Audio agency ARM looks to boost streaming buys in podcasting with its own audience buying platform

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Audio agency Ad Results Media this week launched an audio buying offering to increase programmatic ad-buying access to streaming and podcasting.

With the new platform, ARM Pro, brands can access a custom suite of audio solutions for purchasing their target audiences. The audiences are vetted by ARM’s teams for direct and programmatic deals, with the goal of driving investments solely toward campaigns for an intended target audience.

“A wasted impression is an impression that a company doesn’t want to buy and an audience doesn’t want to hear,” said Gretchen Smith, vp of media at ARM. “In traditional podcast advertising, you buy a show and all of their listeners with little choice on who hears your ad. But with this, we can trigger the impressions to serve when we’ve identified the audiences we want to reach.”

While podcasting has seen steady growth in recent years, the double-digit growth period slowed down by 2021, per Insider Intelligence. Podcast ad spending in the U.S. was an estimated $1.3 billion in 2021 and $1.7 billion in 2022. There may still be room for growth, as the total U.S. podcast audience is projected to surpass 150 million by 2027 — provided stakeholders are able to overcome current challenges, from measurement capabilities to personalized targeting that is affordable and easy to integrate.

“The challenge with sustaining growth has been and continues to be measurement,” said Andrew Sandoval, vp of biddable media at full-service digital agency Croud. “While [the industry is] making progress and standards continue to improve … it can still be difficult to tie back who listened to what, and of course if it had an impact deterministically.”

Smith said ARM’s Pro platform marks the first time the agency can provide an addressable audience in podcasting while “optimizing the supply side to be as direct as possible.” The platform offers exclusive media rates with an inventory of audio publishers and shows across multiple networks, which gives users a lower ad tech tax, as well as access to ARM’s first- and third-party targeting tools that include demographic and show-level targeting. ARM Pro: Audience will be the platform’s initial launch, with additional tools in the suite planned in the coming months.

ARM has also formed an audience buying department to focus on programmatic to connect clients with these direct deals. The team consists of programmatic-specific traders, audio strategists and creatives who will work with brands to find their target audience, which can be challenging as they “[navigate] the nuances of podcasting and radio,” said Stephanie Kent, senior manager of affiliate and partnerships at Ritual, a client of ARM.

Brands from Indochino to Grammarly have been using the platform for targeting interest groups from paid search and social campaigns — including one retailer who implemented programmatic audio testing and reporting 39% lower cost-per-order, 47% more site visits and 24% higher return on ad spend, according to ARM.

But it remains to be seen whether the programmatic share of podcast revenue can continue growing at the same pace. Because the downloaded format of podcasts are harder to measure and challenges continue with cookies going away, Sandoval said the agency recommends “probabilistic approaches,” such as market-based and survey data.

Clients are moving toward contextual placements, added Corinne Casagrande, svp of strategy and growth at Involved Media USA. “Clients are increasingly interested in live reads and endorsements from podcast hosts,” she said.

However, by selling more inventory through programmatic means in this medium, brands may risk “diluting the intimate listener-host relationship that makes podcasts so appealing,” said Nuno Andrade, chief innovation officer of Media Culture. The key would be to strike the right balance between “scale and intimacy,” as agencies and brands try to push programmatic to attract bigger ad budgets without compromising the authenticity of shows, Andrade added.

Another advantage for audio may be attracting younger listeners. Marcy Greenberger, chief investment officer at UM, mentioned that audio investments are relatively flat — but clients looking to target a younger audience are increasing their spend.

“Within the audio space, spend is shifting from streaming audio to podcasts, given the growth in podcast listening,” Greenberger said.

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