Advertisers can use their own first-party data to target podcast ad campaigns, but are they?

While it’s generated a bit of interest from marketers, several told us it’s not super common yet.
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Dianna “Mick” McDougall, Francis Scialabba

· 7 min read

You’ve heard of podcast ads. You’ve heard of first-party data (and even zero-party data). But have you heard of brands applying their own first-party data to podcast ads?

As privacy restrictions become more common and the third-party cookie finds its days numbered, marketers are increasingly focused on using first-party data to reach coveted audiences. Some advertisers are using it for podcast campaigns, even though that channel hasn’t historically relied on an abundance of listener data for targeting.

“Podcasts have never had the luxury of heavy audience data targeting; the power of podcasts has been (and always will be) based on the content,” Tom Yeung, VP of podcast partnerships and development at SiriusXM’s AdsWizz, told Marketing Brew.

Still, Spotify, SiriusXM, iHeartMedia, and independent podcast company Acast can all accept first-party data from advertisers in some capacity for audience targeting.

While podcast advertisers have the option to leverage their first-party data with some of the biggest networks, it’s not exactly a go-to move, as many have long relied on contextual targeting. Still, some networks have found value in offering the capability, even if it doesn’t always make sense for every advertiser or campaign.

The how

Streaming services like Spotify and Pandora can offer targeting based on their own first-party data. That data can be layered on top of contextual targeting to reach desired audiences across genres, but that can limit the scale of some campaigns, so some advertisers tend to prioritize contextual targeting if they’re not focused on a narrow audience, according to Jacob Schwartz, associate media director for national audio investments at Mediahub.

But what about the data and insights that brands have collected about their own customers? A CPG brand, for instance, might have created an audience segment of people it thinks are likely in the market for a certain product based on factors like their website visits or online transactions.

Since podcasts largely exist as platform-agnostic RSS feeds, which can’t make use of third-party cookies and other identifiers, “it’s been challenging for an advertiser to be able to utilize any kind of data targeting that they’re used to and accustomed to, including their own first-party data,” Acast’s global head of ad innovation and automation, Elli Dimitroulakos, said.

At Acast, marketers can share their first-party data—such as LiveRamp IDs, Adobe IDs, Xandr IDs, and other ID solutions—with the network, Dimitroulakos said. That enables Acast’s identity graph to match those mobile ad IDs and third-party cookies with Acast listener IP addresses, according to Dimitroulakos.

“The identity graph on the right-hand side takes the segments from the advertiser, and on the left-hand side, takes the IP addresses from our listeners, and does what is called a match,” Dimitroulakos explained. “That’s when we say, ‘Okay, we found 80% of our listeners, or 60% of our listeners, match this audience you are looking for,’ and then we only target those matches.”

Acast recently formalized a partnership with LiveRamp that enables advertisers in the US and Australia to use LiveRamp’s Partner Portal to target audiences using first-party data. Spotify, iHeartMedia, and Pandora are also listed as audio media partners on the portal.

The why (or why not)

Brian Kaminsky, chief data officer and president of revenue strategies for iHeartMedia, explained that his company also uses a similar IP-matching process when advertisers want to incorporate their first-party data. It’s “very doable,” he said, and while he noted that first-party data is a “useful tool,” he also said that he doesn’t see it as an “end point” for a campaign.

Instead, Kaminsky said it often makes more sense to use a brand’s first-party data not to target listeners who are already customers of a brand, but to help predict what kinds of content those people tend to listen to, and target contextually based on that.

For instance, if a brand knows based on first-party data that its average consumer is a Gen Z woman living in an urban area, it can work with a network to determine the listening habits of that group and target potential new consumers that way rather than based on “more traditional, cookie-oriented behavior.”

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“I think first-party data as a jumping-off point for a marketing plan is great,” he told us. “I think if you end that marketing plan at first-party data, you are probably doing the brand a tremendous disservice.”

Dimitroulakos agreed that it’s “not the most scalable solution when you’re looking at reaching mass audiences,” but said it can help in certain cases, like if an advertiser were trying to target only C-suite executives, for instance.

First-party data can also be useful when it comes to retargeting across platforms, Dimitroulakos explained. Most people have had the experience of buying a product online, then continuing to see (or hear) ads for that same product.

“You will get annoyed eventually and then drop off the funnel,” Dimitroulakos said. “That’s what advertisers are trying to avoid.”

The interest

Audio buyers at a few agencies said they’ve heard little to no demand from clients about leveraging first-party data for podcast campaigns, but conversations about it are cropping up. This type of audience targeting typically comes with a slightly higher CPM, though that’s not only true of podcasting.

Lisa Jacobs, SVP of media operations at radio and podcast agency Ad Results Media, said she hasn’t executed any podcast campaigns using first-party data yet, but that her team has discussed it internally and is “excited about the potential.”

A few Mediahub clients have asked about using first-party data, primarily for streaming audio campaigns (which include music and radio content), but also for targeting podcast audiences, Schwartz said.

“It’s really a client-by-client conversation, but it is a conversation we’ve only really had with brands who have a very narrow target audience; for example, if they’re looking to target people who work in a specific field,” he told us. “It’s not something we’ve looked at for every single brand, but there are a select few that it could make sense for, assuming there’s some sort of scale that can be achieved.”

According to Dimitroulakos, Acast has “a very healthy pipeline of demand” for its first-party data feature. She declined to share exactly how many advertisers have used it in the months since its debut, but said that it’s led to “an influx of new advertisers” from categories like auto, finance, and home improvement.

“It’s removing a really major obstacle and barrier to entry, which has been, ‘I want to reach this audience, and you can’t target this audience,’” Dimitroulakos told us.

Natrian Maxwell, general manager of emerging channels at The Trade Desk, which has worked with companies including Acast, SiriusXM, and Blue Wire to incorporate first-party data into podcasting, said the company mostly deals with podcast inventory in a contextual capacity, but that he has seen brands including Bank of America and Starbucks apply first-party data to podcast campaigns.

DirectTV Stream, for instance, was working with The Trade Desk to use first-party data for an omnichannel campaign that wasn’t using audio initially, but when they recently added programmatic audio into the mix for the first time, it drove more than four times the amount of new subscribers than a display-only campaign, Maxwell said.

Ultimately, Kaminsky said first-party data can be used as a “starting place” for campaigns. “Build on it and expand what you are capable of as an advertiser using a variety of tactics and techniques, some of which are very narrow and some of which are extremely broad, all of which will have a bundled impact on the outcomes that we see in the campaigns we put together.”

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