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iHeart Pursues “Brand Safety” With Sounder Deal

Media firm invests in contextual targeting for audio

iHeartMedia has announced a partnership with Sounder, an audio intelligence platform.

The media company said it will use Sounder’s Audio Data Cloud to provide podcast creators with AI and machine learning tools “to help them gain critical, real-time insights to accelerate growth and improve monetization.”

It also is making a financial investment in Sounder, as the lead investor in the company’s Series A round. Sounder was founded in 2019 by former executives of Google and Spotify.

iHeart said approximately 750 of its original podcasts use Sounder technology. An important aspect of the announcement is what is called “brand safety” — a means for advertisers to spend on the iHeartPodcast Network’s content confidently.

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“The brand safety solution enables iHeartMedia’s marketing partners to buy across a wide array of creators with the assurance that the content adheres to industry safety standards,” iHeart stated. “The technology will quickly expand to also allow advertisers to customize their brand safety guidelines, unlocking new and more diverse publishers to provide even more effective ad placements.”

Chief Data Officer Brian Kaminsky was quoted saying, “It’s critical that we learn from the challenges advertisers have had with video and social media to deliver safety tools and controls that allow brands to customize their campaigns and ensure that their ads will be delivered at scale in a brand-safe environment.”

He said the partnership also provides “brand suitability tools” that align brands with relevant content and creator sentiments.

Sounder explained these tools on the company’s blog: “Through our brand safety and suitability solution, we can analyze a publisher’s audio content and identify any segments that might not meet the industry safety guidelines. … Knowing a publisher’s audio content is safe and suitable increases the rate a publisher can charge. Brands, too, are eager to share their messages on audio so long as they know their brand identity isn’t at risk.”

The announcement was made by Joe Robinson, iHeartMedia’s president of corporate development and ventures, and Kal Amin, CEO and co-founder of Sounder.

Kal Amin said, “While podcast advertising is growing fast, it’s still a nascent business when compared to traditional radio advertising.”

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