Bell Media and Stingray partner to launch new audio ad solution AUDIO360

Bell Media and Stingray publicly unveiled AUDIO360 Thursday night, an advanced, multi-platform audio sales solution that allows media buyers to target specific consumer groups based on their audio listening journey throughout the day.

For the past week, agencies have been getting a sneak peek of the new ad solution that gives advertisers the option to buy audio advertising across the iHeartRadio Canada and Stingray Music apps; within podcasts on the iHeartRadio Canada app, terrestrial audio on Bell Media and Stingray’s 200 radio stations combined; and sponsorship opportunities across Specialty Audio that will eventually include in-store retail and the Stingray specialty TV audio channels.

AUDIO360 recommends audio buys to clients by targeting specific consumer groups using “Passion Segments” which include categories like “Millennial Moms,” “Tech Saavy Urbanites,” “Foodies,” “Home Enthusiasts,” “Baby Boomers,” and “Cultural Influencers.” Those categories unify consumers based on their shared personas and purchase intention data. A series of customized audio recommendations is then made based on that group’s listening habits.

Broadcast Dialogue interviewed Perry MacDonald, SVP Sales, Video and Radio, Bell Media, and Ryan Fuss, SVP, Global Advertising Solutions, at Stingray, about AUDIO360 and the reception the new ad solution has received so far.

BD: How did discussion around AUDIO360 start? Did both companies identify a need for a multi-platform solution?

Perry MacDonald

PM: Both Ryan and I were always interacting with customers and there was a need, we believed, to simply the process and have a new way of looking at audio that benefits advertisers. AUDIO360 is really an evolution of the audio space, so Bell Media and Stingray have joined forces to offer a new audio solution to help advertisers and empower brands to spark what is really an intimate connection with consumers…across Canada’s largest audio network. AUDIO360 will harness the combined strength of our audio assets that reach 22 million Canadian listeners each week. Rather than try to buy these multiple audio platforms separately, advertisers now have access to a customized solution which covers the entire Bell Media and Stingray audio landscape.

BD: Why partner on this? Is it about leveraging your mutual properties?

Ryan Fuss

RF: At Stingray, launching an ad-supported business in Canada outside of our existing radio stations is new, so we felt that by unifying our strengths and consolidating our multi-platform audio assets together under this new AUDIO360 brand, we’d be able to offer the Canadian advertising industry something that doesn’t exist today. Like Perry said, it’s unrivaled scale across multiple, unique audio platforms and then custom creative storytelling that’s the thread between each of those. We have our radio stations, we have our specialty audio, we have digital. When we unify all these together, it’s a very simplistic way of buying audio scale. We also know that the average Canadian listener doesn’t just consume their favourite audio on one platform, people do have different habits. So, by looking at the audio journey of a listener and be able to help an advertiser reach, engage, and connect with them across that audio journey everyday, really puts us in an enviable position in this market.

PM: It’s leveraging each other’s value assets and the evolution of what we’re doing. AUDIO360 is really building a brand around more than just radio.

BD: Is it possible you’d bring in more broadcast groups or digital platforms that might be looking for a sales solution like this?

PM: No plans at this time. I think Ryan and I are excited about this partnership and what it can deliver for advertisers, so we’ll go down this journey first.

BD: How will ad time be sold? Can you talk a bit more about how AUDIO360 will work?

RF: AUDIO360 uses a combination of existing research like Numeris and NLogic RTS sample and our own proprietary digital streaming data to identify and allocate our multi platform listeners into what we’re calling a “Passion Segment.” AUDIO360 is a coast-to-coast, national network audio offering based on a CPM and total impressions versus market specific GRP. Our goal eventually is to unify all of these audio platforms under what we’re calling a Universal Audio Impression or UAI. And really, what this approach is going to do is help agencies and advertisers look at listeners much more holistically regardless of the audio platform that they’re consuming on, which will simplify the buying process for our customers.

BD: Is this going to be primarily agency buy driven?

RF: It will be primarily agency buy driven and we are very pleased to have partnered with Bell to leverage their existing brand partnership sales force to lead this, in partnership with myself.

BD: Let’s say I’m an advertiser looking to target the “tech saavy urbanite.” What does my end buy look like?

PM: We will work with you to create a custom passion segment that looks at your target consumer’s unique buying habits, that look at your target consumer’s personas…what we’re trying to do is get away from just a demography and a location-based cell and unify listeners based on what they love and are passionate about. So, we might look at all of that info and do a deep dive through our research and come back with a multi-platform audio recommendation that says for example, in the morning when your target consumer gets up, these are the channels that they’re listening to and here’s how they’re consuming that audio. When they’re driving into work, these are their channels and here’s the research to support it. When they’re actually at work, here are the podcasts or the streaming music services that they’re listening to. When they’re driving home, here’s what they’re listening to and how. Retail audio is going to be a part of this, where we can then extend that custom audio message to reach them at point of sale. So, it’s harmonizing all of the different platforms and the insights to unify these listeners based on their passions. It’s a more personalized audio advertising experience for listeners and more effective targeting for advertisers, agnostic of these platforms.

RF: It’s not a cookie cutter solution. It’s a unique solution for every advertiser depending on who they want to reach. When you have hundreds of radio stations, leading digital audio on apps with millions of downloads, and over 250,000 podcasts, specialty TV and eventually retail radio, it’s a huge evolution. This enables us to package all of those assets to create content integrations and messaging aligned with whatever the targeted consumer’s daily listening habits are.

BD: So I could end up with time on QMFM in Vancouver, a couple of iHeartRadio podcasts, and boom 97.3 in Toronto in the same agency buy, targeting a specific consumer group?

PM: Yes. To add to that, we’re very excited and there’s been great reception to our AUDIO360 Sound Studio – our creative audio storytelling division. It will help brands connect and engage with listeners using customized audio messaging that’s unique to every platform. It’ll be creative, relevant and influential storytelling at scale. It all ties back to the fact that of a 27 million Canadian listening universe, we reach 22 million of them. The agencies and advertisers have given us a very warm reception.

BD: From a sales perspective, is this what buyers have been asking for and how much of your advertising has shifted over to digital?

PM: The media landscape has evolved pretty rapidly. The TV industry has experienced this for quite a few years and they along with Numeris are moving in the direction to capture audience impressions wherever they are. To answer your question, radio is digital. Canadians are enjoying it across multiple platforms. Purchasing audio today is very time consuming, very fragmented, so we also believe – and we’re getting great response from customers – that there’s a need for a universal audio impression currency that would help simplify audio buying for customers. AUDIO360 helps unify those platforms into one solution with a goal to moving to one unified currency impression down the road.

RF: What’s been impressive so far about this concept is that some non-radio spending brands are excited about this opportunity. Radio constitutes a large part of this offering, but our hope is to help audio spenders, who are already spending in audio, continue to spend in audio and make it easier for them. But we also hope to get more non-audio advertising brands into the audio space through this solution. We think from some early feedback that we’re getting, that this will really help agencies get non-radio spenders into the space, which we’re really excited about.


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