Inside Global Radio’s plan to put Europe’s audio ad spend on a par with US

Global Radio, home to popular U.K. stations including Heart and Capital, is on a mission to make buying audio advertising simpler across Europe.

In particular, it wants to see music streaming services and radio networks in Europe play a more prominent role in media plans, as they do in the U.S. where music streaming service Pandora is the fourth-largest mobile ad business after Facebook, Google and Twitter.

So at the Internet Advertising Bureau’s Upfronts in London, Global revealed a plan to extend its digital audio ad exchange (Dax) to 18 European countries.

This means that for the first time, advertisers will be able to target audio campaigns across multiple European music streaming and podcast businesses and radio networks programmatically. (That’s not real-time bidding, but direct deals, which can be automated.)

In the U.K., Dax taps into ad inventory from 140 music platforms, including all Global stations, rival broadcaster Bauer’s Absolute Radio network, podcast company Audioboom and streaming services such as Deezer. (It doesn’t have Spotify, which isn’t yet set up to serve ads programmatically.)

Since its U.K. debut a year ago, Dax has grown its base to almost 10 million people. The new European combined listener base adds up to 60 million people in total, according to the company.

Global won’t reveal its revenue, but its chief commercial officer Mike Gordon told Digiday it hit its three-year commercial targets within the first year and has signed up 250 clients since launch in 2014.

Michael Williamson, head of AV planning at Carat, said Dax has been a success for Global Radio and advertisers, opening up previously unavailable digital audio content and platforms for programmatic buying.

He added that the European launch will help differentiate Dax in the audio market, with Spotify not fully set up yet to serve ads programmatically. “Being able to buy ad space programmatically to key young audiences on the likes of Deezer and Ministry of Sound via Dax across multiple European markets is a huge opportunity for advertisers,” he said.

Dax also acts as an in-house creative shop, making new ad formats for brands and agencies. It has 65 people dedicated to this in London and will be looking to make further hires to accommodate the creation of ads into other European languages.

Dax wants to be a one-stop shop for digital audio creative and media buying, said Gordon. “One of the barriers to radio in the past has been the creative industry. But we create our own formats — a popular one has been 3-D audio ads,” he added.

These so-called 3-D ads are optimized for people listening with headphones, which research has shown two thirds of them do. If, for example, an airline wanted to run an audio ad, the technology would make it seem as though the plane was actually flying over the head of the listener.

Global also discovered that a large chunk of Dax listeners also surf Instagram while listening to music on their smartphones, which has kicked off conversations with the platform over how to sync up advertising across the two.

It’s also working with data giant Dunnhumby to explore how tying online and offline consumer journeys together. This will involve tracking the efficiency of certain campaigns and whether they actually lead to people buying products on shelves in supermarkets, according to Gordon.

MediaCom’s head of U.K. radio Charlie Yeates said the move is indicative of Global’s “hungry ambition” to expand its business outside the U.K.

“The success of Dax has been its simplicity in bringing a variety of publishers and suppliers together from different backgrounds and presenting a unique opportunity in the advertising market for a new media channel,” he said.

Although Dax came about to simplify buying across the fragmented audio and streaming landscape, its European rollout wouldn’t necessarily stop other complications, according to Yeates.

“Right now there are too many differences across the continent and beyond. Consistent metrics, standard practices and objectives would also need to be approved across markets, perhaps with the assistance of the IAB and RAB,” he added.

Advertisers can start booking campaigns across the 18 European territories, which include major radio broadcasters such as France’s NRJ, Germany’s RauteMusik, and Italy’s Prima Radio, from early 2016.

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