A Deep Dive into Programmatic – Part V (Audio Advertising)

At first glance, Programmatic advertising may seem as complicated as trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube, understanding quantum mechanics, or even how Google works. But don’t fear, Granular is here! We are departing on a five-part series of deep dives into the inner workings and magic of Programmatic. For Part V, Chris and Anna wrap up the series by touching on all things audio-related. Yes, it’s a podcast about podcast advertising + more!

Other Episodes in this Programmatic Digital Strategy Series

New to Programmatic? Check out our primer episode! Email us at info@GranularMarketing.com or follow us on Facebook.

What you need to know about Audio Advertising

Part five of our Programmatic Ads podcast series focuses on audio advertising. Here, Chris and Anna discuss programmatic audio strategies and their differences from a traditional terrestrial radio ad buy. Following brief definitions of terms and what they mean to today’s marketer, the two hosts break down the positives and negatives of audio advertising, including ad placements on podcasts, targeting and purchasing options and more.


  • What makes up Programmatic audio  (01:37)
  • How is it different than a traditional radio buy (02:21)
  • Podcasts – a special snowflake (03:22)
  • Examples within the world we live (04:47)
  • Positives of advertising on a podcast (06:01)
  • Downsides to advertising on a podcast (09:06)
    • A peak inside podcast targeting and purchase options (10:12)
  • Positives of Programmatic audio (14:41)
  • Why you may not want to use Programmatic audio (22:04)
  • Final thoughts! (25:23)


Anna: Years and years ago, radio was the only form of advertising before TV came about. Of course, that has changed in recent years, since television became kind of the main form of entertainment. However, programmatic audio and audio in general has been on the rise. So today, we’re going to talk about how you can make use of that in your marketing plan.

Narrator: Welcome to Getting Granular, the podcast for digital marketing experts from the agency Granular, talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices and share their unfiltered thoughts about the industry. Whether you are here to learn how to grow your business, improve your digital skills, or just want to hear some Midwest PPC experts rant about digital media. You’ve come to the right place.

Chris: Thank you all for tuning into the Getting Granular Podcast. Special thanks to Anna Borchard, the director of digital media for the intro teaser, as we continue our discussion of programmatic advertising, which as you heard is-

Anna: Audio.

Chris: Programmatic audio. This is sort of meta, a podcast about advertising on podcasts

Anna: Only partially on podcast, because there’s also other forms of audio.

Chris: Look at that. Right. Already off to a rock and start. So before we get too into it, like I said, as always, welcome Anna, great to have you in.

Anna: So happy to be here again.

Chris: And I am Chris Caesar, senior manager, paid media here at Granular. So today we’re wrapping up our series on programmatic advertising and the different options that are available to us. And as we have heard, today we are talking programmatic audio. So Anna, like you said, we’re not just talking about podcasts, we’re talking any sort of audio platforms here. So let’s start with what is available to us.

Anna: So there’s a lot of things available. Of course, many of the placements are going to depend on if you’re looking at a mobile placement, if you’re looking at desktop, or of course, as we are all aware over the past couple of years, smart speakers. So kind of some of those placements can be Spotify, Pandora, Spreaker. I don’t actually know how to say that. Spreaker.

Chris: I think it’s Spreaker.

Anna: We’ll go with that. TuneIn, et cetera. Also like local radio stations on desktop or mobile sites. So pretty much, kind of like it is with OTT, anything that streaming audio.

Chris: So what makes this different from saying a traditional radio advertisement buy?

Anna: Yeah. So, the main thing is that it will be digital, so you can of course go directly to different placements and they’ll include the digital side of things. But the difference with programmatic audio is that it’s going to be dynamically inserted. So whether that’s Spotify ad, which a lot of people are familiar with, or if it’s like a podcast ad, of course, we’ll talk about that since it’s slightly different, or just being able to overlay first with third-party data. So kind of like we had talked about with OTT and CTV, you can use either your first-party data for a client or third-party data from the different providers that we’ve talked about, like Nielsen, MasterCard, Experian, et cetera, to overlay that, and just make more of a niche audience since a lot of the audio platforms at this point, don’t have very great targeting beyond the placement itself.

Chris: So you mentioned podcasts are a little bit different than all the other types of programmatic audio. What is the difference there? What makes them different, and is it better, worse?

Anna: So, really there’s two different kinds of placements with podcast ads. There’s either going to be the dynamic ads, which are pretty similar to what we were talking about with the programmatic audio, which is going to be a prerecorded snippet that the client creates, might have music, that kind of thing, 15 seconds, et cetera. Whereas, there’s also the host-read, which is where on a podcast, let’s say we had an advertiser like Nike come to us. Then one of us would say like, “Oh, here’s 10% off if you go to this URL slash Getting Granular.” So it’s the ones that the actual person is reading live. That seems more conversational.

Chris: Okay. And then, when we talk about the dynamic ones, that’s not necessarily embedded within the podcast itself, whereas the host whole spread ones would be.

Anna: Correct. So it would be like a pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll within the actual podcast. Whereas, depending on what podcasts they’re listening to, it might be at the beginning, it might be in the middle, it might be before they talk to someone or randomly, once they’re talking about like cooking, if they’re going to have some sort of like subscription box.

Chris: Okay. So then, to take that programmatic audio 0.1 step further, what are some real-world examples of how that would look?

Anna: So programmatic audio one would be, so it’ll be any like Spotify, Pandora, et cetera. So, if you have Spotify with ads, you’re probably used to getting those 15 second ads where it kind of like takes over your screen. So there’s a banner ad that goes with most of those platforms and then that kind of more traditional ad, where someone talking, there’s music, et cetera.

Chris: So with that companion banner, is that then clickable, where you can go to the website track, clicks. And ideally, if you’re lucky you get some conversions?

Anna: Yeah. Ideally. So again, a lot of that will depend on placements, because again, smart speakers are one of the newer things over the past couple of years. So naturally you’re not going to see clicks on that. So that’s why it’s important to include any sort of URL or vanity URL when you’re recording it. So you can track that for people who click. I know I am especially susceptible to when I’m listening to a podcast, hearing some sort of vanity URL with like a percentage off for something, I am 100% going to that website slash that specific promotion.

Chris: So let’s get a little bit deeper into the pros and cons of each different types of advertising. Do you want to start with the programmatic side, the podcast host-read.

Anna: Let’s talk about podcast, just because I was talking about vanity URLs.

Chris: Okay.

Anna: So I guess both forms, whether it’s kind of like a dynamic insertion or the host-read are going to reach users who aren’t actively searching for your products. So just going about their day, while they’re working, I listen to podcast while I’m working. One of those things that if something catches my ear, like as I said, susceptible for any sort of like subscription box or at home cooking box, if all of a sudden I hear that, I’m more likely to listen to that and want to go to that URL, since it’s on my spark speaker, because I can’t really like click towards it. So, that’s again kind of the major benefit is that you can run it on multiple devices, so desktop, mobile tablet, et cetera.

Chris: So then, specifically, looking at the dynamic pros, why would I want to use that?

Anna: So the benefit of the dynamic placements are that you can get to multiple placements. So you don’t have to focus only in on one podcast and reaching out to that particular placement and only having that scale with the dynamic, you get multiple placements kind of across the board, where it’s just going to be focused on maybe your audience overlay. And then also, it can be different time lengths. So with host-read, the host really is going to like make up how long they want your copy to be read. This one podcast, I listen to, it’s a lifestyle podcast and they use Hello Fresh as one of theirs. And they just kind of put it into conversation, so it doesn’t sound like it’s an ad. But then they end up talking about it for like five minutes. Now of course, that’s not going to like happen on every single host-read. So, that’s kind of where host-read comes in benefit because it can be more trustworthy. Because it’s actual people talking about it. So it doesn’t necessarily always sound like an ad. They might be talking like, “Oh, last night I was cooking this bibimbap, and I was using Hello Fresh.” And then they started talking about it.

Anna: So, a little bit different than that dynamic, which is more interruptive, but also still a really good placement.

Chris: Okay. So you mentioned sort of the interruptive aspect of it. Let’s talk about that a little bit more. I know personally, I mean, personally, I don’t like any ads in any podcast that I’m listening to. But I understand that there’s a reason people are doing this podcast and at the end of the day they’ll use that sponsorship to make money, grow their follower base, use to get their own advertising, things like that, where it makes sense. I mean, everyone’s going to provide ads if it makes sense. But I guess, if we want to look at these two options, what may be some of the larger downsides of advertising through these podcast channels?

Anna: Yeah. So with dynamic, one of the biggest things we had kind of talked about with it being a pro, is that also you are open to almost any podcast, so you can end up on mediocre or less known ones, which it’s not always a negative because if you’re trying to go after like people who are purchasing something, you might not know exactly what they’re listening to. So you would want that kind of scale. But at the same time, you might want to end up on some of the larger podcasts that are out there. Most of those are not going to have that dynamic. Of course, there are like some NPR ones that have the pre-post or mid-roll, but you don’t necessarily know, unless you’re choosing specific podcasts on the dynamic side, what you’re going to get.

Chris: That was one of the things I was going to follow up on when you asked that, is there a way that you can specifically target which podcasts? So I know they have their categories. I have an iPhone, so Apple podcast, for example, because that’s what I use. They have like a food category, a lifestyle category, but say, I wanted to get more specific on that. Are there good targeting methods to that? Or are they just going to generally remain more broad? And if we are looking at that broad sense of it, is there a way that I can target this specific podcast?

Anna: So some of that will depend on what DSP you use. So some DSPs, so that’s how you can purchase any sort of programmatic advertising. Then there’s also like podcast specific kind of like platforms out there. So some of those are going to be more niche than others. And then also like depending on what kind of like PMP deal you use. So, yes and no, basically. I know that’s not a great answer, but it’ll really depend on what DSP you’re using.

Chris: I feel like it depends has been the most common answer for this whole series.

Anna: Well, that’s the biggest thing with programmatic is that there’s so many different DSPs out there, and while a lot of them are the same, a lot of them are also different. That’s like a whole separate conversation.

Chris: Yeah. That’s a big one. Okay. So then, what about the host-read?

Anna: Yeah. So, with those, since most of the time, those are going to be more of those, extremely well-known podcasts. Like I said, one of the lifestyle podcasts that I listen to, I can only imagine how expensive those would actually be. It’s usually going to be a limited timeframe, whereas you can have 30 second ones with your dynamic. And then, I mean, this is more you said it, because I enjoy these. But some people might not like the kind of like conversational style, because it feels like something they can’t skip. When you have the dynamic ads, you kind of know going into it, “Oh, this is an ad. I’m going to fast forward through it.” Whereas the host-read, you don’t know how long they’re going to talk about it. So it could be a little bit more frustrating or obnoxious.

Chris: But you, I guess look, if you want to spend that back into a positive, you’re forced to listen to it.

Anna: Yeah. So, I guess we didn’t talk about that with the pro, is that the host-read, one, you don’t get necessarily as much like metrics on it. You don’t really know what that completion rate is that you’ll get with like the dynamic since this purchaser DSP. But yeah, you’ll technically have a higher completion rate for a host-read, than you might with a dynamic ad.

Chris: Minus the reporting statistics on it.

Anna: Yeah. I mean you can theoretically say that most people are going to just keep it plain because it’s just the host talking. Whereas again, with the dynamic ones, you kind of know 15, 30 seconds, you can fast forward through that.

Chris: Yeah. I’ve just found in podcasts that I’ve heard with the host-reading ads is they try and make it conversational. But at the end of the day it just starts to sound choppy and sort of like awkwardly transitioned.

Anna: It can, I would say depending on like what podcasts, if the people are like just starting out, it’s probably more awkward for them to kind of try to fit that into what they’re talking about.

Chris: And I would assume that, like you said, the larger podcasts where they have these massive reaches and they’ve been doing this for years, have gotten much better at incorporating that into their normal conversation.

Anna: Yeah. And I guess this is something that I’ve learned from a marketing podcast about podcasts. Sometimes the advertisers with host-read, won’t let the hosts like go off script at all. So it’s going to sound even more awkward sometimes because they’ll be like, “Oh, and this advertiser is offering you listeners blank percent off, if you go to this URL slash percentage.” Whereas, kind of like I said, some of the podcasts I listen to are more free range, if that makes sense, and can fit it in like a conversation that sounds pre-existing.

Chris: Anything else you want to add in about podcasts, where we sort of transition off of the podcast themselves and get off this meta conversation on a podcast about a podcast, and move to programmatic or are we-

Anna: Yeah, let’s talk about audio. It’s all audio.

Chris: It’s all audio. If you’re using your ears, it’s audio. Let’s go back to kindergarten and learn about the five senses. Eyes, nose, ears.

Anna: But I was going to make a joke, because like technically you can listen to TV without having to watch it.

Chris: All right. So on that note, programmatic audio. Why would I want to use programmatic audio?

Anna: Yeah. So programmatic audio, we kind of talked about it the beginning, but that’s again, just kind of an additional way to reach folks when they’re actively going about their day, whether that’s driving, plugging in their phone to like their car play, listening at home while they’re working. As I said, that’s what I do. I have a smart speaker and I just tell Google to play WWM or 89 or whatever, or Spotify, I guess. And it can get greater reach. So again, since it can be on all of those different platforms, devices, you can just have really great scale. And I remember reading something in like the middle of 2020 about how audio has changed so much, increased kind of similar to what we saw with CTV growth. So there’s just more opportunity to reach people.

Chris: I think you may have touched on this a little bit, but then you mentioned something along the lines of you could target a specific artist or a specific playlist on again, Spotify, for example, where that may come into play where, oh, you are someone in Milwaukee listening to an Avril Lavigne playlist, for example. And Avril Lavigne happens to be coming to Milwaukee to play a concert. If I was looking to sell tickets to that, I could then target that specific artist with that, or even someone with-

Anna: Similar artists.

Chris: Similar. I could target some sort of playlist where it’s-

Anna: Like pop music or core.

Chris: I would say, mid-2000s punk pop rock, where you get your people listening to your Avril’s, your Green Day’s, even say, your Alanis Morissette, things of that. But then, there would probably be a similar interest in that, where that could be, okay, yeah, this is a very well targeted ad, where again, sometimes it’s trackable, sometimes it’s not in terms of clicking through and purchasing, but it’s definitely seems like a good option where I would be able to at least get that reach and awareness where if somebody wasn’t aware of that previously, you can get that information out there.

Anna: Right. And that’s kind of the benefit of some audio targeting when it comes to advertising. Spotify is limited in how you can target. So, kind of like going direct, we’ve said you can do artist targeting, you can do playlist. They recently have done interest targeting, but it’s not going to be as specific as if we can use third-party data. So like MasterCard, et cetera. Some of those are going to be those providers for third-party data. So we can choose people who have purchased behavior for shoes or purchase behavior for Nike, or have an interest in Nike or have been to movie theater or have done all of these things. So you can overlay that on your targeting to really capture in on your specific audience. And then with that, you don’t only have to focus on Spotify. You can apply it to kind of like all placements. So then, you’re focusing on the person and not the placement.

Chris: And not only can you reach the person where you want them, but you also have the ability to reach them when you want to reach them.

Anna: Yeah. So you can incorporate day partying as well. So, with traditional radio, you can like purchase, “Oh, I’m going to choose Xpop’s during the afternoon drive, or I’m going to choose Xpop’s from 12:00 AM to 12:00 PM, but you don’t necessarily know when those are going to play. Whereas with day partying, of course you can choose specific hours. So it’s kind of somewhere to that traditional radio side. But again, you just have greater control.

Chris: Do you think that… And I’m trying to think of the best way to phrase this. But in the programmatic audio where you can, like you said, set up the day partying, versus a podcast where you don’t know what time somebody’s going to download it and listen to it and hear your ad. Especially if it’s a host-read ad, they’re just going to hear it when they listen to it. Is that a downside or a bad thing that you don’t know when someone’s going to listen to it? Because they’re going to hear it when they want to. Like they want to be engaged with this podcast at that time.

Anna: Right.

Chris: So I guess that goes into a whole lot of psychology and mindset type things.

Anna: I mean, I’ve got like a personal answer on that. I think with host-read stuff, it sounds like it’s usually greater or longer partnerships for a lot of those, especially with the bigger podcasts. As I said, a podcast I listened to, I’m pretty sure they’ve been working with them on advertiser for like years. So that doesn’t matter if you download it, because like they’re promotion code hasn’t changed. It’s like slash podcast. So, you don’t necessarily get as much reporting from it. But if you know that there’s good reach, if you’re not going to change whatever promotion that you have as an advertiser, then I would say, the downloadable makes sense. Now if it’s something that’s shorter, you would definitely want to make sure that you’re not doing like a host-read or keeping more of that like dynamic insertion, especially if it’s more of just like audio ad versus like a podcast ad.

Chris: Sure. So if you’re going to have a longer run, there’s less impact than if you are just like a music festival that’s around for one week a year?

Anna: Right. Yeah. So that’s where it would just make more sense to do more of like the dynamic side because other things don’t necessarily matter if you’re not going to change your promotion at all.

Chris: Sure. And I know you-

Anna: Or if it’s like a general awareness, you might not need that data or anything.

Chris: And I know you mentioned Hello Fresh earlier, which I’m pretty sure they’ve sponsored every podcast at one point or another that exists. So that would be one where it wouldn’t be too impactful in a negative way because it’s Hello Fresh, it’s-

Anna: Right. And unless, with that podcast, they’re changing their promotion at all. I mean, I’m not Hello Fresh. I don’t know for a fact like what they’re doing, but they might not change that percentage. And we briefly talked about it, but the vanity URLs, that’s kind of the one thing that you can use to track stuff. So even if people download and you have maybe a different vanity URL for like each one, that’s how you can track it. So you can see how many potentially came from a podcast maybe a year ago, if you’re using like a specific vanity URL, I guess.

Chris: Sure. Yeah. And I mean, I think that sort of goes to like a call tracking type of thing, where-

Anna: Yeah. Basically.

Chris: Same principle. So, okay. So then, that could be a downside depending on who you are and who you’re reaching. What else is out there in terms of why might I not want to use programmatic audio?

Anna: So you don’t always get a guaranteed placement on that. So, as we kind of said with like Spotify directly, you can choose a specific artist. You can choose a specific playlist. You don’t always get that necessarily with programmatic audio. Of course you can create inclusion lists to only go after certain domains. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll only go on one, unless you only use that one, but it’ll be less scale.

Chris: So when you said I wouldn’t be guaranteed there, I wouldn’t be guaranteed. And then I would end up showing up somewhere else? Or would it just be that my ad wouldn’t show at all? Or streamed? What-

Anna: I mean, I guess both, depending on how you set up a campaign, because if you set up an inclusion list of like five domains, then you’re theoretically guaranteed to show up on any of those five. If you set up one, that’s like only one domain. Like you could reach there, but if you don’t have a high enough budget, if you don’t have high enough CPM, then you might not show up. But of course, if you don’t include any like inclusion list for domains or like whitelists, then you might show up literally anywhere, unless you blacklist it.

Chris: So what I’m thinking about this specific targeting, I’m thinking more of like a Spotify, and if I’m targeting an artist or a playlist, how might that work? Would I not show up on that artist? Could I show anywhere else across Spotify? That’s sort of where I was going with that.

Anna: Oh yeah. So I guess I would be more of like the benefit of going directly with Spotify, versus doing like a programmatic audio, because the way I, like my philosophy on programmatic audio, is if you’re more focused on like the person and their like interests or purchase behavior, then necessarily like who exactly, or what exactly they’re listening to.

Chris: So then what about other placements?

Anna: Yeah. So, as I kind of said with programmatic audio, you can reach like website domains too. So people who are on desktop, so any kind of like local or national radio stations, like radio.com would be an example. I see a lot of local radio stations in some of my placement reports too, which can be positive and can be negative depending on like what kind of music you might want to be targeted to. So you might not want to be on like the oldies station if you’re, I don’t know some like company that has a younger demographic.

Chris: I was trying to think of an example and in a normal conversation you could, but as you sit here, it’s like, what’s a good example.

Anna: I apparently just only have Hello Fresh on my brain. But even that is not, they have every demographic. But I guess like if you’re like-

Chris: A student loan company.

Anna: Well, that can be for anyone, unless you’re literally trying to like-

Chris: Get a student loan.

Anna: Yeah. So that would be, yeah. So, that is a good example. So you might want like 18 to 20 year olds and not to say that 18 to 20 year olds aren’t listening to oldie stations, but they might not be. So then you might want like a local hits or today’s top 40 kind of station.

Chris: There you go. Took us a second but we got there.

Anna: We did. We’re advertisers.

Chris: So yeah, I guess before we start to wrap things up here is, anything else you want to throw out there about programmatic audio? Give us a takeaway or how you would foresee the future of this going?

Anna: I just think it’s a very underrated channel that not a lot of people use. Of course, the creative for it is a little bit harder because you have to have a studio or you have to have microphones to make it sound good. So that’s kind of like where I see a downfall. I don’t think a lot of people are talking about it in the industry. I was recently at a programmatic conference and everything was about CTV, but not everyone watches CTV. And there’s times, as I said, that you’re going to want to hit users when they’re doing things that aren’t actively researching a product or actively on social media. And that’s where I see audio being a huge benefit. In the office, at Granular, we would always have music playing. At home, I always have my [inaudible 00:26:21] squeaker playing. When you’re driving. So, you can hit people more often in my opinion. So, underutilized.

Chris: As someone who listens to podcasts and probably will be the last millennial with cable, I think that’s a perfect example.

Anna: Yeah. So I just think that it’s not used enough and as better quality equipment like microphones, come out to the public. If you’ve got someone who has like garage band and a decent microphone, it might be more available to more advertisers.

Chris: Very cool. All right. Anna, well, thanks for joining us. Not only today, but throughout this whole series.

Anna: Thanks for having me.

Chris: As we wrap this up. If there are any new channels that ever evolve, we’re always open to bring this back. But this may be our last programmatic podcast for a while. And thanks everybody for joining, whether this was the first time you have listened to a podcast in this series or you’ve been with us for the entire time. Thank you all for listening to the Getting Granular podcast. Be sure to subscribe, so you don’t miss out on any more PPC tips, tricks or news in the digital marketing world. I have been your host, Chris Caesar. Thanks for Getting Granular with us today.