Q&A: Alexis Van De Wyer, President And CEO, AdsWizz.
Posted Jun 30, 2017 by INSIDERADIO
In the fast moving streaming audio space, president/CEO of digital audio ad solutions firm AdsWizz, Alexis van de Wyer, is tasked with growing both the company’s services and its client roster. He spoke to Inside Radio about how broadcasters can capture more mobile ad revenue, how AdsWizz can increase engagement with ads, and why programmatic for radio has been slow to take root.
An edited transcript follows.
Mobile now accounts for about half of all digital ad revenue. How can radio broadcasters participate in the mobile ad boom beyond selling banner ads?
There’s a massive opportunity for audio publishers to change the narrative and talk to the mobile advertisers and show them the value of tapping into this massive audio—or massive mobile—content.
What are some ways AdsWizz works with radio clients to realize those possibilities?
When users are streaming audio, the audio is almost always on and it is in the background. It gives you the opportunity to really interact with the listener. We’ve done some interesting campaigns where interactions or location were a very important factor. One was around location. We did massive campaigns for a big fast food company and every time someone was passing by a certain distance, they’d be promoted by an ad to come in. Because it’s in mobile and with the application running in the background you have access to that.
Another example is what we call ‘Shake Me.’ So we actually designed it as a call to action, where the action is to shake the phone. So you hear the ad and it says, ‘Do you want to download a coupon,’ or, ‘Do you want to book an appointment? Shake your phone.’ That’s a call to action. You just need to shake the phone and then automatically it converts. This is much better than a banner ad on mobile because most of the time the user is not looking at the screen. The mobile phone is in his pocket, or in his bag, or he’s driving and he doesn’t want to click on a banner. I think there’s another way you can do it with mobile, but we need to change the narrative. A big mission for us is to make audio sexy.
What are some of the most popular ad formats?
We offer quite a few formats to re-engage with the audio content and we’ve also built out data capabilities to really make sure that 100% of the inventory is data-enabled. There is age and gender, and you can have behavioral targeting and contextual targeting, like weather, GPS location, are you driving, are you walking or are you sitting in an office? All that information is available thanks to our system. So those are the capabilities we’ve built and the best ways we believe we can help publishers. The shaking is a good example, as well as the point of interest that I mentioned with the fast food client. There is weather targeting. We have another format that we call ‘Second Screen’ where we do synchronization with the audio and company banner, so you have the synchronization on two different screens. Let’s say you’re listening to your favorite iHeart station on your phone, but at the same time you’re actually browsing The New York Times. You’d see the companion banner to the audio that you’re listening to that comes on your New York Times web page. We’re trying to basically make it much more interesting for the brand and for the user. At the end of the day, it has to be a win-win-win. It has to be good for the brand, it has to be better for the listener and it has to be yielding a better return for the publishers.
AdsWizz recently announced it is working with Alexa music and brand skills to bring ads to the voice-activated Echo speakers. How do you see voice impacting digital audio?
I think voice-activated internet is already revolutionizing how people consume content. About 20% of all U.S. households have an Amazon, Google Home or Microsoft device. It’s a pretty impressive growth rate that we haven’t seen since the advent of the smartphone. I do believe it is going to change the way people interact with digital content. The opportunities in the audio space are quite important. Radio companies, broadcasters, podcasters and anyone that specializes in audio, has an opportunity to play a much bigger role now in how this content is consumed and shape how it is consumed.
Advertising on voice-activated internet is going to be almost a conversation. Over the last few years, the one-to-one relationship between brands and consumers has become directional. It is basically communication. Social media has been opening the door and launching directional communication. For the first time, audio is going to actively participate in that. So, if you were a brand that offered car rentals and imagine you had a skill that allowed you to book travel, you could be prompted to talk about promotions. It’s really more about providing assistance than classic, pure advertising. All of us are starting to think about making sure the advertising experience is a credit to the user experience. How do we make sure the user is getting something useful out of it? There is going to be a lot of innovation. You could have a whole conversation. It can even get pretty local.
Within digital audio, podcasting is growing rapidly. How are you working with podcasters and what do you think they can offer brands that is different from other forms of streaming audio?
I usually call them radio-on-demand. For me, that’s really the future of radio. You’re listening to your favorite radio content whenever you want, whatever you want to listen to. It is a way to really making radio content dynamic and on-demand. We provide streaming technologies, insertion technologies, the programmatic and the marketplace. So when someone downloads podcasts to start listening to a podcast you can first of all detect whether it’s a download for listening right away or later, which is important because some brands are only interested in advertising when the listener is going to listen to it right away. Others don’t really care depending on if it’s time sensitive or things like that. So first thing is being able to detect that and then being able to dynamically insert in every podcast. Then we have a marketplace that’s dedicated to podcasts. Where podcast buyers are connecting directly to that and podcast publishers, and then the entire stack of technologies and platforms that we have for music and streaming is also available in a slightly different fashion for podcasts.
Speaking of programmatic, programmatic for radio is getting traction, but it hasn’t moved as quickly as some people expected. What do you think is holding things back?
It really depends on where you’re looking at. In some countries, it has moved even faster than we thought. Two years ago in the U.K. or France, programmatic was nothing. And now it’s 55% of all controlled buying in the U.K., it’s 80% of all digital buying in France. So we saw some markets that were completely taken by storm by programmatic. So overall I’d say it’s not moving as quickly as we thought, I think it’s just really different from market to market. The key reasons why it hasn’t moved as fast here is that the U.S. is dominated by a few major publishers, and they have a lot at stake. They want to make sure they get it right, and they do it properly. But because of that, two years ago, if you wanted to buy programmatically, you would not have found any of the major publishers. It’s only recently that they have started to embrace it.
And the second reason is that programmatic makes a lot of sense if you can make all your sets from a data point of view. There’s so much you can do: If you want to buy based on age and gender or based on specific behavioral targeting. But this is only starting now.