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Gretchen Smith

Gretchen Smith

· Time to read: ~7 min

This interview was first in the Podcast Business Journal newsletter, with the latest podcast news and data. Subscribe free today.

Gretchen Smith is VP of Media, Ad Results Media — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability

Gretchen Smith: Ad Results Media is an audio video creator agency and we were founded back then in the nineties. We saw the power of radio endorsement driving results better than a display banner ever could. The nature of our company has always been an endorsement advertising - and, as you know, podcasting really came with that.

Over the past ten or so years — after we placed the very first podcast ad ever — we ended up growing our client list to be working with four of the top ten spenders. We really believe in the power of using the spoken word to be able to drive tangible results for our clients.

We see programmatic as an intersection of the endorsement world and the broadcast audio world, which is why we’re at the forefront of it.

James Cridland: Is that why you’ve launched ARM Pro Audience?

GS: Yes. There are a lot of clients who are excited about podcasting. But, prices have been variable, and the barrier to entry has been high. We found that there were clients who were hungry to get into the channel and test it, knowing that it’s a “hand-raising” platform: people are actively listening to an hour of this person speaking, and listeners take their opinion and what they say seriously. ARM Pro Audience leverages technology and our relationships with all the different podcast hosts and networks, to build a way to create an addressable audience for the first time in podcasting at scale outside of a walled garden environment. We can now say that if you were trying to find a niche audience, you don’t have to buy an entire show to reach them any more. A wasted impression is an impression that a company doesn’t want to buy and a consumer doesn’t want to hear; and ARM Pro Audience helps make people buy a more tangible audience that actually is going to want to hear the ad, convert on it, and act on it.

JC: What can you target that addressable audience by?

GS: There’s a lot of different ways that you can target. I think you know that the main identifier in audio still is IP address, but with different types of logins and matching and the device sophistication that exists now, we have ways that we can model and predict to what types of audiences exist. If I’m trying to reach females in the United States, an ad served to James in Australia right now could be interpreted as a wasted impression.

JC: Are you working with particular partners there in terms of understanding who is at the end of that IP address?

GS: We work with a handful of different measurement partners - we’re agnostic at Ad Results Media. We leverage a couple of different DSPs as well. That leverages not only off the shelf segments, but ways that we can take our client’s data and model it. We also probably couldn’t do ARM Pro without the help of our partners and relationships. For example - a network that has 50 to 100 different podcasts. They know a lot about their audience based on user agent information and are able to say: let’s reach people who consume podcasts about make up in fashion and beauty. We can have a pretty good likelihood that they’re going to be in the market for a certain product. Let’s try to message to them in any podcast they listen to, even if the podcast is about underwater basket weaving. So we can not only serve to a more addressable audience, we also learn more about them, about what passions they listen to or where they’re hand raising to spend their time.

I think that that is one of the most appealing things to clients who come with a test and learn mentality to podcasting. While we know that “right place, right time” is the dream, there’s also something to come from learning and research. Are we seeing an over-index in audience listening to more of a certain show? So with ARM Pro, those transparent shows and a really high quality inventory not just performs for results and sales but it also teaches us more about our audience and what they’re interested in. And that means that you keep getting smarter.

JC: What what sort of targeting is possible - geographical targeting, obviously, but what else?

GS: You can look at the type of phone you have - you can look at purchase history, or listening history. If we know that there are certain things that people are listening to versus not that can tell us a little bit about what they’re interested in, what they’re likely to buy or act on. You can also target based off of a list. So if a client says, I know a list of my customers and I know some identify information, but I don’t know much else about them, we can find more people like them and can we learn more about them. We’ve been able to adjust the list where audiences have opted in to share their data, learn more about it, and then follow where they listen to a podcast space.

JC: You say that clients are “testing” podcasts. But, podcasting is 20 years old - Gretchen, what exactly are brands actually testing here?

GS: I think the bottom line is, does it work? Podcasting is 20 years old, but video is much older and in some cases so is display advertising. Corporations maybe consider podcasting emerging because of the growth of spend on other more mature channels. This is the next high growth channel, an area where people are going.

JC: What do you think podcasting needs to do for brands to stop testing it and just, you know, jumping in? Is it getting more case studies out there?

GS: The biggest challenge that I tell my network partners and my hosts is that you have to drive results. And results can look different for different advertisers. If a brand like a direct to consumer brand is working with you and says, I need to sell 500 pairs of this shoe and you don’t sell 500 pairs of that shoe, the podcast didn’t work. I failed the KPI. Podcasting is a business tool, it’s a revenue engine.

That audience transparency wasn’t there five years ago. You had to buy the whole podcast or nothing and it was worth it when it worked, and if it didn’t, we’d suggest trying different creative - but you had to have a client who was willing to chance a failure on the first campaign and start changing. Now we can change quickly. We can test a different audience, or a similar show. It offers a more nimble ability to test and learn.

JC: Apple Podcasts is a large part of of our world. The big changes in iOS 17 auto downloads - Have you seen any change to your numbers because of that?

GS: I think we’ve seen a change, but I think it’s a good change. I think that even though you might be seeing a change in those numbers, you’re getting more quality listener figures. In digital display and video they’re still using impressions - and an impression can serve in the background. They could serve below the fold. It’s just a much cleaner number in podcasting, even if it’s changing.

JC: The other thing about Apple, of course, is that they’ve just launched transcripts. Do you use transcripts in any way?

GS: We are using transcription technology to make our buy smarter: we partner with a handful of different people. For example - the word “shot” can have a lot of different meanings. There is taking a shot at a basketball game, there is taking a shot of alcohol, and then there is a fatally shot bad news article. Transcription alone might just look at the word shot and make a decision on that. But more sophisticated technology is what really makes it meaningful, especially with ARM Pro Audience. So, our partner companies can help use it to build our audiences and just get smarter about what each episode’s content is and looks like as well as what was actually said, which is important too.

We’ve had a handful of clients who have used ARM Pro and seen those results - whether it’s, you know, driving online sales, whether it’s shifting consideration and page views. We want to keep challenging clients to have that “test to learn” mentality. Why wouldn’t you really put audiences at the forefront?

JC: Gretchen - thank you so much for your time I appreciate it.

GS: Of course! Thank you, James.

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