Is This Pandora-Owned Entity Your Digital Ad Growth Solution?



Should a “next generation ad server” focused on digital audio advertising solutions that’s now owned by one of the radio industry’s chief competitors be feared, or loved, by the owners of AM or FM radio stations?

One San Francisco Bay Area operation with team members across the globe believes it’s far from Radio’s enemy. AdsWizz has created a platform that connects the digital audio advertising ecosystem with its suite of platforms and software solutions.

As such, AdsWizz provides leading audio publishers — including those owned by radio companies — with server-side and client-side insertion software, and audio-centric ad serving and supply-side platforms. Further, AdsWizz operates a “premium audio marketplace,” providing ad networks and programmatic trading desks with “solutions to effectively trade online audio inventory,” the company says.

AdsWizz, as of late May, also happens to be 100% owned by Pandora.

To learn more about AdsWizz’s U.S. growth plan, RBR+TVBR chatted with VP/Product Erik Barraud, a multilingual digital audio pro who has been based in Bucharest, Romania, since 2011.

Interestingly, Barraud is not Romanian. In fact, he is fluent in Swedish and French, as he spent 2009-2011 in Paris as the co-founder and head of product for Webmediastats.

Today, his focus is on the growth in programmatic audio — achieved against other platforms including display, video and mobile.

His efforts recently hit new heights as AdsWizz was presented with DRUM’s “Best Overall Technology for Programmatic Trading” award. The DRUM Digital Trading Awards, held May 31 in London, are a major global event in the digital advertising space.

For this honor, a panel of judges sought to find “the best technology that offers something new and different, provides greater efficiency for users, greater insights, better ROI, and better results.”

AdsWizz beat out Google, Rubicon and The Trade Desk in receiving the award.

In some ways, Barraud says, it feels like a milestone in the arrival of audio as a true medium for programmatic.

“It is one of the first, if not the first, recognitions of technology focused on audio,” Barraud notes. “It also validates the 10 years of hard work that we have done in building AdsWizz. It means that the dedication that we have put in to it, and all of the work, has been validated.”

The DRUM honor also comes at a time when audio “is really picking up” as an advertiser-seeks-consumer solution.

“Audio has always been this ‘green field’ in which people have been looking from far away,” Barraud notes. “Now, Google is taking a stand and is doing more with audio, and this is also a validation of digital audio. It comes at the right time, one where the market is maturing. We are pretty excited.”

For years, when advertisers thought about digital advertising solutions, video and display was top of mind. Barraud says this was only natural.

Yet, he notes, “With audio, it has always been that there is a mature market on the FM band, and that it would eventually move over to digital and catch up, eventually.”

Now, that slow shift is starting to happen. As a result, marketers are now looking at audio not only as a way to extend reach, but as a different way to positively connect with consumers.

“It is the only media to take with you no matter what you are doing,” Barraud notes. “The reach is far greater … and that is what the advertiser is beginning to better understand.”


With tools such ads what AdsWizz provides, radio’s sales teams now have greater power in bringing to CMOs something they now crave more and more: Addressable Advertising.

While 94.5 MHz will still be the home for the wide-audience ad, people listening to the audio stream of that over-the-air station can now be geo-targeted. This is a win-win opportunity for marketers and for radio, Barraud believes.

Further, the programmatic aspect of digital audio advertising negates the link to link each individual contract with a specific publisher.

For traditionalists worried that programmatic will destroy the long-established radio sales ecosystem, fear not the digital sales evolution, Barraud says. “This is not something that works against the traditional ad process,” he believes. “Direct sales isn’t going to go away anytime soon.”

The DRUM award focused on solutions in the European market, where AdsWizz customers include publishers like Bauer Media, a major radio broadcasting company across Great Britain that includes among its holdings Absolute Radio, Magic and Kiss. There’s also France’s storied NRJ and RTL groups in France, and MediaMond in Italy, parent to 105, Radio Monte Carlo, R101, Radio Subasio and the Virgin Radio franchise across the nation. AdsWizz also just inked a deal with Mumbai-based Radio City’s digital arm, giving it a major presence in India. This followed the signing of a partnership with Tokyo FM in Japan.

Now, AdsWizz has set its sights on growing in the still-nascent U.S. market, thanks to the May 29 closing of its acquisition by Pandora. The $145 million cash-and-stock deal, announced March 24, makes AdsWizz a standalone subsidiary of Pandora, with AdsWizz CEO Alexis van de Wyer remaining in his role.

Pandora says the addition of AdsWizz will upgrade its ad tech capabilities, provide its advertisers with greater audience reach, and expand the company’s revenue opportunities.

Some may consider AdsWizz a “frenemy,” given its ownership by an entity that was created, in the view of the detractor, to pull consumers away from traditional radio.

But, AdsWizz is not in any way connected to Pandora’s business operations; they simply are the owner, Barraud says.

Plus, AdsWizz is one of the few ad tech firms that is completely dedicated to digital audio. With digital audio advertising growing 42% year-over-year, according to the IAB, there is now a combined offering of Pandora and AdsWizz — making it easier for publishers to monetize their inventory, and for advertisers to buy and measure their campaigns.

Even so, radio has much to gain. Just ask iHeartRadio. The nation’s No. 1 radio broadcasting company in July 2014 partnered with AdsWizz to develop a new delivery insertion method for targeted ads in live broadcast radio streams, “with unique new capabilities.”

Specifically, AdsWizz ad-serving technology enabled the company then-known as Clear Channel to deliver a tailored advertising experience based on individual listeners’ specific characteristics —including user profiles and preferences, location and devices used for more than 840 radio stations across the country that stream live on the iHeartRadio platform. The new product offering was developed with HTTP Live Streaming, which allows for greater reach and what iHeart said is a more reliable live stream ad delivery system.

AdsWizz’s relationship with iHeart at the moment is slightly muddled: It is owned $1.86 million as an unsecured creditor, a matter currently under review by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge considering iHeart’s petition for Chapter 11 reorganization. While Barraud could not discuss the matter, he did confirm that it is “business as usual” with iHeart — an important partner in the U.S.

One who seeks more about what AdsWizz can provide for their radio company should also look north, to Rogers Media — one of Canada’s largest media companies. In January Rogers became the first in Canada to introduce dynamic ad insertion capabilities to its live and on-demand audio streams for all of its 55 radio stations.

“As the first Canadian media company to offer in-stream digital audio insertion capabilities on live streams, Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) for audio marries automation with first- and third-party data and location-based targeting to unlock the true power of digital listening,” AdsWizz said in January from Toronto.

“Programmatic DAI for audio builds on our cutting-edge strategy to deliver an efficient, effective, and single-scaled buy for our linear and digital audiences,” noted Al Dark, a SVP for Rogers Media Sales. “DAI for audio reinforces Rogers Media’s position at the forefront of programmatic and creative advertising solutions, and we’re excited to work with our partners to integrate audio into their programmatic and data platforms.”

Entercom, Cox Media Group and NPR have also partnered with AdsWizz.

“We want to continue to bring more partners,” Barraud notes. “The conversation started with pure-plays, and with traditional broadcasters, to truly leverage the digital abilities their stations have. We also worked with publishers to actually try to figure out what the digital strategy should be.”

The goal: To follow the lead of iHeart’s WHTZ-FM “Z100” in New York and KIIS-FM in Los Angeles, which are on SiriusXM Satellite Radio and on iHeartRadio and offer pods of unique-to-the-digital consumer advertising tailored expressly for them.

“It’s the DNA of the solution we built,” Barraud says. “You are going to see different ad experiences based on who you are and where you are listening.”

From this, he believes traditional ad buys can now be influenced by digital. “It wouldn’t be possible 10 years ago,” he says. “But, today you can map your digital audience and how that translates to your traditional audience. There is no cannibalization — digital can help bring more intel and more insight to radio sales.”

With a dedicated broadcast team, AdsWizz sees “radio” and “audio” coming together as one.

It seeks to be a key player in the next chapter of audio consumption.

To learn more about AdsWizz and to view recent case studies, please click here: