Pandora’s audio ads are about to get personal.
The streaming giant partnered with UK-based dynamic audio creative vendor A Million Ads on Thursday to bring tailored creative and sequential messaging to audio ads in-stream. The capability will launch this year in beta, but Pandora did not state specifically when.
Pandora will leverage A Million Ads’ dynamic creative technology to target consumers in real time with personalized messages based on weather, time of day, location, device and, of course, the music they’re listening to.
“Dynamic creative [is] not a new concept, but within the scope of audio, it’s very new,” said Lizzie Widhelm, SVP of ad product strategy at Pandora. “The partnership will allow us to customize a more personal experience for our listeners, so the audio ads that interrupt their music resonate more and don’t sound like the one-to-many creative experiences that audio delivers today.”
Brands that want to leverage dynamic audio can record a script with multiple message variations. The voiceover reads different versions of the script to cover a range of geographic areas, weather conditions or calls to action, said Steve Dunlop, founder and CEO of A Million Ads.
“You can have a line that says, ‘Hey, New York,’ another line that says ‘Hey, Chicago’ and another line that says ‘Hey, San Francisco,’ and our system picks the right audio item to play,” he said.
Dynamic audio ads on Pandora are direct sold, but the assets are rendered in real time in A Million Ads’ ad server, using data from a given listener.
“You annotate the script, just like you would with an ordinary piece of audio creative, but every line is patched to a different piece of data,” Dunlop said.
A Million Ads will also ingest listener data from Pandora to target consumers with creative that resonates with their music moment.
“We can tailor a message referencing the type of music they’re listening to,” said Chris Record, VP of revenue operations at Pandora. “If we can take those variables and make 5 to 10 creatives, it quickly scales up to be 50 to 100. That makes for a much more personalized experience.”
Pandora will also hit users with sequential and cross-platform messages to give advertisers more time to explain their products. For example, an electronics retailer with 15 products can spread out its message over three or four ads, Dunlop said.
“In the old world, [they] would have to talk really fast to get all those features in,” he said. “Sequential messaging gives advertisers more space to talk about the angles and aspects of their products.”
After the beta launch, dynamic creative will be available across all of Pandora’s audio inventory, sold direct and at a premium, similar to an uplift that an advertiser might pay for a rich media service or data offering, Pandora’s Record said.
With dynamic creative, Pandora can scale a personalized experience without the heavy lifting of making personalized assets.
“It’s incredibly cumbersome to produce all those spots,” Widhelm said. “A creative agency can’t do that at scale, even though they know that the experience will work better.”
But dynamic audio creative is still more difficult to execute than dynamic display creative, Dunlop said. Images and taglines can be saved in a computer file, but audio spots must be physically recorded by a human.
“We’re all getting used to Siri, Cortana and Alexa as these new voices in our lives, but our brains are really good at detecting robotic voices versus human voices,” he said. “That, for me, means you can’t use it in an ad."
Pandora is the first major partner for A Million Ads, which does dynamic creative exclusively in the audio space. In the past, the vendor worked with a coffee retailer on a campaign with seven different data variables that produced 240,000 possible variations of audio creative.
“When you walk into a coffee shop, they call out your name when the coffee is ready,” Dunlop said. “We recreated that in an advert where we recorded 400 names, covering 80% of the UK population, and got the barista to call out the name.”