We’re Making Advertising More Palatable: Pandora

Single white egg with happy faces souronded by blank brown eggs.

Having large chunks of ads shoved together doesn’t cut it in the online music streaming space. Instead, music streaming site Pandora says it’s seen a higher ad recall when there’s one or two ads at a time.

“It’s making advertising more palatable and relevant,” said marketing director, Nicole McInnes. “Because we don’t bank them together, there’s a higher recall.”

In Australia, Pandora puts on four ads an hour in-between songs, and in the States demand has increased that to six per hour.

Jack Krawczyk, vice president of advertising product management, added he jokingly says his ultimate career goal is to “make advertising not suck”.

And one way of not having advertising suck is to not scare or annoy consumers.

Say you were tuning in to an ‘easy listening’ playlist full of Sam Smith, JJ Cale and Ed Sheeran. When you’re sitting there, humming along in a dreamy, thoughtful and relaxed state, you wouldn’t expect a sudden change of pace from a 15 second car ad with pumping music.

Chatting about the creative for client ads on the music streaming site, Krawczyk explained how many brands use a music background in their ads to help create an emotional connection with consumers. While it makes sense to not include an ad that has glaringly different beats to what you’re listening to, Krawczyk said it depends on the ad message intended. He said they often get requests for various ways of delivering the creative.

“My favourite is working with entertainment clients that have horror movies,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s best when you’re in that high tempo music to play those ads, but they’ve asked us specifically [about smooth radio] because they want to scare people listening to more smooth music.

“We have to be pretty clear with our customers, ‘no, you can’t do things that are going to upset our listeners’.

“But it really depends. Sometimes it’s not about creating an emotional response with someone, it’s about notifying there’s some sort of promotion that’s happening. And in those cases, it’s not as much about having a musical background behind it, maybe not even having any background behind it, and have that pause in-between music.”

There’s always going to be growing pains when you’re trying to make advertising be received more favourably, and Krawczyk said when they first started doing audience targeting, it slipped their mind that the music streaming site would have to filter out the “family-safe” stations.

“We got a lot of upset listeners,” he said. “It sounds obvious in retrospect. ‘Why would you ever do that?’ But you don’t consider the larger implications. We’ve got years of learning under our belt.”

Krawczyk has a bit of a benchmark for when he can realise he’s reached his career goal. When the founding chief technology officer Tom Conrad moved on from Pandora, he left a departing statement with Krawczyk about Pandora One, the site’s ad-free model: ‘I want the ad listening experience to be as good, if not better, than Pandora One’.

“It’s not an exact binary, but when Tom starts listening to Pandora ad-supported, we’ll know we’ve done our job,” said Krawczyk.

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