Welcome to the e-Commerce Marketing Podcast everyone. My name is Arlen Robinson, and I’m your host. And today we’ve got a very special guest, 
Paul Kelly who is the chief revenue officer of A Million Ads, a leading firm specializing in dynamic audio ads for hundreds of brands, like Target, Under Armour and Ford. His role allows him to speak to brands daily and manage a new era of personalization in audio that is both privacy compliant yet still capable of meeting the individual customer’s needs. Prior to A Million Ads, Paul shaped and actively scaled the commercial strategy for a number of high-growth digital companies including Viacom, AwesomenessTV, Watchmojo and GoldieBlox. His experiences gave him first-hand knowledge about brand activity outside above the line advertising, including advanced customer service and product development. Welcome to the podcast. 

Thank you for having me, Arlen. Delighted to be here. 

Yes, and I’m, I’m excited to talk to you as well. And thank you for, for joining me.

You know, today we’re gonna be focusing on kind of what your bread and butter is, and that’s audio. It’s really gonna be all about audio and how a brand can utilize audio to hyper target their ads and, and, and save money doing it. You know, it’s, I’m really interested in this topic today because it’s, you know, so.

Where if you’re looking at a lot of the main, you know, digital marketing blogs and some of the experts, everybody’s pushing video, video, video, this, you know, we were kind of inundated with video across all of the social platforms, but yet audio is still very effective. And so, yeah, are really excited to kind of dig deep into that.

So, really wanna where I wanna start off, Paul, is if you, if you don’t mind giving us a brief overview of a Million Ads and. How your company is really just revolutionizing this dynamic audio advertising. 

Sure. So at its, at its core, the, the, the tool is a, a kind of cloud-based ad server that is able to infer important contextual information, such as a listener’s location, what device they’re listening on, whether it’s a cell phone, if it’s a smart speaker, if it’s a connected radio inside a vehicle, et cetera.

And. Milliseconds configure what the optimal brand message would be to that listener in that location at that time, under those conditions. Okay. And serve that kind of instantaneously in real time. So, you know, from, you know, just using one example of a, of a data signal, which would be location. Mm-hmm. And if you think about, and sorry, let me, let me add one more and which is the day.

Or the dates, if you will. Right, right, right. From, from those two, let’s call ’em relatively rudimentary signals. Mm-hmm. And then you think about kind of sports marketing, and you’ve got the N F L or the M L B with games playing in different locations around the country, the tribal fandom associated with each team.

And rather than saying, great, it’s Monday night football. A generic message, you’re able to talk to Jets fans about who the jets are playing and when and where. Same for the Patriots, same for the Bengals, same for every single other team. Mm-hmm. Um, around the country and throughout the season. So it, it’s, it’s endlessly surprising to me how even our most, as I use the word rudimentary data signals can actually, when deployed correctly, really make a difference to the kind of cut through the creative effectiveness ads.

Right, right. Wow. Yeah, that, that sounds like some very powerful stuff because you know, like you said, if you’re by just taking one of those data signals, like you said, the, the day. If you’re looking at sports, like you said, depending on where somebody is, On that particular day, then you can feed them and add that, you know, could correspond to something associated with that particular sporting event or Okay.

Something that would be associated with people that typically, uh, listen or watch sporting events at that time. So yeah, really, really cool stuff. And uh, you know, I know you had mentioned being able to pick up. You know, where are the particular device that somebody is listening on. Mm-hmm. And so, you know, our, our world is just, is changing so fast.

We, we talked about, you know, earlier the, the, all of these platforms that are, are, are coming out where there’s always been such a big push for, for video. Yeah. But now, you know, Right now there’s such a rise on podcasting and streaming services, and so I wanted to see how how has all that influenced the growth of and importance of audio advertising in this whole e-commerce world with the rise of the podcasting and these different streaming services that are coming out today?

It’s a, it’s a great question and, and I think how I think about it is, Audio has created or found new units of time that previously didn’t exist. Let me explain that. Mm-hmm. Um, if you think about video, oh. There’s been a techno technological innovation in the terms of we’re moving from broadcast TV to cable and now to C T V.

Right, right. But the hours spent in front of a screen are, are reasonably steady. Obviously the smartphone somewhat different, but I think for, for a few years now, we’ve basically just had been glued to our screens, if you will. Right. So, uh, you know, the kind of the hours spent that you have of to, to interrupt someone consuming video mm-hmm.

Is relatively stable, might do that. And the data and the, the ad format. And the, the actual channels, whether, as I said, it’s connected TV or another form of social video, those will continue to progress and innovate. But you’re still relatively speaking, dealing with the same amount of aggregate time spent in front of that type of content.

Right. Channel. Right. Whereas with audio, Because of not just the innovation in formats, i e you mentioned podcasts, but also of course the innovation in hardware. Yeah. Smartphone, the devices, right. Things that, or parts of our day that were either dead looking out a window on a bus or a train or, or maybe reading a magazine.

Mm-hmm. They’re now accruing. To, to audio. Uh, so before audio was, yeah, sure. You listen to the radio, you listen to, to music. Mm-hmm. Uh, but now with podcasting thing that you are doing in your life, that doesn’t require absolute 100% focus. You’re probably listening to something. Yeah. At the same time.

Exactly. Uh, and so that just makes it, I think that’s what’s, you know, in a nutshell, I believe that’s what’s really fueled the growth of the channel is that it’s a new surface area now where there is this, you know, pristine attention. Uh, and a very intimate environment. Yeah. Where people are, you know, consuming something kind of unique.

They’re lit, it’s literally in their heads, you know, as, as, as audio often is, is is through headphones. So, yeah, that’s, it’s, that’s what makes it, I think, yeah. Really exciting kind of channel to be, to be involved in. And one that has a tremendous amount of, of value for, for all different types of advertisers, quite frankly.

Yeah. Um, 

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, I mean, I, I can definitely see how it is. I, I mean, I think it all with audio, it lends to just with all the rise of all these devices, the smartphones, which you can take anywhere, and the, the, all of these apps that make, you know, the distribution of all of this media. So easy.

I mean, I, I see that on my, my end where I, I take a lot of walks here in, in Florida. I try to enjoy the weather. I take bike rides and, you know, yeah, of course there’s video, but you know, you don’t see someone usually taking a walk, holding their smartphone, watching their YouTube video. Usually, I mean, you know, maybe they’re listening to the audio of a YouTube video, but you usually, people are affixed to a screen while they’re walking, while they’re biking. don’t recom, we don’t recommend that. Right?

While they’re doing, we, we  don’t recom, we don’t recommend that. Right?

Yeah, exactly. That wouldn’t be a safe thing to do. So the portability of the audio is really what I think has really lended to this. You, like you said, this whole rise in this, the audio ads now, I think what it comes down to just kind of links to my next question.

We, we’ve got all of these listeners across all of these platforms, you know, in all of these different locations, you know, and it’s such a, such a large demographic. And so the, I guess the key thing there along with, you know, any advertising goal is, How do you target it properly? So we, we talked about this, I mentioned it at the beginning of the podcast, um mm-hmm.

Hyper targeting. So can you explain the, this whole concept of hyper targeting in the context of audio and how does that really lend to a cost savings for the business?

Yeah, so it is, it is a little different in audio two, two other channels, let’s say in traditional television. Very little targeting, hence why, you know, it’s been traditionally deployed as a ver very much an upper funnel awareness channel.

Mm-hmm. But then on the. On the other side of that scale, you might have, let’s say social, uh, or digital display, which, you know, is an ongoing topic as to whether that the, the privacy is, is, is acceptable, or the lack of privacy afforded to users and individuals is acceptable. So, so audio sits probably somewhere in the middle where it’s, it definitely doesn’t follow you around.

The web and what you’re doing and what you’re buying, but specifically in the programmatic space, buying audio in a programmatic, you know, through a, a DSB like the Trade Desk where they have very kind of advanced audience segments. That rely on or that benefit from kind of proxy information. So these are the kind of habits we’ve observed or behaviors we’ve observed from similar profiles.

Mm-hmm. They’re able to put those together into kind of robust clusters and, and, you know, provide advertisers with the opportunity to, to, you know, address those segments. Through any channel and, and very often through a mix of channels. So I e omnichannel kind of targeting, so Right. There’s been a huge kind of progress and innovation in, in the addressability of audio predominantly driven by, by the programmatic channel.

And, and the trade Desk is a great partner of ours, and as I said, they do a, a phenomenal job, but, but there’s, there’s many others. And, and, and, yeah. So that’s, that’s an, that’s available mm-hmm. To advertisers. But what’s, what, what’s, what’s less about the individual, but I would argue equally valuable is the amazing data that a publisher has in terms of listening genre.

Mm-hmm. So you know what kind of music you’re into, what types of podcasts you listen to. So obviously if, if you are a A C B, D. Brand that has got a, you know, a long list of, of products that help ease muscle pain. Yeah. Okay. I could very quickly imagine that fans of kind of wellness and meditation podcasts, fans of kind of fitness podcasts and content like that, that that would be a very reliable kind of cohort to address with that type of product.

Mm-hmm. So what I’m saying is, without even knowing, How old or what gender or any other kind of psychographic or demographic data, simply by nature of, of understanding and seeing the content that’s being consumed. Mm-hmm. You can identify a strong correlation or fit with the product or service that you are, in fact trying to advertise and sell.

Yeah. And then you add onto that, you know, the, the location we talked about time before and, and, and, and all of a sudden, You’re right, the addressability of audio now becomes quite compelling. Mm-hmm. And very different compared to what it might have been 15 years ago with, with kind of broadcast radio where you were kind of left with, well, we can do local ads on broadcast or we’ll do national.

Right. It’s, it’s leaps and bounds of course, from, from that, which is, which is another kind of, I guess, fuel behind the, the growth in, in, in the, the overall advertising support and investment in the. Yeah. 

Yeah, definitely. That makes a lot of sense. You talked also about, you know, all of this data, these data points that are going to allow you to, you know, do this hyper targeting, like you said, people that are listening to wellness podcasts and meditation type podcasts.

Mm-hmm. Than they may be more, uh, uh, target for that c b D particular product makes a lot of sense when we’re looking at other types of ads as digital. Online with, with all of these social networks, a, a large part of their targeting and their personalization or how they personalize ads is, you know, them getting data via cookies and mm-hmm seeing, following people, where they’re going, what sites that they’re visiting, what are they clicking on, if they were on Amazon, you know, looking at.

You know, this type of product, then you can kind of, you’re creating a persona to then be able to target the right ad to that person. So it’s really in that arena, it’s really hyper. It can be hyper, you know, specific. Yeah. With audio, since you know, you’re just trying to target, based on those other data points, how, how are you able to really drill down to an individual as opposed to just more of a group of people in their interest?

Is it possible via audio? 

It is possible, and so, Sometimes it’s the difference between targeting and what we do, which is decisioning. Yeah, but I’ll, I’ll try and tease it out. We work with a number of clients, large national advertisers that, that use their first party data. So, you know, you think about loyalty customers, right?

And their status, or if you think in the telco space, customers versus. Customers that aren’t so existing. Customers will get an upgrade message. Target customers will get a, obviously not an upgrade message, but one to come and join, come and join us and here’s an aggressive promotion that will entice you to do it, or will we’ll pay you or buy you out of your previous contract.

Mm-hmm. Um, so that in a way is kind of leveraging kind of, you know, individual. Customer, customer data in the sense that we’re acknowledging that someone is, is a, a current subscriber to a particular service or loyalty member of a particular retailer, let’s say. And then we can drill down further. And you know, I’m thinking about a couple of national restaurant brands where.

You know, in their product assortment, they’re both food and beverage items. Yep. And we’re able to kind of select from that broad menu, the types of items that a particular listener gravitates Okay. Towards. Wow. And so, you know, what I think creates a little bit of unease with consumers is the targeting.

Yeah. Is the sense that, you know, a, a very similar brands or product. Are, are, are kind of interrupting you with, with the same ad, if you will. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Uh, whereas decisioning really just makes the, again, if, if you are a, let’s just use an example. If you’re a, uh, an Amazon, we’re all Amazon shoppers probably to greater, greater lesser extent, right?

Yeah, sure. I’ve got, I, I’m in a household of six and I can assure you that we’ve got six very, very different Amazon profiles. Sure. I can imagine. And, and so the, the optimal ad that Amazon would serve me, Versus that of any one of my four kids or indeed my wife, that would show a very different list of products in, in, in actual each instance.

I see. And so that’s an example of, of Yeah. Using or how a brand can use kind of their own first party data on an individual basis. Okay. To, to optimize the, the message at that listener, at that individual level to Great. 

Gotcha. Yeah, that’s, that’s really powerful. And yeah, so it seems like, yeah, you, you can get enough information to really, you know, get that person the right ad, or at least those, those groups of people, you know, specifically what you would be, something that would be more targeted for them.

Now, if, let’s say any commerce business that’s, listen. It is kind of sold on this and they wanna get into this arena of the audio ads. Kind of the next question, I think we’re, when we’re thinking of digital advertising, no matter what type of advertising it is, the next logical question then is okay. What type of ads as far as the content of these ads are more successful than others?

Based on your experience, are there specific pieces of content that outperform others where if somebody’s going down this road, they can kind of try to gravitate to that type of content? 

Yeah, so I’d say. The, one of the biggest variables in determining the answer to your question would be the type of e-commerce brand.

So let’s, let’s distinguish. Quickly between the two extremes. Enormous behemoth. Yeah. E-commerce. Mm-hmm. And something that’s niche. Right. Very, very specific. Yeah. So that the opportunity for that large whale is kind of what we discussed with Amazon, where it’s like, okay, I’m so many things to so many different people.

If I’m gonna interrupt someone for 15 or 30 seconds, I wanna put my best foot. Yeah. So, you know, I’ve got an absolute disaster of a kind of yard out there. Mm-hmm. So, you know, I need, you know, rakes and some kind of leaf blowing equipment. Right, right, right. And that’s gonna be anyone who decides anyone who wants to put that in front of me right now, given what I’m looking outside my window app Uhhuh.

But they’re gonna have a, they’re gonna have a good shot, be money well spent. So, so that would be the case, I think for, for the, the, the large side. Then if you go niche. I think much more leans towards all. Okay. So what are, generally speaking, a a, a smaller D to c e-com brand will have a very good idea as to what type of customer is attracted or likely to be attracted to their offering or service.

Okay. Very often it’s based on a lifestyle interest or affinity. Mm-hmm. It’s pretty easy and reliable. I won’t wanna say easy, but it’s pretty reliable to map the, the, that interest or affinity, whether it’s. Fitness, arts and crafts, artisanal cheese, whatever, whatever it might be, you could, you could relatively reliably map that to a genre of content.

Mm-hmm. That is popular in the audio space. I see. And from there you can create almost your own, what we would call a cut a slate of titles, podcast shows, ad stations. Mm-hmm. Playlists. And you could stitch together this kind of, as I said, slay of, of, of media. Mm-hmm. And, and then use that as your, as your, as your pool, your inventory pool Yeah.

To serve ads against. And so in that instance, you’re, you’re, you’re not varying the ad creative as much as the large. E-com retailer, the massive whale who’s really being so many different things to different people. Right. You, you, you, there’s, there’s a greater consistency, but the actual targeting is, is, is, is very, very important on the front end.

Mm-hmm. To, like I said, map the interests. That, that or the appeal that your particular service has. Mm-hmm. Mapping that appeal to particular genres of content I see. In the audio space. Yeah. 

Yeah. So it sounds like for the niche business, it’s, it, it’s not necessarily as complicated as they may think to come up with this particular content.

They really just are gonna need to look at their existing. Customer personas that they’ve already established for whatever marketing they’re already doing. You know, they’re looking at those personas. Their ideal customer, they probably have, you know, certain personas already existing and they already have certain types of advertising, so they just need to kind of on on, in each of those different personas create almost like, I guess you could say an audio version of the ad that they’re already doing for that customer.

Is that. Yeah. Is that kinda what they want to do? Yeah. And, and the second dimension Arnold will be, would be growth stage. Yeah. Mm-hmm. So, you know, there, I was kind of giving an example of, of relatively early stage in the sense that you start off with your, your, your best customers if you will. You’ve got a cl generally speaking, you’ve got a clear idea of who they are, you’re solving a particular need or problem there.

Right. And then often when with, with. You then start to address, okay, what’s the next group of customers that I could appeal to? Like I’m thinking about, for some reason I’m thinking about e-com apparel sites. Okay. That will, will start off based around a, a, a pretty small niche group of highly sophisticated, you know, apparel hunters, right?

People who are fashionable, let’s say. Mm-hmm. And then once it hits a certain scale, There’s a whole other tier of, of, of, of an audience that is, you know, not maniacally following every street wear or fashion piece of news or content, but at the same time has a more casual, but nonetheless a passing interest in the space.

And, and the next stage of growth for that e-com brand might actually be this audience. Right. And so marketing to that audience that, as I said, is, is less passionately aware and sophisticated as the core mm-hmm. Is, is, is requires something a different approach and, and a different presentation. Yeah. And, and that’s the value of data in that it helps you position i
n the best optimal way right to that consumer. 

Yeah, for sure. Yeah, it, it all does start with that data. You’ve gotta have that data cuz otherwise if you don’t, you know, you may be kind of shooting in the dark. And it also, with data, you know, with startup brands, a little bit more difficult. They may not have.

A lot of data initially. They haven’t sold a lot, many products yet. They’re, they could be looking at, you know, to create their a initial advertising. They’re probably looking at other competitors in their space and, you know, trying to do some similar things. But yeah, after time, over time, having, getting more and more sales, you’re acquiring all of this data, then yeah, I think it’ll be a lot more easier to, you know, to see.

What types of customers are purchasing, where are they purchasing from, and then creating those different That’s right. Uh, per personas. Well pause when you ready to wrap things up. I wanted to see if you could share a quick case study or just a general example of a brand that you’ve seen that has had significant success by, you know, leveraging hyper targeted audio ads.

Yeah, I guess one that comes to mind would be Target. Okay. I’m obviously a big national retailer. Yeah. And when I think about the, the creative teams, uh, inside Target that have like such enormous complexity and volume, when you think about. There’s so many stores nationwide. Yeah. So many products within each store.

There’s a cadence of promotions and deals that change week over week. Mm-hmm. That sometimes are only specific to certain stores. Uh, there’s also the, the case where. Certain stores are brand new and have got Starbucks and a, a Disneyland inside them. And of course, why wouldn’t you want to tell the people about that?

Because it’s amazing. But not all of them have got the Disneyland inside, so, right. You don’t wanna just say that to everybody and because you’re gonna leave loads of people disappointed. So, so much kind of both volume and complexity and you know, we actually kind of set up a mini kind of target team inside the company, uh, at AMA that enable them to e
ffectively the equivalent of updating a Google Doc every week. Mm-hmm. And then their audio advertising is, is hyper current. Every day in every single market so that it, when there’s something on sale, it’s actually available in that store when there is a remodel of a store, if there’s an event happening.

Yeah. It’s, it’s specific to that store and it’s, it’s kind of this machine that we didn’t have before, but that we basically built for Target. Mm-hmm. That, as I said, makes a really impressive use of, of not just audio, but then the. The, the, the platform itself in, in terms of being able to optimize creative based on data.

[00:26:06] Yeah. But to do so with a really, really high level of flexibility and agility so that when things change as they invariably do, right, it’s, it’s, it’s doable. It’s viable to, to be responsive and to make these adjustments. Which, when you think about, you know, going into a recording booth and laying down a master and producing an audio ad, it’s kind of like, now how can you change that?

Exactly. You can’t. But, but actually now you, you, you can, and you can be almost as agile as, as, as we’ve seen people be with kind of display and social media, which is, which is great. 

Wow. Yeah, that’s, that’s powerful stuff. Yeah. It’s just the technology that’s out here today that’s unlabeling un enabling these brands to be able to, yeah, I mean, it’s almost like you’re creating real time.

You know, advertising and being able to pivot, like you said. That’s right. Just so quickly. That’s where, you know, years before or decades before, you know, wasn’t quite possible. You know, when we’re just dealing with the days of the, you know, radio and a, as. For the radio. I mean, that was a, when you think about that and then and now, I mean that was a, I can imagine a huge process when you’re getting your ad on a radio station at a specific time and the process to getting it to them and selecting your segment.

If you’re looking to make any changes, you probably have. Several, you know, you’re probably committed or you were committed to like, you know, a few months at a time or several weeks at a time in order to pivot or make changes. You’re, you’re, you got a whole nother timeframe that you gotta deal with and to try to get in.

Yeah. So, yeah, it’s, we’re in a whole new world now, so, uh, yeah. Interesting stuff. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that example of, of Target and you know, how they’re doing. Well, this has been an awesome conversation, Paul. I’ve, I’ve definitely, you know, learned a lot and I know our listeners and viewers have as well, so it’s a, it’s a hot area and I know it’s gonna just con, continually change and just, you know, really grow and audio and it’s definitely something that an e-commerce branch shouldn’t discount, you know, because, you know, even, even, because like I said before, there’s so much of a push for this video.

Yeah. You don’t wanna forget about audio because there’s definitely an opportunity there. Well, I always like to close things out to so that we can switch gears here a little bit just so our audience can get to know you a little bit better. If you don’t mind sharing one closing fun fact about yourself that you think we may be interested to know. 

Oh, fun fact. Oh, well, okay, so I’m, I’m looking at my reflection here on the screen. I, I, I don’t think this’ll be interesting for anyone to know, but it’s, it’s, it’s, I guess what, what I’ve got, I, no one, I’ve cut my own hair. Good since I was 10 years old. Okay. Wow. Which I probably won’t surprise you cuz you can see me here on this, on this screen.

But, but yeah. Not, not a hand has been laid on my head. Okay. For, uh, for, for over three decades. Wow. Which, you know, I don’t know what that says about me, Carl. 

That’s impressive. At, at 10. Yeah. That’s very impressive. Yeah. You’ve got me beat. I’ve been cutting my own hair for probably. Wow. Probably just a good 20 years maybe.

That’s probably about it. Yeah. I don’t think at, at the age of 10, I don’t think I would’ve had the nerve to try. 

Yeah. When it’s, it’s, you’re right. It’s not that big a deal when you, when you’re, when you’re an adult, but um Right. Yeah. In the early days it was a, a little bit contentious with my parents that way.

Arlen: Yeah, I can imagine. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I don’t know if my parents would’ve permitted that back in the day for sure. Well, that’s awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. Fun fact. I appreciate that. Lastly, before we do let you go, if you don’t mind sharing the best way for our listeners and viewers to, to contact you if they wanna reach out to you and then pick your brain anymore about audio advertising.

Oh, sure. We got a, we got a new site, actually had a little bit of a rebrand at the beginning of the year, so a million ads.com. Okay. Is the site loads of information on there? Couple of demos and uh, You know, hit me up LinkedIn or, or my email is, is is first name dot last [email protected]. Paul Kelly.

Okay, that’s awesome. Well, we’ll have the link to the site and show show notes, and that’s an easy one to remember. Just a million ads.com. Definitely recommend people to check you out there and if they wanna reach out to you, they’ll look you up on the on the social networks. Well, thanks again Paul, for joining us today.

We really appreciate having you on the e-Commerce Marketing podcast. 

Thank you, Arlen.

Podcast Guest Info

Paul Kelly
Chief Revenue Officer of A Million Ads