Pandora’s Three Phases Of Targeting Now Includes Viewability

Brands demand personalization at scale. Pandora’s response: we have 1,000 targeting segments across 80 million people.

While streaming audio services continue to focus on ad-free subscriptions, Pandora is emphasizing its ad-supported model for a wide swath of Millennial listeners and the major brands that want to reach them.

At the same time, Pandora is also expanding its conversion metrics to back up its promise of “personalization at scale,” as the company boasts 1,000 targeting segments that cut across age, gender, geography, interests, and behavior and its monthly reach of 80 million people.

First: Tackling Viewability

And as the online ad industry wrestles with the threat of ad blocking and clickfraud, Pandora has just rolled out “100 percent guaranteed viewability” in partnership with display analytics provider Moat.

“In order to measure and track which ads were viewed, we’ve partnered with Moat, the only [Media Ratings Council] accredited vendor for mobile in-app viewability measurement,” Chris Record, Pandora’s VP Revenue Operations. “This is important for marketers, because attention is everything and the starting point begins with viewable impressions.

“Giving advertisers the option to buy viewed impressions allows them to reach their intended audience within Pandora’s quality environment while delivering on their sought after KPI of cost per viewable impression,” Record continued. “With our new offering, we’re guaranteeing that attention.”

Next: Enhanced Targeting And Addressable Audiences

Armed with the promise that advertisers will know which ads have been seen or not, Pandora is also trumpeting the have over 1,000 targeting segments under the following categories :

  • User-Declared Data: Based on age, gender or geography.
  • Interests: Based on music preferences or listening habits on Pandora.
  • Behaviors (Using third party data): Based on purchase behaviors, lifestyle, device usage or wireless carrier.
  • Identified Characteristics (Using Pandora’s proprietary data segments): Based on ethnicity, political leaning, life stage or household income.
  • Custom Audiences: Based on existing / second party information advertisers already have, such as CRM or email databases.

Beyond the sheer size of Pandora’s audience — 80 million monthly listeners counts as “scale” — Pandora also is interested in telling marketers that the size of its “addressable audience” is even more important.

Of course, much has been made about Spotify passing the 100 million-listener mark, though the number of monthly users who access it through its free, ad-supported tier is 70 million. In the past, Spotify tended to downplay advertising in favor of its subscriber numbers, but it late last month said it would begin opening up its global platform to programmatic ads and allow brands to target users according to their playlists.

Heidi Browning, SVP, Strategic Solutions at Pandora, defines “addressable audience” as the actual number of streaming audio listeners that a U.S. advertiser can reach.

“In other words, this is the number of listeners that enjoy their music in a free, ad-supported environment,” she says. “People who have paid for a subscription that lets them listen in an ad-free environment are non-addressable.”

Source: Pandora
Source: Pandora

Addressable And Millennial

Both Spotify and Pandora resist the notion that they’re rivals, despite both being streaming audio platforms. Spotify is more about “customization” — users create and pick specific songs to their playlists — while Pandora is about “personalization” — the listening experience is “curated for users” who can rate individual tracks with a virtual thumbs up or down.

Because Pandora emphasizes that personalized radio experience, it says that’s part of what makes it more ad-friendly than Spotify tends to be.

Citing report from Edison Research, Pandora says that “addressable” Millennial listeners spend 2.3x more time with its audio versus Spotify.

“There’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace around user metrics and there was no third party that actually measures addressable audience versus non-addressable audience, at least not until the Edison research came out,” Browning said. “We had a lot of confusion as more and more advertisers are trying to get involved in digital audio, trying to understand the size and scale of the opportunity is for people who can be reached by advertisers.”

In terms of comparisons, Browning sought to put its rivals in context when it comes to advertising.

“While Spotify reports larger user numbers overall, its free U.S. listeners are a smaller percentage of their total global audience,” Browning said. “And the number of U.S. listeners that are actually addressable by audience is also smaller than people might assume.”

iHeartMedia, which claims 250 million worldwide listeners, “does the same thing,” Browning said. “They talk about their registered users, not necessarily their active users on a monthly basis. There’s usually a big delta between those. So what we really want the industry to focus on, from an advertising perspective is who and how many people can I reach with an advertisement through digital audio.”

Citing comScore figures, Pandora reaches 41 million “addressable” Millennials a month, Browning noted. And that number has particular appeal to advertisers like Taco Bell.

The Power Of First Party

Delivering on a promise of guaranteed viewability and precise audience targeting would be enough for most publishers. But given the competition, Pandora needs to go further. So it works with marketers on doing something more special than a static banner ad or repurposed radio ad.

Taco Bell has been attempting to challenge McDonald’s and other quick serve restaurants for the “breakfast anytime” segment. Attempting to breakthrough the clutter and reach Millennials, in the summer of 2015, Taco Bell expanded its 10-year marketing partnership up with Pandora to launch of “Sponsored Listening.” The program rewards targeted listeners with an hour of uninterrupted listening in exchange for watching a Taco Bell video.

The results:

  • 28 percent lift in message association
  • 16 percent lift in product association
  • 26 percent lift in awareness
  • 15 percent more likely to visit

“We’re in a pretty small group of properties out there that have the scale of first party data,” Browning said.

In the land of Google and Facebook, Pandora’s got its 1st party data, which is its users’ registration data: their age, gender, zip code, and email.

“But what makes our first’ party data special is that we have, what we call, the power of the logged in user,’” Browning continued. “People log into Pandora and the user ID remains the same across whatever device they’re logging into. It gives us a constant feed of understanding our audience through the very basic data that they’ve provided to us.”

The second phase of Pandora’s targeting involved working with third party data providers, such as Acxiom. And that’s what led to its current period, which involves in-house audience segmentation.

“We’re taking the registration data with all the billions of signals of feedback that we get from their musical listening preferences, their device usage, their location, their listening habits, there are a lot of different signals that we take in to create these proprietary segments around our audience,” Browning said. “That enables us to get mass precision at scale. And that’s what we’re continuing to build out.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.