An ad that kills all other ads: Pandora to launch sponsored listening sessions

Pandora recently announced it’s planning to launch a sponsored listening product that will enable brands to give listeners an hour of ad-free streaming through the service. 

The initiative, which is already live in the US, is set to launch in the local market in the second quarter of 2015, giving local advertisers another means by which to access users on the platform.

With sponsored listening, a user is invited to interact with a commercial and then once this is done, an ad-free hour of listening is activated.

During the beta phase of testing in the US, Pandora used rich media ad units—featuring video, slideshows and interactive spots—to encourage listeners to activate the sponsored hour of uninterrrupted listening, and it’s likely that a similar approach will be employed on this side of the ditch. 

“Our ability to target and engage at scale fulfils a key need of advertisers today and sponsored listening is a key product that provides that relevance and cut-through while also rewarding listeners with more of the music they love,” says Pandora commercial manager Melanie Reece. “Pandora has created a digital ecosystem between bands, brands and fans and as we listen to each of our stakeholders, we will keep evolving to enable and empower the connection between them.”

The concept of brands giving users access to an online experience—or content—that is usually exclusive to paying subscribers is by no means new. Previously, AUT University has given readers access to the content behind The NZ Listener paywall as part of a sponsorship deal with the publication.   

In 2011, the Ford Motor company (through its Lincoln brand) also targeted 200,000 heavy newspaper readers with an offer to pay for digital subscription to the New York Times for a year at a time when the publication launched its paywall.   

Land Rover, Corona, TruTV and Yuengling and Gatorade have already used Pandora’s service in the United States. And with the now available to all US advertisers, more names will be added to that list over the next few months.

There have been some question marks over why users would ever engage with a visual ad on platform designed for listening, but the addition of sponsored posts gives listeners an incentive to interact with the ads. 

“Opportunities to engage with our consumers around new vehicle launches within premium listening environments are difficult to find,” said Land Rover digital marketing and social media manager for the North American region Kim Kyaw after experimenting with the service.  “Pandora’s Sponsored  Listening product allowed consumers to engage with the vehicle – by watching a video or by  interacting with a 360 degree unit – for at least 15 seconds.”

The initiative also gives the brand cut-through in the sense that one hour of the listener’s streaming is entirely attributable to that single brand. 

Pandora has also increased the size of its footprint across Australia and New Zealand by picking up a pair of new staff members. 

The streaming service has appointed Thomas Heymann to head up artist and music industry relations across its Australia and New Zealand territories.

Heyman most recently launching on-demand music streaming service, Deezer, as head of Australia and New Zealand, and before that he worked with the likes of Cold Chisel, Led Zeppelin and The Doors to name a few, as vice president of strategic marketing for Warner Music.

In addition, Pandora’s local arm has appointed a new account manager in Glen Meltzer, joins from TVNZ where he worked in an online ad trafficking role.

Pandora currently has over 360,000 listeners, which Reece says advertisers can access through the platform.       

“We plan and book campaigns using our own first-party data, we also voice and create digital assets at no charge – it’s all part of the service.”

While Pandora has quickly established its place in the market as one of the dominant online streaming services, Kim Dotcom has just started his online music-streaming journey with the launch of Baboom, which Dotcom says will give 90 percent of all proceeds directly back to artists.  


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