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Digital Radio Ads: Pandora Exec Describes Targeting, Mobile, Video Opps

Published on April 06, 2012

Pandora Radio’s Senior VP of Strategic Solutions Heidi Browning sat down with the experts at eMarketer, and detailed just how advertisers can (and should) take advantage of the digital radio platform.

“Connecting bands with brands and fans is one of our main missions…Consumers have personal relationships with Pandora because they feel like Pandora knows them,” said Browning. She went on to describe a “plethora” of national and local-level brands that have advertised on the platform.

Pandora is light on subscribers but heavy on advertising, like broadcast radio. That's OK for advertisers: according to the NPD Group, AM/FM listenership remained flat in 2011, while online radio is the fastest growing music listening option among U.S. consumers, with 43% of U.S. Web users having listened to music via Pandora, Slacker, Yahoo! Music, and other online radio options in 2011; that was up 9% over 2010. 

In terms of targeting, Pandora at registration gathers age, gender and ZIP code information, allowing it to target ads based on that data. So Pandora is able to target political ads by state, county and congressional districts. “We also target based on time of day. We know when people are listening and on what types of devices. “ That on top of targeting based on music genre or artists, “where advertisers can get clever.” For example, Pandora enables quick ads to run during pausing or sharing a selection, when consumers are guaranteed to be looking at the screen, versus just listening.

Browning claims that about 70% of its listening hours occur on mobile devices, the remainder through nontraditional devices like TVs, tablets and in automobiles. “It’s shifting toward having Pandora in your pocket,” said Browning “Partly a reflection of the explosion in smartphone adoption as well as tablet adoption.” The smart phone boom has perhaps taken Pandora unawares; it has monetized the web for a decade, but is now shifting to mobile devices, but Browning believes the ad market hasn’t quite “caught up with the consumption market.” Because it is a listening platform, Pandora is focused both on visual advertising (e.g., screen takeovers for film releases), as well as audio ad units.

Still, video is key to the ad strategy as well, and Browning claims almost 90% completion rates on video, particularly during those pause/change station/skipping/sharing moments, and “incredible” clickthrough rates.

Finally, Pandora has created an entire video series of sponsored interviews with artists, with Mercedes-Benz sponsoring a series called “Moms Who Rock,” about how mom rock stars juggle family and career (including touring). “The videos are perfect for marketers looking to complement their advertising with value exchanges,” said Browning.