On January 7, 2024, Audacy, Inc. announced important actions to bolster its financial and competitive position and enhance the Company’s future growth. For more information, visit the Audacy Restructuring Website.

As the Cookie Crumbles, Audio is Tastier than Ever

By Dan McKinney, VP, Data & Analytics, Audacy

Audio offers big opportunities in an advertising landscape moving towards greater transparency

For over a year now, the world of digital advertising has been murmuring (ok, shouting) about looming changes: user identifiers and cookies going away. Apple’s iOS 14.5 update is leading this charge as they and others move towards becoming more transparent. Users are now much more in the driver’s seat. They can accept or deny access to their data for individual apps, creating an opt-in system. What will these opt-in rates look like? No one knows. Predictions span wildly – anywhere from 2% to 45%. What we do know is that this shift is already impacting brands’ ability to examine consumer behavior. But as this old model fades away, and social and digital advertisers struggle to maintain effective audience targeting and measurement capabilities, new opportunities for advertisers emerge – Audio advertising.

Cookie Was King

When I began my career in digital advertising, the cookie was king. Basically a small text file, a cookie enabled brands to track consumer shopping online. Even if you navigated away from a website, that site could keep items in your shopping cart for when you return. As digital ad strategy evolved over the next two decades, cookies became the foundation of a 160 billion dollar industry. Now that foundation is eroding and advertisers are understandably concerned.

Preparing for a Cookie-less World

Privacy changes are pushing the ‘identity revolution’ to the forefront – basically drawing a divide between publishers and advertisers that build their ad ecosystem on first party (opt-in) data, and those that don’t. As the going gets tough for web-native publishers, Audio stands in a unique position. Our entire platform is built upon hosts making connections with audiences. From radio morning shows to local sports hosts to podcast favorites, we develop deep, authentic relationships. The kind of relationships listeners seek out, come back for, and voluntarily opt-in to. You may not be aware, but audio leaders like.. ahem, Audacy, have millions of first party data profiles ready for brands to activate.

Regardless of platform, whether it’s streaming your favorite sports station while you work from home, or listening to the latest true crime podcast as you walk your dog – great content is what our listeners show up for. And brands are tapping in to these targetable audiences, ranging from business decision makers, financial news junkies, sports fans, millennial moms – the list goes on and on.

Ken Lagana
EVP, Digital Sales & Strategy, Audacy

We’re not fearful of the privacy changes. We argue that the end of cookies is actually a great thing for digital advertising. It opens the door for a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of consumer behavior. On top of that, the move away from cookies evens the playing field for consumers – fostering a more mutually beneficial relationship between brands and the people they serve.

How Does First Party Data Work

First party data is the information you collect directly from your customer audience. It comes in many forms, from audience behavior like downloading a podcast, to sharing information like an email address, birthday or phone number.

Phone numbers are essential here. In fact, phone numbers are recognized as a vital link to consumers in the digital age. Think about some of the major platforms like Google or Facebook. You’ve seen the offer – to share your phone number to help in case you get locked out. That’s not just to help you with your account access – these platforms realize the value of phone numbers as an evergreen identifier.

Millions of Americans voluntarily reach out to their favorite Audacy hosts and shows via their phones. They call in to their favorite sports show, or text to win tickets. With these consumer interactions, our listeners express interest in our content, and we in turn get to learn more about them. This valuable first party data is used to build an identity graph that offers a comprehensive overview of audio fans.

What’s even more important, is the ability to deliver accurate audience targeting and measurement. As cookies and mobile app IDs fade, digital advertisers are worried that conversion rates and attribution capabilities will tank. But Audio advertisers are not sweating. They’re tapping into a robust identity graph to match ads to ideal customer audiences, confirm when an ad was heard and determine if it moved that listener to action – basically unaffected by device and cookie updates.

Audio has moved well beyond broad demographics. At Audacy we connect brands with specific listeners based on their interest in sports or rock, or whether they are in market for a new car, recycle, or love Taco Bell. This holistic view of consumers that incorporates their preferences and shopping habits, along with demographics is the future of digital advertising. And it’s only possible because Audacy has innovated in preparation for a cookie-less world.

Today’s digital advertising strategy is radically different than it was five years ago, and it will look just as different in another five. The end of cookies is just one instance, but it’s a tremendous example. Savvy brands will continue to undertake new ways to measure consumer data from their first party information, to how they shop, and when they commute. At Audacy we continue to build our business around this forward-facing approach — that’s why we’re not worried about the changes on the horizon. Instead, we’re excited for the future.

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