And another one, it’s the scale. So connecting to one unique SSP through their DSP of choice. They can have access to millions of millions of impressions in avails per day. For example, Triton’s marketplace today have access to over 250 publishers globally. It translates to 1 billion avails per day. So there is…

Brad: Is that just on the podcasting side?

Ivone: No, that’s a total not just on the podcasting side…

Brad: Okay, what are the main differences from the buyers point of view between a programmatic podcast campaign and a programmatic streaming audio campaign?

Ivone: One big difference: It’s the data that we just talked about. When streaming offers much more possibility of data targeting, detailed data targeting, but cache offers the data possibility when you use IP addresses. Difference is also on the format. In streaming, I use broadcast format, so we’ll be Rock, Classic, Top 40s, Sports. When a podcast can be more detailed, offering different formats that describe a little bit more the intent of the show. We’ve talked about True Crime, Arts and Crafts, Food and Drink, there is one category that I think is funny — it’s Magic and Illusion. So there are podcasts about that. [laughter]

Brad: I have never encountered Magic and Illusion as a podcast category, and you’re telling me that there’s some advertising demand for it?

Ivone: There is. Yes, there is advertising demand. We see in Canada this year, a lot of the advertising demand for podcasts that talk about learning, so if you’re looking for a certificate, learning a little bit more and growing your career. Also entertainment podcasts, so talking about TV shows or movies. There is a huge interest lately, in Canada, especially for this type of podcasts.

Brad: One of the most popular podcast categories is interview shows by comedians, which usually fall into the Comedy category of podcasts. Is that also popular?

Ivone: That is also popular. It depends on the country that you are looking at, it really changes, and the amazing thing of being in a global marketplace is to see the difference from those countries. Comedy events and this type of podcast, they are more popular, say, in the United States, than if you compare it with the UK, for example. In US and Canada, you have podcasts talking about sports that really go up to the top, or not so much into the top, depending on sports events that’s happening.

Brad: You have such a global scale. I don’t remember how many countries Triton operates in.

Ivone: In 45 different countries.

Brad: I thought it was in the 40s. Well, that’s interesting by itself. This is an unexpected question, but can you give me any interesting facts about advertiser preferences in different countries that might surprise me?

Ivone: Comedy and Events is stronger than in different countries. Food and Drink, in the UK, is pretty strong for advertisers to… It just brings you to think about, “Well maybe they really like to talk about it in the UK”. And in Canada, television shows, podcasts about TV, are very popular for advertisers.

Brad: So interesting. You must observe these and think, “Why?”

Ivone: Yes, like the one that I mentioned that they’re relying that is magic and illusion, that is really strong in the US. And you say, “Oh, people really want to learn or to more about this fascinating thing, that is magic.”

Brad: I wonder if this is a difficult or easy question to answer, what type of advertiser is trending in the programmatic marketplace that you manage?

Ivone: Just repeating that, it depends on the country.

Brad: Sure. Let’s start with the US, the biggest market.

Ivone: For the US, what’s been trending… In trends, not just in podcasts, is automotive. This is one that really trends in digital audio in general. But, for podcast-specific, we’re going to look at advertisers linked to health and fitness. That was something that grew a lot during the pandemic.

Brad: Of course.

Ivone: Insurance, insurance companies, that is something that is always big, and at the beginning of the pandemic, we did saw a lot of finance advertisers coming into the podcast space.

Brad: Can you identify any patterns or changes — for example, when we’re talking about the pandemic from 2021 into 2022, any patterns there that are notable to you?

Ivone: We saw a few changes, more in 2020 through 2021, in the beginning of the pandemic they were… I would say the changes were more clear to see. We saw the device that is being used to listen to music, to change a lot. So it went a lot from mobile to desktops or devices that are not… Don’t move around that much with us, to we saw countries that originally would have almost dominance in mobile, have high increase for desktop devices. And I think that we saw in LATAM, that was pretty interesting. LATAM is generally dominated by desktop devices, the listening.

Brad: This is Latin America.

Ivone: Latin America, yeah. And we saw it moving more to mobile devices, a little bit, I guess, of movements that we saw around other places, places in the world. But one thing, comparing 2021 with 2022, and specifically to podcast, is the increase of number of impressions in the interest in podcasts, how it has grown. In general, podcast impressions grew over 100%, if you would compare the first months of 2021 with the first months of 2022.

Brad: Impressions, this is advertising impressions?

Ivone: Advertising impressions, yes.

Brad: And this is just in the programmatic podcast marketplace?

Ivone: Exactly. That’s what we observe in Triton’s Programmatic Marketplace for podcasts.

Brad: Alright, well, that’s an attention-getting statistic. Is this because the inventory has grown, people are listening more, and there are a lot more podcasts, or is it that programmatic is becoming a bigger force in podcasting?

Ivone: I think that it’s a mix of both, but the programmatic it’s becoming a bigger force in podcasts, makes that a huge difference as we talked at the beginning for the dynamic ad insertion. Both podcasters are feeling more comfortable with the experience to dynamically insert an ad on their content. And buyers are feeling more confident, buying this type of where you one to one experience that it’s the post talking to the public, talking to the listener. In platforms SSPs like supply-side platforms like Triton. There is experience of inserting the ad, goals… So it’s mostly that the listener never knows. Is it programmatic? Is it coming from the host itself? So this better listener experience attracts both people listening and people being able to be feeling comfortable to expose their inventories to programmatic and people feeling comfortable in buying this.

Brad: I wonder about the cost of programmatic advertising, can you give me any sense of CPMS.

Ivone: Sure a CPM, depends on the country, and obviously we have a global exposure, we do see lot of that difference. We’ll see that markets that are just starting in programmatic usually have very high prices for podcasts. They stay high if the supply is small.

Brad: Sure.

Ivone: So for smaller countries, if you compare let’s say Canada and US being neighbors those countries, but the population that lives on those countries are hugely numbers. Canada is outnumbered by the US. In the Canadian market, you will see price in podcast going closer to a $10 or $15 in average, when in the US, you see that number closer to $5, so kind of half of the price of Canada.

Brad: Okay, do you anticipate a programmatic ad buying and ad selling to gain a larger and larger share over time?

Ivone: We do anticipate that because this… From what we talked about the advantages, the control that the buyer have, the transparency that buying this way allows buyer to in real time know where the ad delivered really in which show the ad delivered. The publisher, it allows the publisher to know who bought it and everything in real time, and buyers can adjust the campaign. Publishers can make sure that the advertisers that they are receiving on their podcast match with what they believe and with their brand too. It’s more easy to everybody, for buyers and for publishers and this transparency makes everybody knows who is buying, and who is selling.

Brad: Well, Ivone thank you for joining the podcast business launch and for tolerating my questions. I really appreciate it. I feel smarter than I was twenty minutes ago, and I’m sure that many people watching this feel that way too. Thanks again for being here.

Ivone: My pleasure Brad, thank you for the invitation.


Brad Hill