Pandora launches sponsored listening sessions, NZTA jumps aboard

It’s no secret that digital media has, at least to some degree, flipped the power structure in advertising. With the advent of adblockers and an explosion of piracy, many consumers no longer feel obligated to view advertising.

Forcing ads onto online consumers simply doesn’t work; to the contrary, it’s been posited as one of the reasons for the development of ad blockers in the first place. So, in this context, advertisers and media companies have had to devise new ways of communicating with consumers in a way that doesn’t annoy them.

One way that Pandora has responded to this challenge is by introducing so-called ‘sponsored listening sessions,’ which give listeners an hour of ad-free listening when they engage with an ad served onto the platform.

To launch this new product, Pandora teamed up with the NZ Transport Agency, which used the platform to push its new mobile distractions campaign.

Listeners on the app are greeted with a proposition to watch a 45-second spot in return for an immediate hour of ad-free listening.

“An hour of uninterrupted listening aligned perfectly with our mobile driving distractions message says Katy Baker, senior account manager at OMD Wellington.” “The opportunity to further drive home the simple behavioural message to the core audience for a full hour with 100 percent share of voice, a rare opportunity in the current media landscape.”

While it might seem counter-intuitive for a mobile distraction campaign to encourage listeners to engage with a mobile phone, the approach does make sense when viewed in the context of listener behaviour in the car.

Usually, before departing, Pandora listeners connect their phones to the stereo, either through Bluetooth or a cord, and then log into the app. The moment they log into the app, the opportunity of an hour of ad-free listening will be presented—which means the message is often delivered at the best time possible.

This campaign occurs at time when online music streaming has increased in popularity and now accounts for the biggest proportion of New Zealand music revenue.  

That said, research out of the US—a more mature streaming market—recently showed that traditional radio still ruled the road, and that only a small proportion of drivers listened to online radio services in their cars.       

Infographic: Radio Still Rules The Road | Statista

                    You will find more statistics at Statista

However, Baker says that the aim with this campaign was to reach a very specific target market, rather than a broad audience.   

“We’d already identified Pandora as the ideal platform to reach our young New Zealand audience with NZ Transport Agency’s mobile distractions message,” Baker says. “When we saw the Sponsored Listening Pilot opportunity it only further enhanced the value of Pandora as part of this key campaign.”

In addition to rewarding listeners, Baker also says the campaign achieved a level of cut-through difficult to attain in the current media landscape—in turn leading to greater engagement among the target market.

On a broader international level, Pandora will hope initiatives like this help to drive revenues for a company that remains in the red.    

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