Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Audio tech vendor says it can stop digital audio ads from screaming at you | Advertising Age

Listening to your favorite song on full blast can be a fantastic, emotional experience. But the same can’t be said about audio ads played at the same volume. 

It’s a nuisance that’s plagued both terrestrial radio and linear TV. And it’s also one that exists today in digital audio advertising, which grew 23 percent in 2018 to $2.3 billion, according to industry trade group Interactive Advertising Bureau. Yet audio ads have other issues: There's several seconds of silence between the end of a song and the start of a commercial; ads can sometimes feel flat in their delivery when there's no music subtly playing in the background. 

Audio ad tech company Super Hi-Fi says its tech can fix these problems. Its solution could soon gain widespread usage thanks to a new deal it struck with TargetSpot, a large tech company that helps publishers and advertisers deliver, sell and play their digital audio ads. 

Although companies such as iHeartMedia, Peloton and Elevated Music Group are already using the technology, they are doing so only for music and not commercials. Super Hi-Fi's deal with TargetSpot, however, will mark the first time its tech is used for ads, says Super Hi-Fi CEO Zack Zalon. TargetSpot's customers include CBS Radio, Entercom and Cox Media.

A lot of “digital music experiences are all very similar to each other, there’s a song, then a big gap of silence, then maybe an ad playing at twice the volume, then another big gap, then another song,” Zalon says. His company is solving this problem with a “totally polished-sounding experience, with all of the gaps eliminated, with all of the volume leveled, and with everything sounding as though a live DJ were mixing the experience on-the-fly,” he says.

Super Hi-Fi's tech fills the gap of silence typically heard between the end of the song and the start of the commercial by stitching the two together. It's similar to how a DJ blends music together (known as “cross fading” in the industry). Super Hi-Fi’s tech also dynamically adds music to the background of lifeless audio ads. (Listen to a real-world example below.) 

Although large streaming players have in-house teams that improve the delivery and experience of digital audio ads, they don't have a tool that achieves what Super Hi-Fi is doing at scale, according to an executive at a large audio streaming platform who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "People in the industry are talking about it, but nobody has solved it yet," this person says.

Below is a real-world example of Super Hi-Fi’s technology being put to use in audio ads for TrueCar. The tech automatically selects music to place under the commercial, creating a real-time dynamic ad that can have different music for different genres, or varying energy based on the content that surrounds it. The first example shows Super Hi-Fi's tech in use, while the second recording shows how an ad sounds without it. 

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