If the weather in June turns dry and balmy in certain New England markets, select radio stations might be triggered to run ads from O’Reilly Auto Parts promoting its batteries for garden equipment. And if the weather suddenly turns stormy, stations might switch to O’Reilly ads featuring deals on car brakes and windshield wipers.

While that scenario is entirely hypothetical, similar weather-triggered promotions are very much in the beginning stages at Carat, the media buying and planning agency that works on behalf of O’Reilly and a slew of other high-profile advertisers.

Carat is now testing out weather-trigger campaigns for retail clients using the Weather Alpha service as well as iHeartMedia’s SoundPoint automated advertising platform, according to Jennifer Hungerbuhler, Denstu Aegis Network’s executive VP and managing director of local video and audio investment, who oversees big radio ad deals for Dentsu’s Carat unit.

“By rotating copy based on real-time weather mapping technology, our clients have experienced increased sales and awareness for products,” says Hungerbuhler.

Carat tapped into another innovation last year when it became the first agency to seal an ad deal with the NextRadio platform. Its client, Home Depot, took advantage of the smartphone app that wakes up FM receivers on mobile devices, inserting on-screen action buttons to product and store information when Home Depot ads ran on the station that a given consumer was listening to.

Those advanced ways of using radio are examples of how Carat seeks to distinguish itself among media planning and buying agencies. “We have a habit of challenging legacy conventions, which has served us well,” says Michael Epstein, CEO of Carat US. “We have the ability to be very agile and flexible in our solutions.”

Carat is also an agency that’s had an outstanding growth streak in recent years. During the last four years, the agency’s revenue has doubled as a result of acquisitions and new accounts, according to its officials. Last year, Adweek put its revenue for 2015 at $160 million when it named Carat its Media Agency of the Year.

In addition to O’Reilly and Home Depot, Carat also counts Macy’s among its big radio spending clients. All three were among the top 20 radio advertisers in Media Monitors radio ad-spend data for full year 2016. Procter & Gamble and General Motors are two other notable clients.

And Epstein says that Carat, and by extension Dentsu, aren’t resting on their laurels. One example of that is Dentsu’s deal last August to acquire a majority interest in Merkle, a data-driven company that provides consumer insights that lead to better people-based marketing strategies.

“We realized we had a couple of gaps,” Epstein says, in explaining why Dentsu bought Merkle. “That acquisition is going to fundamentally change and enhance how we understand people. In the past a lot of that was based on cookies. We have mechanisms now that allow us to identify real people, vs. proxies.”

Hungerbuhler says that Carat is a huge fan of radio. “We’re very active in the audio space. Radio is our passion,” she says.

“Radio has had remarkable stability in terms of listenership. And most importantly, it delivers a strong reach at a very, very efficient price. You probably know this, but its weekly reach is 90%-plus with all demos, including Millennials,” Hungerbuhler adds.

She also notes the power of the disc jockey. “It’s that personal connection with a local deejay that listeners often form that’s absent from digital audio.”

Hungerbuhler and Epstein have some suggestions concerning how radio can be more attractive, such as providing better data and making more inventory available on automated ad platforms. Automated selling is still scary for some stations, but radio sellers seem to have come a long way in understanding the opportunity, she says.

“They need to make private marketplace deals where they make sure they don’t take their costs to the bottom. And I don’t think they will, because they only have a finite amount of inventory,” she adds.

Private marketplaces operate on an invitation-only basis. They allow sellers to have more control over what companies are buying their inventory, and at what price, because the terms of the deal are pre-negotiated.

Hungerbuhler notes that Dentsu Aegis has a goal of becoming “a 100% digital economy business by 2020.” That doesn’t mean its agencies will only advertise on digital properties, but it does mean that traditional media players need to have complementary “digital touchpoints” so Dentsu’s clients can reach consumers on all media channels.

Epstein advises radio sellers to pay attention to consumer media habits. “If you follow the way consumers are trending, and you use that as your compass, you tend to wind up in a good place.”—Janet Stilson

Source: Inside Radio


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