Drew Hilles knows a thing or two about radio sales.
He also knows a little bit about technology, and the whole concept of Programmatic.
This helps to explain why Veritone Media, for which he serves as a SVP, has steadily grown and is more widely known by radio’s C-Suite executives than ever before.
In late August, veteran media strategist, researcher, and trend-maker Mark Ramsey gushed over Veritone Media. In a HIVIO 2016 presentation at what Ramsey calls his “audio future festival,” Ramsey said, “If you’re trying to grow radio ad revenue, or ad revenue from any audio or video platform, you should watch this presentation from Veritone Media’s [President] Ryan Steelberg. It will change forever your sense of what you can sell and how you can sell it.”
Ramsey explains what Veritone is all about in a short and succinct manner:
“Veritone Media’s big data solution ingests and indexes all of your content,” he notes. “That means everything on any topic on your audio platform can be analyzed, searched on-demand, and turned into actionable data which can be monetized directly by your sellers. It’s native advertising on steroids.”
Veritone has also attracted the attention of C-Suite and media management execs for its ability to enable search, discovery, and amplification of content seen and heard across multiple platforms.
“It’s impressive stuff when you’re trying to spread your content around easily and effectively, and it beats any other solution I’ve seen,” Ramsey says.
Delivering such technology to radio and television stations has its roots in radio, based on Hilles’ career trajectory. From 1993-2001, he was a regional vice president in the northeast and southwest for iHeart predecessor Clear Channel. From 2001-2003, he was a senior VP in Philadelphia and, later, Denver for CBS Radio.
Hilles then joined a company called dMarc Broadcasting, where from 2004-2006 he was SVP of Ad Sales. Around this time, a service dubbed “Jelli” was created.
“This was the first ‘programatic’ ad-serving engine for radio and TV,” he says. “It created a centralized single point of contact to the server.”
The technology caught on, and gained some notable attention: Google bought dMarc, and in 2006 Hilles’ title became Senior Director of Sales for North America at Google.
He exited in 2010, and has been with Veritone since 2014.
In addition to its media capabilities, Veritone has over the last two years evolved and expanded its capabilities in law enforcement and politics.
“We’re applying technology to terrestrial data,” Hilles says. “This involves real-time data analytics, including social, performance data and measurement tools.”
Perhaps the hallmark of Veritone’s offerings, Hilles adds, is the company’s Cognitive Media Platform.
“We inject all forms of media, including audio and video, into a cloud-based platform,” he explains. “These files are archived, and then transcribed so that it can be searchable by keyword. We then search for positives and negatives in a broadcast, and help build intelligence and actionable outcomes for media, in real time.”
“For the first time, radio people have real-time impressions to show advertisers.” — Drew Hilles
For instance, the platform can review the play-by-play for an entire live sporting event. If a stadium advertisement is shown 300 times during the live broadcast, that will be tallied and put into a consumer impression, once Nielsen ratings are taken into account. Such granular audience exposure data is also being used for radio, as a metric that can also ad verification and ad performance into account.
“We can look at content distribution, and review both spots and native mentions,” Hilles says. “Then we can track campaigns, capturing all clips in real-time. And then, we run Nielsen ratings against it. For the first time, radio people have real-time impressions to show advertisers.”
Of note to radio executives: “It shows overdelivery.”
The C.M.P. tracks advertising and content. Hilles leaves open the possibility for Veritone Media’s technology to be applied to song likeability, or listener fatigue as it relates to a discussion topic on a spoken word program.
Big-Buck Investment To Drive Development Plans
On August 23, Veritone Inc. announced that it has signed a funding agreement with patent investment group Acacia Research Corp. for up to $50 million in working capital.
The funding is structured as an initial $20 million convertible investment, with a contingent additional investment of $30 million based on Veritone’s achievement of set milestones, for a total investment consideration of $50 million.
Veritone’s Hilles says the funding allows the company to “speed up its developmental road map,” and build out its other business units — including its budding governmental unit.
For radio and TV, the benefit is even greater advances, down the pipeline, for showing how in-content chatter is “more effective and a more engaging form of advertising.”
Hilles notes, “It’s hard to do in radio because it’s been hard to quantify and measure. It will show better proof of performance data, and will allow stations and advertisers to do more product placement.”
In television, the “Coke can in the episode” of a scripted show has been there for years and years. “Now, it could create more of those ‘moments'” for an advertiser, Hilles adds.
That’s because there’s now a clear metric for every mention, or glimpse, of a product or service.
This, theoretically, increases the “native advertising” opportunities. See that film where BMW vehicles were ubiquitous or that episode of NBC-TV’s now concluded “Heroes” where a character insists that they drive a Nissan Versa? How about adding a Uber sticker to the front windshield as an effective way to increase brand recognition?
From use of a particular smartphone brand to the service provider itself shown on-screen, a company like Sprint may have more success than with a traditional spot-based effort. On the radio, a host could take note of his smartphone preference and carrier as part of a natural discussion — prompted, of course, by the sponsor.
This is the future of advertising, as Hilles sees it.
“The :30 and :60 should just go away, over time,” he says. “Media consumption has changed a little bit, and we have been selling [:30s and :60s] for about 101 years, it seems. Sitting through a stop-set? No one wants to do that anymore.”
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