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Streaming ahead – By Choueiri Group’s Mathieu Yarak & WARC’s Ashik Ashokan

Choueiri Group’s group senior director, Mathieu Yarak, and WARC’s advisory lead, Ashik Ashokan, weigh up the strengths of streaming platforms and how they fit into the radio and audio landscape

Ashik Ashokan (left), Advisory Lead, WARC and Mathieu Yarak, Group Senior Director, Data & Insights, Choueiri Group.

By Mathieu Yarak, Group Senior Director, Data & Insights, Choueiri Group, and Ashik Ashokan, Advisory Lead, WARC

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What are the key criteria that make customers choose a streaming platform?

Ashik Ashokan: Globally, audio streaming platforms have seen a meteoric rise over the past few years. Yet a few naturally stand out to both creators and marketers for three reasons. Firstly, the size of the user base is a crucial consideration. The larger the base, the wider the net for capturing the minds and hearts of listeners. Secondly, they look for measurement systems on the part of the audio platforms. These play an important role in helping advertisers understand the success of their audio campaigns. Being able to understand engagement rates and other metrics is necessary for marketers to optimise their campaigns. Thirdly, brand safety is something that marketers are learning not to overlook. In recent times, we have seen the industry shy away from ad platforms if there is a risk of their campaigns coming in the way of inappropriate content. An audio platform that provides a safe consumption environment is crucial both for brands and their audiences.

In terms of creativity, what are the best practices when using audio?

AA: The lack of visual stimuli on audio platforms can be a blessing to marketers. Listeners are more actively tuned in and audio has a proven track record of striking more resonance with the emotive connection. The primary step to creativity on audio platforms is to lean in with storytelling and emotion. From primitive man to the modern-day city dweller, the common thread is a fascination with stories. Human beings love to connect with each other through stories and emotions; marketers should not forget this universal insight. When creating content, take a more emotional approach than a functional one. Steer away from describing just the operational benefits of a product. Start building a bond with your consumer with a narrative around how the product makes them feel. Also, look for deep-seated cultural truths that consumers can associate with and embed them in your content.

Where do audio streaming platforms stand in comparison to radio?

AA: Radio is still an important tool in the arsenal of advertising platforms in many parts of the world. Most radio networks have also started operating like digital audio platforms – offering marketing support and new content formats for advertisers. Therefore, the lines between radio and digital audio have increasingly become blurred. However, the key standout for audio streaming platforms is the ability to consume content on-demand and a wider selection of content. These two reasons explain the rise of digital audio platforms even as they start charging a premium. In many markets, we are starting to see listenership on digital platforms far exceed the ones on the radio. Generally, this is skewed towards younger audiences as well. With emerging formats like podcasts becoming a hit amongst the masses, digital audio platforms seem to be a shinier option for marketers. Nevertheless, it is always important to weigh channels according to the presence of your target audience, suitable formats, and your success metrics.

Mathieu Yarak: the pandemic accelerated the consumption and adoption of music streaming platforms. Played on demand and based on your mood and the activity you are doing. However, it played a reversed role for radio in its traditional form. But that does not mean radio is phased out. Both music streaming and radio have found their place in the time-of-day consumption of listeners and generations. Music streaming nowadays is consumed continuously across the day, at a high level of time spent and frequency, across different devices, and with different peak times. Radio peaks in two major day times, with less frequency of listenership and time spent. At the same time, music streaming platforms offer a wider range of advertising formats and activation for advertisers to use when addressing their audiences, along with the rise of podcasts that we are seeing in our region, and that offers a new venue for marketers. Each platform attracts different generations.

With a wealth of data points, how can advertisers tap into music streaming platforms’ first-party data while keeping privacy concerns in mind?

MY: if you are not privacy-proofed, you are doomed. The changes that are happening in our industry and the rise of privacy concerns pushed us to look for different solutions where you can transact media while keeping the privacy of your users at the heart of it. Cleanroom concepts emerged and became the safe haven for advertisers and music streaming platforms to connect and activate their first-party data. These cleanrooms work as vaults for both parties where first-party data is pushed from both sides in a neutral place, matched (usually on hashed emails), and pushed back towards the music streaming platform to activate. None of the parties has visibility of any of the others’ first-party data. Once done, the music streaming platform can uncover a lot of insights about the common users (anonymously). Their behaviour throughout the day, the mood, the music genre they consume, the activities done, and many more, and start building valuable segments/audiences for the advertisers to first enhance their audience composition, and second create relevant creatives that address each of the segments, moving towards precision marketing at scale.