iHeartMedia to Offer Automated Purchasing for Broadcast Radio

New Ad-Buying Platform Set to Launch Later This Year Relies on Targeting, Insights

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Radio giant iHeartMedia will make its broadcast inventory available for automated purchasing later this year.

The goal is to bring an additional level of sophistication and operational ease for buyers purchasing broadcast radio. iHeartMedia's move follows the lead of a digital ad ecosystem's widescale movement towards automated buying and selling.

"This is our ability to introduce targeting and insights for radio at scale," said Brian Kaminsky, the company's president-programmatic and data operations in a phone interview.

Inventory from all of iHeartMedia's 850-plus stations will be available for automated purchase. Buying will be executed through a platform the company is currently creating in conjunction with ad-tech startup Jelli. The platform, according to Mr. Kaminsky, should be available this summer, but will not operate as bidding process. "We're not building in a bidding component at this time and are using our existing revenue management process to establish the prices in iHeartMedia's private marketplace," he said.

The service will, however, allow buyers to trigger ads based on market conditions. Giving an example, Mr. Kaminsky said a mortgage broker looking to advertise in markets where mortgage applications reach above a certain threshold could give iHeartMedia a target number -- say 10,000 -- and instruct it to run ads as soon as a market hits the number.

At first, the iHeartMedia team will be responsible for trafficking the ads, but Mr. Kaminsky said the system will eventually automate that part of the buy. The inventory reserved within the system will be guaranteed, at least at first. The process from reserving to airing an ad can be completed in an hour or less, Mr. Kaminsky said.

iHeartMedia will use digital signals to gauge if the ads are effective, according to Mr. Kaminsky. One method he outlined will be utilizing the location information of the iHeartMedia app user base to see if there's a change in the number of iHeartRadio listeners going to a particular retail location after an ad runs. iHeartMedia will use offline signals, such as purchase data, to gauge effectiveness as well.

The company also intends to eventually create a version of this platform (managed by a subsidiary), which will sell ads from other radio networks.

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