WPP and iHeartMedia join forces to lure more audio branding business
WPP is hooking up with IHeartMedia on a new partnership aimed at luring more audio business from marketers. The venture, called “Project Listen,” will offer creative consulting and media planning covering multiple platforms, including broadcast radio, digital streaming, podcasts, smart speakers and live events.
The two companies, which plan to announce the initiative today at Cannes, want to capitalize on the rising interest in audio advertising. The medium is enjoying a renaissance thanks to the surging popularity of podcasts and digital streaming.
“Project Listen is about tapping into the scale of audio and moving from the traditionally transactional radio business to the future of audio advertising where insights and ideas lead the way to growth for brands,” iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman said in a statement.
Consumers are listening to audio content for an average of 17 hours a week, according to new research from iHeartMedia. Ad spending in the U.S. on podcasts jumped 53 percent last year to $479 million, with podcast revenue projected to grow to $1 billion by 2021, according to a new report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and consultancy PwC. The most interest is coming from direct-to-consumer retailers, followed by financial services, according to the report. It notes that host-read ads remain the most popular format, accounting for nearly two-thirds of ad spend.The rising spending has created a new battlefield for audio ad and consulting dollars. The WPP-iHeartMedia announcement follows a move earlier this month by Pandora to debut ‘Studio Resonate,” a consulting arm that aims to help brands navigate tasks like creating a “sonic logo,” which is a tune or sound that listeners associate with any given brand. Pandora plans to plug it at Cannes.
WPP and iHeartMedia plan to experiment with modern audio marketing programs at a new “creative audio studio” at WPP-owned GroupM’s headquarters at 3 World Trade Center in New York. “As consumer behavior evolves, from the media they enjoy to how they relate to brands and make purchase decisions, it’s essential to have a modern approach to creative and strategy for all media, including audio,” WPP CEO Mark Read said in a statement.
The two companies will also collaborate on media planning offerings that integrate iHeartMedia’s audience tools with GroupM’s proprietary data to “uncover new insights and support novel measurement approaches,’ according to a press release. The findings will be shared in quarterly reports to clients. Also part of the program is a new monthly podcast called “Project Listen” slated to include 18 episodes through 2020 that delve into lessons from client pilots and research to “help inspire more advertisers to embrace audio’s new capabilities.”
The first episode will be recorded at Cannes at WPP’s beach venue. Guests will include General Mills Chief Brand Officer Brad Hiranaga, media personality Ryan Seacrest and Will Pearson, host of the “Part Time Genius” podcast.