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Audio, Talk and Listen

Tuesday 2 August 2022

The Current Climate

Digital Audio is facing a fork in the road. Do we dive headlong down the same old path and buy any and all inventory we can, hoping that technology will decipher good from bad? That the multiple resellers in the chain are really buying the impression for us, and that the ad the user heard for 2 seconds was completely understood? Or do we use common sense and the human touch to create something better?

In recent times, agencies have made great strides forward in planning and buying programmatic media. The starting gun for this was when the ISBA report came out highlighting the losses in the programmatic supply chain, such as the 15% “unknown delta” or even the fees that the long supply chain was chipping out of the media spend. At the same time, questions were raised about the site lists that were being approved when buying media. Tens of thousands of websites had been approved – far more than could be manually vetted and many times more than could be described as premium.

Agencies responded swiftly, cutting the site lists down to hundreds and looking for ways to get closer to the publisher and removing intermediaries from the supply chain. The main product to come out of this has been agency marketplaces. These allow agencies to buy from a premium publisher using direct integrations or PMPs and then package it for internal sale and use. The direct nature of this removes any chance of fraud and ensures that the publisher and agency reach a fair price.

A Fresh Start 

Digital audio is still a blank slate. We have no OMP and so all the players (both buyer and seller) are still known. If we work together now, we can avoid the mistakes of the past and instead build on its solutions.

Smart media buying can avoid fraud. If the agency buyer knows the media owner and where the ad will be played, there is no chance of fraud. If agency groups use their marketplaces to carefully curate the brands and partners they work with, then there is a huge reduction in the risk of spend reaching bad players.

By keeping the relationship between buyer and media owner at the fore, we can cut down on resellers and unnecessary hops in the supply chain. Direct SSP to DSP connections mean that buyers know that their spend is going to the publisher and they are not paying out to arbitrage or worse.


The simplicity of using deals in programmatic will prove much more efficient than chasing an ever-diminishing cookie base. Contextual buys can be done by asking a publisher what their content is rather than looking for the word football in a speech-to-text program. Publisher first-party data will survive the death of the third-party cookie. These rich data pools allow agencies to continue buying audiences and getting the level of targeting they are used to. The change would be that rather than use third-party data sources or harvested data. Agencies would be in a position to curate publisher data from a variety of sources, carefully synergising and evaluating the data into a scalable product for their use.

Publishers such as Octave provide a simple way to buy at scale. We provide transparent lists of where your ad can appear. The quality of the content is assured. We can provide the data and insight to ensure that you hit the right audience.

Rather than hope that technology will save us from making mistakes, agencies and audio content owners need to talk, we need to listen. When we know our partners, we can make better decisions.

Alexander Simpson,
Head of Programmatic