Pandora launches programmatic audio; Volkswagen partners

Today Pandora sent an announcement that observers have been waiting for: The leading internet radio platform has launched a private programmatic marketplace for its digital audio advertising inventory.

Programmatic audio has been in motion for several years, both as a technical enterprise and a business ecosystem. Pandora has been conspicuously absent from that space, thought it has offered its display and video ads programmatically. A year ago at RAIN’s Online Audio Advertising Summit, Doug Sterne (VP, Audio Development & Strategy) responded to an audience Q&A question about the company’s cautious movement in this regard by saying that audio programmatic would start when it could be “done well.” That moment has arrived, according to a press release and a company blog post.

“It’s clear the future of advertising is digital audio,” evangelizes John Trimble, Pandora’s Chief Revenue Officer. “The key to unlocking that investment is programmatic audio.” Trimble says it is Pandora’s “obligation” to offer a programmatic marketplace for its voluminous inventory.

One of Pandora’s key selling points is the epochal mountain of first-party data it can use to get the ads into receptive ears. First-party data are the bits of revealing knowledge that Pandora users put into their profiles in the form of Thumbs (up and down votes on songs), registration coordinates (ZAP, or Zip, Age, Gender), and other data points that contribute to anonymous profiles of listeners. Those profiles shake out to marketable audience segments, and Pandora claims to define over 2,000 proprietary audience segments. (Think hyperlocal location, age, gender, music profile, and other in-app behavior.)

Advertisers can also put their own audience data into the mix, an allowance that the buy side generally considers necessary to the success of a programmatic market.

Launch partner for this platform is car company Volkswagen, and expansion is expected “in the coming months.” It is typical of Pandora to roll out new ventures (whether consumer-facing or on the business side) gradually. Volkswagen’s campaign was created by PHD, a division of Omnicom Media Group (OMG).

The technology companies providing DSPs (Demand Side Platforms) for Pandora programmatic — where campaigns are defined, purchased, and executed — are The Trade Desk (which is executing for Volkswagen), AdsWizz’s AudioMatic, and MediaMath. More DSPs will be added, Pandora notes.

“Pandora’s entrance into the programmatic audio space demonstrates our commitment to investing significantly in our ad platform to drive innovation and meet advertisers’ needs for new ways to transact,” Trimble says. “Pandora’s premium audio marketplace offering provides advertisers with the simplicity of programmatic, plus the quality they need to deliver effective digital audio buys.”

Brad Hill