Your Guide to Programmatic Audio Advertising

Your Guide to Programmatic Audio Advertising

As podcasting continues its upward trajectory, agencies are leveraging the channel’s high user impact with programmatic audio ads that significantly capture users’ attention and motivate them to act. 

Designed for placement in such categories as podcasts, digital radio, and music-streaming services, programmatic advertising garners success through its ability to precisely target audiences based on their listening habits, preferences, and demographics. 

Utilizing advanced algorithms to analyze user data, such as demographics, location, and listening habits, advertisers can avoid wasting resources on audiences unlikely to engage with their content.


Programmatic advertising also empowers SMI’s Data & Analytics Teams to optimize and refine campaigns, while using data points to cut through the static and deliver ads that motivate listeners to act. 

If you’re not utilizing programmatic, you’re missing out on the big picture. 


A Rising Format

Did you know that programmatic comprised 11% of podcast revenue in 2023?

The emergence of podcasting in the early 2000s catapulted programmatic audio advertising to a gold standard practice. Paired with traditional media placement within terrestrial radio, SMI Media Director Heather Hansen, explains the benefits of programmatic. 

“In podcasting you can target by genres,” starts Heather, “Genres are associated with specific demographics – for example, a family and kids genre targets women who have children. With programmatic, there’s a way to take it even further. When working with a female-focused product like Uqora. We’re able to go to our programmatic DSP and find women between the ages of 25 and 64, who are interested in health and run ads that speak to this segment.” 

Engaging podcast recording session with smiling hosts in studio

Once this segment is identified, the media team works with creative to craft an ad that speaks directly to the target audience. 

There is also a contextual element that points to key words or phrases within the content of the podcast to target listeners on a more granular level. For example, a stock-trading app will likely see a high ROI when placed within a podcast series focused on investing. 


The Habits of Highly-Entertained Listeners

A format that’s long outgrown its infancy stage, the podcast industry has grown dramatically over the past decade with an estimated listenership of just under 505 million. This year, podcasts accounted for 11% of all daily audio, with nearly a quarter of listeners spending ten hours or more listening each week. 

A recent study conducted by Neuro-Insight found that, when placed in personalized playlists, long term recall scored 49% better than radio. Portability plays a huge role in those numbers; whether you’re listening to your favorite podcast in your car, at work, on the phone, or with a smartwatch, the ability to listen anytime, anywhere, without interruption elicits a strong brand recall. 

In 2023, Nielsen measured how emerging channels such as podcasts influenced user spending and found a 38.7% bump in brand recall with an increase in baseline brand awareness in close second with a 37.5% increase. With podcasting sales projected to reach nearly $2.6 billion by 2026, millions more will continue, not only listening, but listening with intent to act. 


Minimizing Waste

Programmatic audio advertising revolutionizes marketing strategies by offering precise targeting and real-time optimization, consequently minimizing excess waste. This technology allows advertisers to reach their target audience efficiently, ensuring that every dollar spent contributes to meaningful engagement and conversions.

Advertisers bid for ad space based on the value they attribute to reaching their target audience at a given moment, ensuring that they don’t overspend on placements that may not yield optimal results. Real-time bidding (RTB) systems ensure advertisers pay competitive prices for ad placements. 

Woman listening to music wear wireless white headphones using mobile smart phone, drinks tea at home

Programmatic provides thorough analytics and reporting tools, enabling advertisers to monitor their campaign performance instantly. Through tracking essential metrics such as impressions, clicks, and conversions, advertisers can promptly pinpoint any ads that aren’t meeting expectations and adapt their strategies as needed, maximizing their investment’s effectiveness. 

Additionally, marketers have the ability to manage time-sensitive ads directly, bypassing the need to coordinate with publishers.

SMI was founded on the principle of helping brands reach greater profits with measurable radio advertising. As the audio landscape continues to evolve, investing time and resources into emerging platforms allows us to reach audiences on a level that’s only set to grow.

See the power of programmatic first hand with audio ads that speak to listeners and boost your brand’s voice. Reach out to us today!

Give Your Brand a Voice: Data & Analytics

Give Your Brand a Voice: Data & Analytics

Give Your Brand a Voice: (Part 3)

Data, Analytics, and Longevity
Giving your brand a voice with staying power requires a trifecta of expert media planning, dynamite creative, and a foundation of data points.

We work in an era led by profound advancements in data and analytics, which impact how we launch campaigns, use the results to optimize the most efficient media, and report to clients. Before platforms such as Google Analytics and Tableau revolutionized the way people digest numbers, audio agencies relied on single-source attribution to gauge the effectiveness of a campaign.

With so many data points now available, knowing where to start is critical to a campaign’s success.


Data begins with the client

A brand’s identity is set by its founders and ultimately brought to fruition through agencies like ours. When mapping out a brand’s path, we consider data points such as a listener’s age, income, location, and programming interest (e.g. sports vs. music vs. talk radio) to move the needle with intention.

“It all starts with the client,” says Media Analyst, Tim Bishop, “taking stock of their goals, developing a comprehensive roadmap, and using that formula to inform how we look at the available data. Campaign type – such as text or Vanity URL – also affects how we analyze the data and drive results forward.”


Data comes from all directions

A/B (or split) testing measures the performance of two versions of the “same” ad against different factors to determine how audiences respond. Variables can include everything from the language and offer of the CTA to the audio channel played during the campaign. 

“It all starts with the client; taking stock of their goals, developing a comprehensive roadmap, and using that formula to inform how we look at the available data.”

Performance data is collected weekly as ads go through the testing phase. Once processed and analyzed, this segment becomes a crucial piece of a larger puzzle that informs clients and creatives at SMI on how to progress with the next step of the brand journey. 

“We take in all of the data from Google Analytics, MGage, or the client, process that data, and turn it into something we can look at,” adds Tim, “which ultimately informs us on how the campaign is performing and how to optimize.”


Data delivers a blueprint 

In marketing, you have to stay ahead of the game or risk falling behind. SMI’s Data Team uses this skill daily to interpret and report results to clients with insight and accuracy. 

Clients invest substantial time and money into their campaigns and any guesswork in the sea of variables only inhibits success. By using every tool at our disposal to clear the path toward profitability, SMI takes away that ambiguity with valuable insights on audience patterns, trends, and behaviors to inform on next steps. 


Cultivating a brand voice with staying power takes an all-hands approach, requiring strategic media buying and compelling creative working in tandem with intuitive data points to move the needle. 


Convert listeners. Drive traffic. Connect with consumers. Reach out today to learn more. Contact us!

This is part three of SMI’s three-part series called Give Your Brand a Voice.

Give Your Brand a Voice: Creative

Give Your Brand a Voice: Creative

Give Your Brand a Voice: (Part 2)

Creative Sends the Right Message

Cultivating a brand voice with staying power takes a hearty combination of research, data, and testing to resonate with audiences. On the air, your brand also needs to answer two fundamental questions:

What is it?
Why should I care?

The answers to these questions are not as subjective as you might think; neither is the measurement of creative success. One of the biggest myths in advertising is that creatives are a group of people who are generally aloof, smug, and overly precious about all they produce. In reality, creatives (at least those of us who work in direct response advertising) are more in line with strategists. We are investigators, researchers–and yes, creative problem solvers.

The choices that our copywriting team makes in regard to concepts, dialogues, talking points, and more are purposeful. We compel listeners to take action and we have a variety of tools at our disposal to make that happen. From best practices, to a sharpened brevity, to the power of the emotional pull. Whichever words we wield in a script, they are targeted to answer those basic questions above and move people to act. In order to do that successfully, we need to understand our client, their product or service, and their audience. We have to know what the problem is in order to solve it.


A brand’s message can make or break an ad campaign; but it’s one piece of the puzzle. How your spot sounds is just as vital. 

Putting out a compelling script with a concise call to action (CTA) is only half the battle. 

No matter how remarkable your product or service is, an unpolished ad can break a brand’s image. There’s no shortage of creative techniques available to produce creative spots with a shoe-string budget. From trimming copy to mixing and matching music beds–even mining past creative for audio inspiration.  


Most radio stations put the creative onus on their DJs to write and voice spots, inevitably limiting the voiceover talent option. Since marketers usually pull from their station’s pool of voice talent, they run the risk of missing the mark. What happens when the voices of those radio personalities are not a good fit for your brand? 

Two Young Stylish Radio Show Hosts Record Fresh Podcast Episode in Home Loft Studio Apartment. Attractive Energetic Co-hosts Discuss Important Topics Live on Air in an Evening Show.

Diversity Matters

Demographics are changing and ample research concludes that audiences with diverse backgrounds and perspectives are expecting to hear voices and content that is directly relevant to them. Advertisers can respond to this demand in a variety of ways, most obviously through voice talent.  

As Lewis Gilies, Audio Production Engineer at SMI said, “We have a large voice talent roster and are always adding talent to our list. When picking VO (voice over) to cast for a spot, I like to get a decently wide range of voices. I’ll have in mind what we think the spot should have but I like to also cast a bit outside of that in the chance that something we didn’t initially consider really fits the bill.” 

Diversity of voice not only enriches the quality of a radio spot, it also more accurately reflects the listeners you want to reach. This enables a more authentic and powerful connection to your brand. Ultimately, what’s important in a radio spot is that the message is clear and delivered in a compelling way.

microphone with blurred night light background and soft focus.

Cut Through the Noise

Capturing and holding the listeners’ attention is key. Making sure you’re reaching the right audience is crucial. With the expertise and finesse of our Media Team, and the persuasive problem solving of our Creative Team, Strategic Media delivers on all of the above. 

But how can we be sure? With the invaluable insights our Attribution Analysts provide. They turn mountains of data from various sources into discernable patterns, trends, and strategic recommendations that can keep your campaign on the path towards results.   

You can read more about SMI’s Data and Analytics Team and how they provide an indispensable clarity and methodology to our Creative and Media Teams–and our clients–in the upcoming post. 

Ready to cut through the noise and turn your marketing budget into profit? Contact SMI today! 


This is part two of SMI’s three-part series called Give Your Brand a Voice. Stay tuned for our next article focused on Analytics!

Radio Makes The Deepest Link to Emotion, Study Finds

Radio Makes The Deepest Link to Emotion, Study Finds

Direct Response advertising means exactly that; the creation and execution of sharply focused ads that elicit an immediate action. A successful branding campaign comes down to the deep emotional connection consumers have with the product.

While the effectiveness of emotion in advertising is a well-researched topic, a recent report released by Mediaprobe demonstrated the massive role emotion plays in the success of radio.

In a study measuring the second-by-second electrodermal activity (EDA) of 227 adults with pre-recorded AM/FM segments, Mediaprobe found audio-based emotional advertising saw a 13% spike in audience engagement when compared to TV.

The number of ads your average American sees on a daily basis is a bit up in the air, but generally sits around the 5,000 range. That’s a lot of content. Cutting through the noise with content that connects usually comes down to a pretty simple notion: solving a problem. By acknowledging pain points, offering solutions, and eliciting emotion—you can tap into both the conscious and subconscious needs and desires of an audience. This is the alchemy of conversion.

So, what does emotion look like from a creative standpoint? How does SMI turn a talking point from a white paper brief into an ad that successfully hits that part in the brain that warrants action?

It’s an all-hands-on-deck attitude from the very beginning: our media team finds your audience on the right formats, our analytics team optimizes all the moving pieces in real time, and our creative team sharpens your message to the heart of what your audience needs.

Mediaprobe’s study solidified, not only, the success of emotion in driving decision-making, but radio’s continued role in making those messages come alive through the medium of storytelling.

Contact SMI to connect with your audience.

Why True Crime Podcasts Are Great for Advertisers

Why True Crime Podcasts Are Great for Advertisers

In a study of over 450 of the top podcasts, Pew Research found that True Crime tops the list when it comes to the biggest shows. Of the top podcasts examined, 24% were True Crime.


Why do people love True Crime podcasts? “Podcasting’s intimate nature makes it an especially effective vehicle for True Crime storytelling,” said Steve Mondor, Podcast Operations at SMI. “A large percentage of women are drawn to true crime stories for the thrill and storytelling aspect, like watching a thriller movie. And True Crime podcasts are evergreen, so you can relisten years later.”


Combining the growth of True Crime podcasts with SMI’s expertise in campaign management has yielded strong KPI performance for our clients. Our large pool of quality shows to choose from enables us to effectively grow and scale campaigns. SMI’s Podcast Team regularly meets with podcast hosts to review brand goals and to ensure hosts are prepared to deliver a compelling ad read. Podcast ads delivered by hosts who speak personally about their experience with a product or service have proven especially effective for our clients

According to Magellan AI, in 2023, True Crime Genre generated over $177M in podcast ad sales, more than 2.7 times greater than in 2020. In 2023 True Crime was the 6th largest Genre in spend behind Sports, News, Comedy, Society & Culture, and Business.

A table outlining estimated ad spend across podcast categories

From 2021 to 2023, True Crime saw a 34% in spend growth. 

True Crime: From 2021-2023 spend increased by $45M (34%)

True Crime is just one of the many genre types that has experienced significant growth over the past few years. Sports, Comedy, and Society & Culture are a few other genres that have collectively experienced tremendous growth and provide excellent options for overall campaign growth. 

Are you ready to reach large, loyal audiences to grow your brand on podcasts? Contact SMI today.