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Turning Up the Volume on Identity at the IAB Podcast Upfront


The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Podcast Upfront presents a unique opportunity for media buyers to preview the latest innovations in podcast programming as part of the larger upfront season.

At the 2023 Podcast Upfront, TransUnion SVP, Diversified Markets, Media & Entertainment Julie Clark and Audacy Director of AdTech Partnerships Jonathan Panjwani took to the stage to explore trends shaping the future of digital audio marketing investment, as well as how Audacy is leveraging TransUnion identity solutions to deliver better experiences for advertisers and listeners alike.

Podcast ad revenue is growing despite headwinds

Growth in the overall digital ad market is slowing amid economic uncertainty and a rapidly evolving regulatory environment. According to Insider Intelligence, digital ad spend is expected to increase just 7.8% year over year — its slowest rate of growth since the Great Recession. But there is one bright spot in that otherwise dreary outlook: digital audio (specifically, podcasts).

Released concurrently with the Podcast Upfront, the IAB’s 2023 U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue Study identified podcast ad revenue as 2022’s fastest-growing marketing investment segment with spend up 26% over 2021. This level of growth was more than twice as fast as total internet ad revenue in 2022 and is expected to accelerate this year. By 2025, the IAB estimates podcast advertising will be nearly a $4B business.

This kind of growth should come as no surprise given the mass adoption of digital audio, particularly among age cohorts highly desirable to media buyers. According to data from Edison Research, 89% of Gen Z and Millennials are expected to listen to some form of online audio in 2023 and 55% have listened to a podcast in the last month.

“It has been absolutely incredible to see the growth of podcasting overall,” Clark said. “It’s here.”

Identity moves to the forefront

Even with podcast ad revenue growing explosively since the pandemic, advertisers looking to podcasts and digital audio are coming up against some of the same challenges that have historically plagued streaming media as a whole. The biggest one? How to connect disparate signals across a fragmented ecosystem.

Without a clear view of the listener (and the ability to effectively reach them where they’re listening), much of the potential of the expansive reach of podcasts could be wasted as advertisers aren’t able to satisfy their campaign goals.

To combat fragmentation and ensure messaging is delivered to the right listener at the right time, Panjwani and Audacy turned to identity. According to Panjwani, by leveraging data present in the TruAudience® Marketing Solutions suite, Audacy is able to deliver on the scale media buyers are looking for while at the same time improving the listening experience.

“Using TransUnion’s Data Marketplace, we’re able to capture listeners and inventory so we can not only fulfill and satisfy our client’s budgets, but we can also give our listeners a much more curated and targeted experience,” Panjwani said. “The ad experience is more digestible, more palatable and leads to the conversations we’ve heard earlier today where people are much more engaged with podcasting content, as well as podcasting advertisements.”

The need for a robust view of identity at the household level is particularly relevant in the streaming audio space where many connected devices like smart speakers haven’t typically had an advertising ID. Audacy is using third-party data present in the TransUnion Data Marketplace to augment their own first- party data, broadening the effective reach of their audiences for their data customers.

“We can’t tap all of our listeners because not all of them are addressable [and] not all of them are scalable,” Panjwani said. “So, whatever we cannot reach with our own data, TransUnion is extending our reach even further than what we could have possibly imagined.”

Dialing it in

Podcasting as a marketing channel is here to stay. With double-digit growth year over year, and broad listenership among Millennials and Gen Z, podcasts present a unique value add for advertisers — so long as they’re able to navigate gaps in addressability and confront the fragmentation present in the ecosystem.

By overcoming these challenges with the help of robust identity solutions like the ones present through the TruAudience Marketing Solutions suite, advertisers can embrace the real power of podcasts: the ability to deliver high-impact messaging to a highly engaged audience.

“Brands want to have conversations within podcasts,” Clark said. “That’s what makes podcasts so special.”