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As adtech prepares to distance itself from the third party cookie due to GDPR regulations, Vicky Foster, commercial director of digital at Bauer Media, considers how digital audio fares in this conversation.

The ‘cookie-conundrum’, ‘the existential crisis’ and ‘the fightback’ are just some of the descriptors that dominated Dmexco 2019 as adtech faced a future without third-party cookie tracking. This has spurred publishers to seize back digital ad spend to high-quality, context-rich environments.

Without cookies, how does digital audio deliver on connecting with targeted, valuable audiences?

From Dmexco, there are four areas the industry is in agreement over that we must deliver on: trust, context, simplicity, and measurement – arguably, elements that shouldn’t have been forgotten in the first place and that can be successfully delivered without cookies in brand-safe environments.

Just this week, IAB revealed the persistent concerns over trust and brand safety in programmatic with over a third (34%) of advertisers citing brand safety as a barrier to investment and consumer trust is eroding all the time, unless the industry changes. For us, trust comes before anything else – that’s why we relaunched InStream.

We’ve all heard about the proliferation of podcasting, the explosion in growth for smart speakers and the growing opportunities to reach valuable audiences. This summer, Bauer added seven more radio stations – accessed exclusively on a connected device via a log in. We have a steadily growing our podcast collection which now includes: Q Presents: The Making Of, The MOJO Innovators, Clyde 1 SuperScoreboard and The Frank Skinner Show podcast. These allow advertisers to reach highly engaged audiences and opens further opportunities around first-party data. Interaction with ads is changing too – what we’ve long known about trusted host endorsement in radio is translating to a digital audio world where the listening experience is more engaging and context is everything. In the case of podcast advertising, ads are more welcome and effective: 78% of listeners actually approve of podcast sponsorship.

Digital audio is here to stay because consumers are driving this change, audiences are growing and technology is set to make a big impact for advertisers. Programmatic audio in Europe has grown over the last three years, accounting for more than 40% of digital audio ad spend in markets like the UK and Germany and we know marketers plan to spend more on programmatic audio in next 18 months as it delivers on key marketing objectives spanning engagement, effectiveness and brand safety (IAB and Xaxis). The exponential growth digital audio is seeing in both uptake and technological advances – means it is an increasingly attractive and integral part of the media mix for brands and agencies.

Consumer listening habits are opening up new routes for advertisers to reach them: a huge 66% of the population are listening to digital audio throughout the week; more people are using their smart speaker device to listen to live radio than music streaming services and 9 million people are engaging with their favourite podcast each week.

So context may be a priority for adtech in the wake of the ‘cookie conundrum’, but context is and always will be at heart of audio’s offering. Audio is unique in forging a specific relationship with its audiences: the KISS listener is more likely to listen with their headphones in. Digital audio is reaching places where visuals can’t go. It brings the best of digital and radio complementing the media mix with highly-engaged audiences who return to iconic, trusted brands they know and love.

Due to the 1:1 connection and mindset of audiences listening via a connected-devices, brands need to keep it simple and subtle. Focusing on one or two data points is more effective, than choosing every targeting option available and also driving down the scale. Audio is a different experience and audiences tend to already be listening via headphones so they are so much more engaged. Focusing on location, weather or age is enough to make the listener engaged and avoiding the “annoyance factor” there are learnings from re-targeting across other channels, just because the option is there doesn’t mean we should always use at the detriment of the audience experience.

However, digital audio still has to overcome some of its own challenges around measurement and education to endure in this new era. Digital audio isn’t about short-term relationships, it’s about building awareness and consideration, chasing clicks via a companion ad isn’t the way forward as in most cases the mobile is in someone’s pocket. With digital audio, there is a high SOV with strong LTRs. We have seen that by combining digital audio and radio together, ad effectiveness has increased as much as 30% to deliver on the client’s objectives along with complementing other channels as part of the planning process.

Let’s hope the industry learns from this ‘conundrum’ to put context first to give our audiences authentic content they want and love.

Vicky Foster is the commercial director of digital at Bauer Media.