What’s Driving The Dramatic Rise of Programmatic Audio?

by Greg West Global Media and Entertainment

Greg West, Head of Programmatic, Global

In a world that is becoming increasingly digital and mobile, the rising significance of audio cannot be ignored. Greg West, Head of Programmatic at Global, explains the digital audio landscape and how Programmatic Audio is set to drastically change how brands communicate with consumers.

At Global, we’re passionate about media and entertainment. This passion has led us to become a world leading Media & Entertainment group and the largest radio company in Europe.

Inspired by the growing uptake of audio connected devices, in 2014 Global launched DAX – a programmatic audio platform to connect advertisers with listeners worldwide. Five years on and DAX now reaches more than 130 million people through premium audio publishers and is the most sophisticated audio advertising platform available. Developing DAX continues to be a fascinating and eclectic journey from a virtually non-existent programmatic audio industry to what is now a mature and conditioned market, driven by DAX itself.

What’s All The Noise About?

According to the latest figures from the RAJAR’s Midas Audio Survey, over 26 million people now listen to digital audio each week in the UK. That’s audio content delivered on a connected device and includes digital radio, streamed music, and podcasts. With the Internet of Things driving innovation at full steam, the number of interactive devices is continuously growing – even my new toothbrush has an app, though I’m yet to work out how to play digital audio through it!

Streaming audio is the third largest activity on a mobile device. In fact, we see nearly half of all digital audio consumption on mobile devices. To the benefit of advertisers, listeners are immersed in this environment as the majority of listening is done through headphones. We also see trends which show that listeners develop loyalty to the supplier and host, meaning brand salience is high.

In addition, digital audio is consumed while on the go in numerous different places, presenting a wide variation of opportunities, partly because audio is screenless. This means that the cross-media format proposition is powerful; we’ve seen great results for  electricity provider E.ON. They used geo-targeteting to provide people in proximity to their outdoor advertising with audio content.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have also noticed the virtual assistant ‘Alexa’ coming on the scene, amongst others. The revolution is fully underway and the growth in smart speaker consumption has surpassed that of most other devices in their initial period of growth (such as the smartphone or iPod).

Programmatic Audio In The Making

DAX launched Europe’s first programmatic audio campaign in 2015 and going to market without any previous programmatic investment was no easy feat. So, what makes a programmatic audio campaign? We offered clear definitions to our agencies and technology partners. Working with our technology partner, Adswizz, to develop the Supply Side Platform (SSP), we broke down the requirements to specific key areas and conducted an assessment on which Demand Side Platform (DSP) partners would be needed for which clients. DAX became the exclusive supplier to Xaxis Audio in the UK, who we have continued to supply and grow with.

DAX is continuously evolving and the end goal is to enable buyers to invest in programmatic audio as easily as they do in video or display. We measure programmatic success against four key pillars:


We ensure a Trader or Optimisation Manager can access our supply in a familiar and seamless way. This means having the right DSP partners. Most audio DSPs use their existing video product as a spring board due to the parities and as mentioned, we strive to make audio as accessible as video.

DAX is available through industry leading platforms including Adswizz Audiomatic, Appnexus, The Trade Desk, and Adobe. We monitor performance of our integration with DSPs to provide feedback to clients and AdTech companies, and provide clarity for any improvement needed.


We have a substantive and evolving publisher list which includes SoundCloud, TuneIn, HowStuffWorks, and radio brands across Global’s portfolio such as Capital and Heart. The audio produced by our partners is premium in both content and brand. Audio creates safe environments for brands and to cement this DAX is certified by Jicwebs – the independent organisation, representing all sides of the digital advertising industry.

Product & Tools

Data is clearly a major priority across all media and audio is no different. We have an integrated Data Management Platform (DMP) with first-party data from our own brands and supply partners, second-party relationships with major publishers, and third-party relationships through our DMP partner, Nielsen Marketing Cloud. Our latest data includes insight into retail spending, TV watching, and personalities. This provides fantastic opportunities through the precision targeting of digital audio. All this information is pushed by us into the DSP, meaning it is accessible to utilise over DAX inventory, giving the buyer as much control as possible.

We also have a very clear strategy when working with AdTech partners to fulfil clients’ objectives and offer weather activation, retargeting vendors, and dynamic audio campaigns. The more options a buyer has at their disposal, the easier they can access what they need.

Where scale needs improvement on an audience strategy, we have DAX verticals. These inferred strategies offer more scale than audience, though more relevance than Run-of-network (RON) from Sports to ABC1 to age brackets.

We created DAX Listener Insight ID – which I’ll come on to – and with this technology we are able to offer IDs to retarget listeners. To solve a problem which is unique to audio it’s not as simple as a adding a pixel to a creative (there aren’t any with audio), so this technology is unique to DAX.


Finally, an important part of programmatic advertising is the accurate and timely visibility of a campaign’s progress. In audio, within the DSP there should be a clear view on what has been delivered and where, and how the audience has consumed it – DAX shows ‘Listen Through Rate’ in place of ‘View Through Rate’ – and what happens post exposure.

DAX launched Listener Insight ID (LIID) two years ago. The tool enables us to track users post exposure to an audio advert across our inventory, providing comprehensive PCAs, and using our DMP data to gain clear insight on the audience. We now also have the DAX LIID dashboard available, which offers a screen for the buyer to see in real time how their campaign is performing.

What’s Next?

In 2018, our research titled The Rise of The Digital Audio Advertiser concluded that 79 per cent of brands agreed it will be important to reach audiences via voice activated devices. This is coming to fruition with the number of programmatic ‘pipes’ set up for audio specifically linked to devices like Amazon Alexa. The take up is huge and according to RAJAR Midas Audio Survey, 17 per cent of all digital audio is listened to via voice activated devices.

Along with these new devices and innovations like 5G offering 30x the speed of 4G, plus the continued increase in mobile usage, audio consumption is rapidly growing. This growth enhances devices and usage (look out for connected cars) and the development of dedicated audio entertainment apps, such as the Global Player.

Podcasts are also fast growing in popularity with just under seven million people in the UK listening to a podcast each week – with this number expected to grow to around 10 million in 2020. Podcasts offer a unique opportunity of access and contextual environments, and this seemingly niche sector is driving growth. With investment into podcast production increasing across the board, as well as at Global, we have worked to include ad impressions served through DAX and host read sponsorship packages in the programmatic audio offering.

So, it’s understandable why the rise of programmatic audio has been so dramatic. If the last few years are anything to go by, we will be seeing a lot more innovation in the future and further changes to an industry which we are excited to be a part of.