Quotes and memorable moments from RAIN Summit in NYC

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Thomas Mancusi (left), Payne Lindsey, Patty Newmark, Collin Willardson, Scott Philbrook – “Podcast Advertising 360” (Photo by Steve Goldstein)

The RAIN Online Audio Advertising Summit at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York this week featured 22 speakers in a streamlined four-hour morning conference. Audio buyers from New York ad agencies shared the audience space with audio publishers, podcast networks, and tech companies. Following are just a few memorable moments and quotes from the event, which one attendee described as “one of the best RAIN events, and I’ve been to a lot of them over the years.”

“Nobody listens to a podcast at a barbecue.” (Thomas Mancusi, VP, Sales & Development, audioBoom)
The point here was that podcasting is a lean-in medium with actively engaged listeners. In this way podcasting differs from music, which is often a background medium, acting as sonic wallpaper. Listener attention is one reason podcast advertising is attractive to marketers, and effective.

“The in-your-face radio style doesn’t work.” (Kurt Hanson, CEO, AccuRadio)
Hanson (also Founder of RAIN News) was talking about ad spots, comparing what works in terrestrial radio and effective marketing in streaming music. One reason for the style difference, he noted, is that streaming ads often exist in isolation from other ads, not clustered into dense spot breaks. That, too, is a value differentiator for streaming audio advertising.

“It’s still too hard to listen.” (Lex Friedman, Chief Revenue Officer, Midroll Media)
This in reference to podcasting, especially in the car. Although podcast listening is growing, there is still a usability threshold which is difficult for non-tech consumers to cross.

“Third-party data is crap.” (Sean Kegelman, Global Head of Data Monetization, Spotify) 
Kegelman might have deliberately overstating the case to underline his company’s emphasis on first-party data. Audio streaming companies like Spotify and Pandora are Big Data machines that warehouse immense knowledge of their users. By comparison, a DMP (digital management platform) might bring less acute intelligence to the table for advertisers.

“There are no FCC regulations — that’s genius.” (Collin Willardson, Marketing Manager Mack Weldon) 
Willardson, a frequent podcast advertiser, relished the lack of FCC oversight at the RAIN Summit, too. His point here was that podcast hosts are free to evangelize Mack Weldon products with whatever language they want. (Weldon famously appeared onstage at a live podcast performance in his underwear.)

“We can assume Apple will not give back information.” (Mark McCrery, Founder and CEO, Authentic/Podtrac)
The topic here was Apple’s dominance in podcast distribution, and adamant secretiveness about whatever consumer listening information it gathers from serving an estimated 65% of podcast listens. the resulting “black box” is at the heart of podcast audience measurement issues.

“It’s not that we aren’t bullish on programmatic.” (Doug Sterne, VP Audio Development & Strategy Pandora) This was Sterne’s reply to an audience question about Pandora’s involvement in programmatic display advertising, but not audio advertising. In what turned into a rambunctious Q&A, Sterne implied that Pandora might be drawing close to opening Pandora audio to programmatic buying. After the conference, we asked him for more detail on this. His reply:

“Pandora remains bullish on programmatic audio in 2017. We continue to develop a solution that properly leverages our massive archive of rich 1st-party data so that advertisers and listeners are pleased with the result. Recommendation algorithms..especially for audio ads..are only as good as the observable data that powers them..something Pandora has at scale in spades. So when we go to market, we intend to “get it right” for both digital and broadcast advertisers alike.”

Brad Hill