Robotic Radio

Annika, Marketing Architect’s AI guru, takes radio media buying to new level.

Marketing Architects sure knows how to hire the right folks. For example, the Minneapolis-based ad agency hired Annika. And, without any question, she makes radio advertisers happy. 

She’s a media buying guru who taps years of historic performance data and automatically determines the best inventory for each advertiser among 3,000-plus stations. 

What’s more, she can find and hyper-target markets, networks, and formats to ensure the best placements for key audience impressions.

What’s extra cool: Annika improves with each media buy while overseeing local broadcast, national networks, pure-play (Pandora and Spotify), satellite (Sirius XM), digital ad networks, NPR, and — most recently — podcasting.

Annika’s coworker Abbot
expands Marketing Architects’
AI capability.

Her co-worker, Abbot, rocks the house, too. Around the office, he’s known for constantly improving conversion strategy in real time, and at the same time, helping clients better understand their audiences, complete sales, and direct consumers to a website, a retail outlet, or call center based on individual responses. Plus, he offers controlled, extra-fast A/B testing of multiple offers simultaneously — and, yes, he even hones creative. 

Perhaps the best part: they work for free. They don’t really care about paychecks. That’s because Annika and Abbot are — you guessed it — robots. Welcome to the future. But it’s not really the future. It’s all happening today thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).  

But AI isn’t only helping agencies like Marketing Architects; it’s also boosting radio programming and sales departments. AI makes finding all radio content as easy as a Google search — anyone can search, track, and verify (in near real time) every piece of advertising, whether it’s a spot, a mention, an endorsement, or a live read by a DJ. 

The result? Serious transparency broadcasters can use to get credit for embedded media, while advertisers get proof their campaign is being heard — and acted on. 

AI-generated reports include automated air-checks of each mention and spot, impression delivery summaries, and detailed audience analysis. When on-air talent off-handedly mentions an advertiser, AI knows it and reports it. And if a client wants to know about a competitor’s campaign, that’s not a problem.

Maria Zivkovic, marketing campaign manager at Marketing Architects, says AI’s benefits are plentiful and that clients appreciate advertising with performance that’s both monitored and refined without agency or buyer bias. She adds that AI offers advertising that’s truly optimized for maximum bottom-line impact, advertising that lands in top markets — 80 percent of impressions clear in the top 50 markets — and rates far more efficient than the competition.

One of Marketing Architects’ clients,, a company that sells reading glasses online, tapped Annika to evaluate, process, and improve hyper-targeted media buys specifically for their customer profiles, business goals, designated market areas, and even past experience with a former ad agency. says customer acquisition costs improved by 33 percent and that it has never seen as much clarity in data reports.

Zivkovic says Annika helps radio campaigns “reach target consumers in more places, more frequently.”  

“With rapid testing of creative and programmatic buying, radio is a cost-effective and essential part of an omnichannel strategy,” Zivkovic adds. “Radio advertising can burnish a brand and boost sales at the same time. Offers such as trials, demos, coupons, and guides can be tested for optimization. And response can be guided to custom landing pages, short codes for text messaging and unique toll-free numbers that provide direct attribution.”

She does add that AI’s impact is limited unless it is “directly integrated, working with the best creative to support the product, and built to continually act in the best interest of client. Consumer preferences for response have changed a lot during the past few years, so testing unique calls-to-action and tracking has never been more important. It’s challenging to optimize, but also incredibly exciting to be a radio agency today.”

Artificial Intelligence is Real

Another company, Veritone Inc. in Costa Mesa, Calif., is making a name for itself in AI among the tech and ad industries.

Veritone, in business since 2014, can track and monitor radio’s terrestrial signals via AI. So Veritone records, transcribes and catalogs audio — both programming and advertising — into searchable databases in near real time.

Veritone’s senior vice president, Drew Hilles, says the company’s offerings grew from the frustration of not being able to get real-time data. “There were no systems that allowed for real-time reports,” says Hilles, who has 20 years of radio sales experience. “We had to listen to the airplay to find the ad messages. Now with AI, users can get content in real time. It’s a dramatic improvement in ad verification and attribution modeling.” 

In essence, radio can now see all of its content in one area: searchable, discoverable, and trackable anytime. Radio sales staff can track ad accounts to make sure that advertisers are getting reports in real time. 

Veritone says in one instance, eight radio stations had 21 sales administrators spending 80 percent of their day pulling air checks for clients. With Veritone’s technology, one person does it in 20 minutes.

One of Veritone’s products, aiWARE, can replicate some of what the human brain does, such as language processing, face and object recognition, sentiment analysis, anomaly detection, and prediction.

This summer, Veritone gave audio giant iHeartMedia a license to its aiWARE to automatically process iHeart’s audio content in real time. Now iHeart can track all advertising, content, and host-read endorsements for more than 200 of its radio stations in the top 50 markets. 

Veritone also gives iHeart comprehensive analytics of its broadcasts and digital audio streams. And iHeart will use Veritone’s programmatic platform.

Tim Castelli, iHeart’s president of national sales, marketing, and partnerships, says Veritone’s artificial intelligence capabilities represent “another important step toward a smarter future in audio [that will give] us more opportunities to enhance our advertising and content initiatives.”

iHeart will be able to use the Veritone system across its platforms, including audio, social media, podcasts, concerts, and events. 

CBS Radio is another Veritone client. In fact, it tested Veritone’s AI tool to see if it could improve ad targeting and was so satisfied with the results, it signed a $1.7 million deal with Veritone to cover 117 stations in 26 markets nationwide.

Now CBS Radio is using Veritone’s system for both ad sales and content management, including talent training, sharing relevant programming, and monitoring competitors’ broadcasts.

CBS Radio’s Airtime Analytics — powered by technology
firm Analytic­Owl — is serving more than 1,700 of the radio
network’s advertising clients.

All About Analytics

Incidentally, earlier this year, CBS Radio began offering a tool called Airtime Analytics that measures an advertiser’s lift in website traffic following a radio spot. Stations can then help advertisers understand their most successful creative and daypart executions.

The company behind the tool, Analytic­Owl, is a broadcast analytics platform used to measure creative effectiveness and audience response.

David Ballinger, founder of Analytic­Owl, says hundreds of CBS Radio clients are using Airtime Analytics “to prove that radio does in fact drive website traffic. This is the first time a radio company has used analytics on a national level and now … advertisers can finally gain a better understanding of the immense impact of radio on their overall marketing mix.”

Jon Blum, vice president and director of local sales and corporate partnerships at CBS Radio, says CBS Radio has more than 1,700 clients connected to CBS Radio Airtime Analytics — and they’re all getting real-time actionable intelligence and insights. 

Blum says one of its clients, Harbor Chevrolet in Los Angeles, ran a Labor Day campaign this year from Aug. 14 through Sept. 3. “During that window, the client saw an 8-percent incremental lift in website traffic, with 61 percent of that traffic being … first-time visitors,” Blum says. “With the analytic insights, the client tripled their initial advertising investment with CBS Radio Los Angeles, and felt confident that they were getting an excellent ROI.”

Another company, Jelli, which works in the audio ad industry, is also tapping technology to help radio advertisers.

Mike Dougherty, CEO of Jelli, says radio can reach people at unique times when they are less distracted by competing ads. “For direct response advertisers, this means you can hold your audience’s attention exclusively and be a part of their daily habits that Facebook and Google can’t reach,” Dougherty says. 

One of Jelli’s products, SpotPlan, is a programmatic, demand-side platform that lets advertisers plan and buy broadcast radio conveniently online with a few clicks in minutes, and it includes analysis so advertisers can easily compare and revise campaigns. Plus, it can target programmatic audiences in behavioral and intent-based categories.

Dougherty says the goal with SpotPlan is to make buying radio as easy as buying digital, and adds that it has allowed “new money” to be spent on radio

He says SpotPlan reaches more than 245 million people per month, and it has a 37-percent listening share in the United States. More than 1,500 stations have added Jelli technology.

Customers involved in the launch include the top agencies Starcom, Mediavest/Spark, Dentsu Aegis Network, Horizon Media, Havas Media, and IPG Mediabrands.

Spotify Offers Do-It-Yourself Radio Ads 

Spotify radio ads

The ad-supported audio streaming service Spotify is making it easier for advertisers to get their messages out with its new do-it-yourself ad studio. Spotify claims it’s the world’s first self-serve ad maker.

The concept is simple: advertisers create their own audio ads in minutes with professional voiceovers. Costs start at just $250. 

Spotify says there is no experience necessary to create the spots and that the service is open to businesses of all sizes. 

A Spotify spokesperson says the studio is in beta now and that the platform lets users set target audience and budget — and track results via a dashboard.

“It’s part of our ongoing commitment to bring ad innovation to advertisers and consumers,” the spokesperson said. “We’re focused on re-imagining audio advertising; we think there’s tremendous white space for innovation here.” 

Spotify adds that the spots let advertisers reach their audiences “where the other big ad platforms and visual mediums can’t: at the key moments of people’s lives where they’re listening to music.” 

One of the first customers testing the beta version is the University of Denver. Victoria O’Malley, director of marketing and communications for University College at the University of Denver, says the university “jumped at the opportunity” to take part. 

“We were thrilled to test it. It’s simple to use. I chose an audience [with an age range], set a budget, typed in a script, chose some background music, and then there was a fully produced Spotify ad up and running,” O’Malley says. “For those familiar with other social media advertising platforms, the Spotify Ad Studio will be intuitive.” 

She says the tool gave her a lot of voice options and that she could make changes as needed. “This flexibility, especially compared to traditional radio, is another reason we were attracted to advertise on Spotify,” she says.

O’Malley says the school’s primary objective was to reach older millennials seeking online education. “We have to break through the noise in a competitive market, and this was one of the ways we achieved that,” she adds. 

O’Malley says the 30-second ads focused on the idea of impacting the world with graduate education. “We directed folks to our website … to get them to learn more. So far, we’re really satisfied with our reach and ad frequency, plus the targeting options available,” she adds.

O’Malley wouldn’t share specific results, but she did say she was able to change parameters in real time. After noticing that 80 percent of users who clicked the ad were coming from a rock or pop station, she said she adjusted the campaign’s target and improved her numbers. 

The Spotify spokesperson says the company will begin testing the studio in “select additional markets. Our intention is to roll this out in all our advertising markets over time. We are on the road to becoming a full-scale advertising platform.”