Will Audio-Only OOH Be 2021’s Biggest Ad Trend?

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Podcasts are exploding, major social media platforms are rolling out social audio features on a regular basis, and advertisers are working overtime to reach in-store shoppers through audio ads that play at the point-of-purchase. It’s an understatement to say that audio is having a moment.

The Trade Desk’s recent decision to expand its omnichannel demand-side platform (DSP) to support audio out-of-home (AOOH) through partnerships with Vistar Media and Vibenomics is just the latest in a string of high-profile moves in the space. With an extension of OpenRTB integrations to include audio-only OOH, The Trade Desk is moving into the forefront as the first omnichannel DSP to support the extension and allow advertisers to programmatically purchase audio inventory from networks like Vibenomics.

“This is an emerging category in the truest sense of the term,” says Chris Allison, director of programmatic partnerships at Vistar.

The evolution of Audio Out of Home

Unlike more intrusive advertising tactics, AOOH doesn’t require the use of personal data to work. Instead, it centers on the in-store customer experience, as brands broadcast programmatic advertisements alongside music to reach shoppers directly and influence buying decisions at the point-of-purchase.

The partnership between The Trade Desk and Vistar comes as The Trade Desk is building new capabilities to extend its platform into digital out-of-home (DOOH). Although the integration between The Trade Desk and Vistar has been live for some time, recent growth in the audio advertising space led to the decision to extend that integration to support audio-only OOH. 

Incorporating targeted audio ads into public venues is a relatively new concept, combining the marketing aspects of audio with the contextual relevance of shopping environments. Allison says adding this into the programmatic OOH marketplace allows marketers to use the same tactics they’ve been using in other addressable channels to reach all relevant touchpoints in the consumer journey.

“The biggest challenge was getting the technology aligned with how this category truly needs to be bought and sold,” Allison says. “Digital audio — [such as] 1:1 addressable audios like Spotify and Pandora — had been very focused on individual user targeting, and out-of-home audio, such as what Vibenomics provides, is more about contextual targeting in a one-to-many environment. This made it challenging for traditional non-OOH platforms to support the best buying experience for audio OOH.”

What changed? Allison says over the past 18 months, Vistar and several omnichannel DSPs had been championing efforts to standardize DOOH venues into an industry-wide taxonomy. That project simplified the buying process and opened up OpenRTB communication, which led to this newest partnership. 

For Vibenomics, a company already well known for its location-based audio experience solutions, the decision to expose audio inventory to omnichannel DSPs like The Trade Desk is part of a broader growth strategy.

“The reach of our audio network combined with Vistar’s market-leading SSP capabilities helps the buy-side flex their programmatic spending, target specific market areas, and provide brand support and measurement such as incremental lift and return on ad spend,” explains Paul Brenner, CSO and president of AOOH at Vibenomics. 

The Trade Desk’s Maggie Mattingley says growth in both DOOH and audio made the decision to expand The Trade Desk’s omnichannel offering into OOH the “logical next step.” Partnering with Vistar means The Trade Desk can continue to provide the latest digital media available for advertisers to deliver holistic campaigns.

“Brands today are laser-focused on reaching their target audiences in non-intrusive, engaging ways at key points during the consumer journey,” Allison says. “Audio OOH provides a unique opportunity to complement 1:1 messages, such as mobile ads and physical world branding, through OOH and in-store advertising, with an ad format that blends seamlessly with the consumers’ environment.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.