Pandora’s Well-Played Radio Ad Attack


With its stock off a recent year-to-date high and a merger with Sirius XM getting ever-closer thanks to last week’s end of a “go-shop” process, Pandora may be poised to get the shot in the arm it’s been seeking as it loses ground to Spotify.

A new email campaign proves Pandora is ready to pump up its revenues from advertising, with an email campaign that attacks Radio.

At 6:17am Pacific Monday, an astute RBR+TVBR reader in Los Angeles received a most eye-opening email from “Pandora For Brands.”

The subject line read, “Have You Thought About Where Your Ad Is Showing Up?”

That did little to prepare our reader, or us, for the language appearing in the “invitation” to participate as an advertiser.


Eight ads in a row—that’s over seven minutes of straight commercials jammed into one break at a typical radio station. The result? A whopping 75% of listeners switch stations before the break is over.

Whoa. Is Pandora mudslinging at traditional radio in a bit to lure their advertisers?

You bet, and the RAB, NAB, David Field and everyone else on the industry’s Andrea Doria better respond.

Pandora cites the 2016 report “Cracking the Commuter Code” from Edison Research in making its opening salvo to traditional radio.

Pandora then says:

Environment matters. Unlike AM/FM, Pandora audio ads run immediately adjacent to music, are personalized for each listener, and contain no more than two ads per break.

BAM! As the TV industry embraces the concept of addressable advertising through the voluntary rollout of ATSC 3.0, the Next Gen broadcast TV standard, the radio industry has done little in this regard on a large scale. Instead, feel-good parties like one recently held in Philadelphia are being conducted to convince advertisers that radio is a consumer connector, in ways no other media can deliver.

That may be true, but what about those ridiculous stop sets — in particular those found at America’s No. 1 Debtor-in-Possession Radio Operator?

Or, in some cases, what about advertiser angst by having their ad appear on a show that might just be a tad controversial, or perhaps after the current hit “Taki Taki,” from DJ Snake featuring Selena Gomez and Ozuna and Cardi B.

Hey, it’s a hot new hit with legit stars. But, is it “brand-safe”?

Cardi B’s lyrics include the following:

He say he wanna touch it, and tease it, and squeeze it
While my piggy bank is hungry, my nigga, you need to feed it
If the text ain’t freaky, I don’t wanna read it
And just so let you know this punani is undefeated, ay

Pandora says:

Serving your ad in a clean, brand-safe, and clutter-free environment yields results. Read more to see how brands like yours made a difference.

So wait … Pandora is guaranteeing a “clean, brand-safe” experience? Doesn’t radio abide by FCC guidelines regarding profanity and those “seven dirty words,” whereas Pandora and streaming audio — as well as Sirius XM — can bleep the bleep out of every bleeping record?

We’re incensed. Radio should be too.

And, um, guess who wrote the piece, “Audio Advertising: Environment Matters”?

Ron Rodrigues. 

Holy bleep?! Now here is a piece that Erica Farber would have never given the A-OK to back when Ron hired RBR+TVBR’s Editor-in-Chief, Adam Jacobson, in December 1995, launching his career in radio trade industry blah-blah.

Ron is awesome. His pre-Radio and Records career includes stints in programming at KIDD-AM in Monterey, Calif. and at the station on the air in L.A. right before KPWR-FM signed on a “Power 106.” Post-R&R, Ron has been with Sirius, and with Arbitron, before ending up in Oakland at Pandora.

His column is eloquent and jabs right where it needs to. His opening paragraph reads, “While clean air, compost containers, and sustainable seafood are all important to our lives, it’s time that we as audio advertisers clean up the environment that surrounds audio ads.”


Disclaimer: Ron penned the column in mid-June. But, it’s getting a renewed push today (10/29) by a reinvigorated Pandora.

Furthermore, what Ron writes remains very timely.

“Here’s what we heard on a well-known San Francisco music station in the 11am hour,” Ron writes, putting the length of each segment noted in parenthesis:


“Radio crams as many ads as possible into a minimum number of breaks as a strategy to minimize music interruptions, and thus, maximize its ratings,” Ron writes. “This tactic only benefits the radio station and the evidence shows that a lumping of so many ads is not beneficial to listeners or advertisers.”

Mr. Rodrigues then name-drops Mary Quass, the highly regarded CEO of NRG Media, who noted in a CNN interview from May 2018 the following:

“I believe that radio finally needs to deal with the inventory issue. We have been trying to rationalize that the quantity of ads is not a deterrent to the audio experience.”

That was five months ago. Has radio responded?

At WKGR-FM 98.7, an iHeart Classic Rock station in RBR+TVBR’s home market of West Palm Beach, about 7 minutes of spots and chatter was heard at 2:10pm, and again around 2:44pm. For Alpha Media’s top-rated WRMF-FM 97.9, a roughly 5-minute break was heard at 10:09am, and again at 11:35am.

Perhaps morning drive is the daypart where stop sets are egregious and way too long.

We do not have access to Mediabase 24/7, so we were unable to detect the spots for WRMF during The KVJ Show this morning.

Meanwhile, in L.A., we peeked at KLOS-FM 95.5, a Cumulus Media station derided by some for its very high commercial load. Noticeable breaks were seen at both 10:15am and 10:45am today.

But, as no songs were played during the 8am hour, it was hard to tell just how many commercials aired during the Frosty, Heidi and Frank show.

Look, Ron makes some great points. But, so does Former Boss Erica — only Radio offers The KVJ Show or Frosty, Heidi and Frank. Pandora is an algorithm-based computer-driven wall of music that can get old, and tiresome. And, it has commercials just like radio so what’s the point, really?

If anything, Ron offers not a strong invitation for advertisers to consider Pandora but a wake-up call to a medium he once was a part of, and was passionate about.

It is our collective job to stop thinking like Ron and cut the clutter.

If not, his words will serve as the first slinging of the radio industry’s swan song.