An Interview with Steve Dunlop- CEO of A Million Ads [VIDEO]

Charlie Cadbury and Norbert Horvath sit down with Steve Dunlop, CEO at A Million Ads and explore how he got to where he is today and how to stay innovative in the radio industry.

Speakers: Charlie Cadbury, CEO, Say It Now; Norbert Horvath, CTO, Say It Now, Steve Dunlop, CEO, A Million Ads.

Read the full transcript for the video here:

Charlie Cadbury 00:00
So, we are here in New York with Steve Dunlop, the founder of a millionaire’s obviously no buts here as well. Steve, could you tell us a bit about yourself and that’s Sure.

Steve Dunlop 00:11
Hi, everybody. I’m Steve. I’m a Brit living in New York moved here in November 2018. To open our US office, I found a million ads in 2015. In London and our HQ, I guess it’s still there. We have all our engineering team and sales and marketing and operations in London, and our New York office here on 30th. Street and Broadway is a sales operation mainly. And we a million ads do dynamic audio dynamic creative for digital audio advertising. I used to work as a radio producer, I used to work in a glass soundproof box, making adverts and jingles for a rock music radio station called X FM, in Manchester. And at the time, this was in maybe 2007. That kind of time, we use Pro Tools and all of the you know, audition and all of these kinds of tools to to write and script and record voiceovers and record bands and so on. And we used to do versions. So if there was a concert on this weekend, we’d create a version that says, I’m going to use an obvious example. But Oasis plays Live this Saturday. And then you create another version that goes Oasis plays live tomorrow. And then you do the final version. Oasis plays Live tonight at 8pm. So versioning has been kind of part of the radio industry in the audio industry for a long time. And then later on in life, I found myself thinking up a business idea to actually do versioning on steroids. And that’s really what a million ads is all about. It’s just as easy to create a million versions in our tools as it is to create, like I used to do as a producer, three versions. And we can change the voiceover, the sound effects the music, based on actually who’s listening. So we can create a million versions, but make sure that you as a listener, listening on a digital device, here’s the right one at the right time. So it’s not just right moment, it’s not right place right time. It’s also the right message. And making sure that we’re talking to that user with the with the best language the most appropriate to their context, and their situation, rather than just the kind of generic messages that we’ve heard in the past on broadcast radio, for example,

Charlie Cadbury 02:17
and what kind of context kind of levers can you pull.

Steve Dunlop 02:21
So simple stuff, day in time, you feel differently as a person on a Monday morning than you do on a Friday night. So why doesn’t the brand speak to you, like your feeling or at the weekend, Sunday night, you feel different to a Saturday morning, for example. So simply just then time, then date. So that example about Oasis, if it’s Monday through Thursday, then you play the coming up this weekend, if it’s Friday, play that tomorrow, and if it’s Saturday, so those kind of date and time stuff, not trivial in a country like the US where there are five time zones. So based on the location of the user, we change the time. So it’s breakfast time in California, well, it’s lunchtime, in New York, for example. Then location, so we know roughly where where listeners are some most listeners, we know roughly where you are to kind of city level that’s as detailed as we as we know. So again, you might say you know, Hey, good morning, New York, good afternoon, Las Vegas, or whatever it might be. And actually location more often than we used for things like store location. So your closest specs store is on 30th street or on Broadway, whatever it might be based on your location, which is the nearest store. So for retailers, that’s great to kind of drive people into storm. We also know because we know where you are, we know what the weather is like where you are, again, changes our feelings about things. If it’s sunny outside, our disposition is different to if it’s raining. Also, if you’re you know, a home store, then you might want to promote a different product. If it’s raining, you might be thinking about your garden differently, you might be thinking about whether you need to take an umbrella to work with you today. So using all of these kind of data signals we can combine so that you can do all of them at once. So you could do date and time and location and weather. And we have hundreds of others depending on which publisher platform we’re on. For example, we might know what mood of music you’ll listen to what genre of music, which podcasts you’re listening to right now, is it a business use podcast or, or true crime podcast, and we can use that relevant information to actually change the way the voiceover speaks to so that that ad can feel like it’s more context aware and relevant. And as humans, we like that we like familiarity. We like feeling like what we’re hearing is relevant to us, which is which is radio presenters on radio, the breakfast jock on radio, saying, you know, hey, San Diego, how you feeling this morning? We’d like that because it feels like there’s a person talking to me. And so we can do that through dynamic audio advertising.

Charlie Cadbury 04:34
And from the ad perspective, how much more retention or engagement do you get because of that kind of contextual awareness.

Steve Dunlop 04:42
So a range of outcomes but generally up into the right in terms of engagement, recall, Brand Lift and so on. We run studies around most of the campaigns that we do, and we can show 20 to 50% On a normal day on a good day. It really stands out. It’s always a blend of what the creative is as well. So the voice over In the music choices, very important still, and then the words you use and how you use the data within that, if you’re just saying, if you’re tacking on a kind of, hey, New York, hey, Chicago, Hey boss, and at the front, that’s probably not gonna get you all that much kind of overall lift. But actually, if you use that across the ad, and make it feel you have different versions, as one of the things I didn’t mention is what we call sequence. One of the biggest complaints of audio advertising ever is, is repetition. Oh, not this ad. Again, I’ve heard this one 100 times already, we know how many times this user has heard this ad so that the second time they hear it, we can talk about another product feature, or talk about the next phase in the story, or just keep it sounding fresh, and keeping it alive. And actually, when advertisers and their creative team choose to use that. Actually, that’s where we start to see increased engagement and recall, because the ad sounds fresh and real every time.

Charlie Cadbury 05:52
And so and so. And then on a day to day basis, you want to you’re seven years in and you’re you’re the founder and CEO, oh what’s what’s what’s, what does it what kind of a normal day look like? Is there a normal day?

Steve Dunlop 06:03
Yes or No, I mean, I guess all kind of pandemic days feel relatively similar. Just because of the you don’t tend to see many other people or didn’t, I mean, it’s getting getting better now. But suddenly, when I started the business, I was the sole founder, and was literally, you know, emptying the trash, changing the light bulbs, trying to find an office trying to hire people writing code, doing voiceover actually did the voiceover the first few ads that we ever had, which is always a bit embarrassing playing these, you know, in a meeting, so have a listen to play, and it would be my voice coming out of speakers, which is always a bit embarrassing. And my kind of technique or I dare set strategy, retrospectively definitely, it’s a strategy, of course, was always to kind of do a job reasonably just to get it done, and then hire an expert to come and do it. So my first hire was our chief product officer. So he took all this kind of crappy code that I’d written and then did it properly. And it’s kind of step away. And then I went and did all the sales. And then I hired a salesperson, and she did this amazing job of kind of taking that forward. And then as I said that to be creative, not a crazy person. So I’ve always I’m really used to kind of stepping back and and filling the team in, as I just get out of the way, bring the right group of people into the room, I step aside, and then just enable the team to do that to their best work. And then, you know, the job of the founder is kind of three parts. One is, what’s the product? What’s the actual company doing? Two is running a company? How do I pay tax? How do I get an office? How do I comply with employment law, etc. And then three is obviously financing the business and making sure that we’ve got enough money to keep going. And either that’s raising from investors, or it’s managing your profit loss and your balance sheet. And as I’ve matured, through my founder journey, I spend much more time doing the third of those three things. Because as I say, I now have a wonderful team who can do the other two, much better than I can.

Norbert Horvath 07:45
So in the last five years now, six years,

Steve Dunlop 07:48
we just got to seven in August, seven years, right?

Norbert Horvath 07:51
What were the biggest milestones in your growth in digital audio? And how is that compared to the growth with digital audio in general?

Steve Dunlop 08:01
Do you mean, do you mean growth in terms of the growth of a company or the external factors that have changed

Norbert Horvath 08:05
milestones as in growth of the company that really propelled you forward? What were the ones that are most memorable you’d like to share with us?

Steve Dunlop 08:11
Yeah, well, so So my very kind of first moment, when I thought this is we’re onto something here, I was having a meeting with a lady at Pandora, which is one of our earliest and biggest partners, big music streaming service in the US, unfortunately, anywhere else in the world. So I often have to describe what they do, but they’re ad funded music streaming service, and been a great partner of ours. And one of my very early meetings, I my previous job before it became a founder was working for a radio group. So I happen to know people around the industry. And so I gave Lauren a call. And we’re on this video conferencing tool where I was sharing my screen, so she couldn’t see me, she could just see the screen I was sharing, but I could see a little thumbnail of her. And I played this ad dynamic ad and a bit that had a kind of dynamic piece to it. I was watching her really intently, and I remember seeing her go as the kind of the dynamic, yes, we’re onto something. And that was that was, like week three of me quitting my job and going out as a sole founder, I’d written this, as I say, this kind of crappy demo, you know, and so to see someone’s, you know, visceral reaction to having a piece of content, dynamically created for them. I knew I was onto something. And then, you know, my first hire always, you know, momentous occasion, it’s not just me in the room anymore. There’s someone else, and they have mouths to feed, and they have, you know, a home mortgage they need to pay and all that kind of stuff, you know, lovely milestones like that are very, you know, I hold those very dearly. I think in terms of the growth of the business. The kind of real inflection point was when I hired my first sales professional, I was trying to do it myself. Until that point, you know, I can chat and I can evangelize about the product. But it turns out I’m not a very good salesperson and to actually close deals and bring revenue in hide my first salesperson, and sure enough, we close some deals. And actually, I learned a lot from her Silca who, who’s still with us, and and so that’s really stuck with me about growing the businesses out really, almost, you know, hand to hand growing the sales organization as much as we’re growing engineering team or any other part of the business. Because you need to sell what you make. There’s no no good having having, you know, the kind of concepts of building they will come. It’s just not true. You need to actually put it into people’s hands and put it into people’s heads as it were, and get it out there.

Norbert Horvath 10:19
In terms of content itself, where do you see the slider between streaming audio, entertainment, audio, music and podcast? Where do you see

Steve Dunlop 10:27
well, so the person she was was, I mean, I listened to podcasts when I founded the business in 2015, but not many other people did. And so I’ve watched that rise come, if anything, I guess millionaires is a bit early to the kind of the audio Renaissance if you like, funnily enough, I used to make the Breakfast Show podcast when I was back at producer X FM. And I think we probably had 100 downloads, you know, a week, and that was it. And it was really clunky data, you had to synchronize your iPod, and always have a scholar showing all that. And now, of course, podcasting is absolutely built into many people’s immediate consumption diets. And that has that has shifted from 2015. Through to when I started the business through today, for sure. And initially, we didn’t really have a specific, although we’ve always been compatible with with podcasts, or podcasts that had the ad tech stack enables to insert, the kind of ads that we do, streaming has always been able to do it. So we’ve always been comfortable with, say, Spotify and, and then the programmatic layer on top of streaming audio, but podcasts, you know, the original ones were literally mp3 files just kind of uploaded to a server. And now, most of the at least the big the biggest podcasts are all now connected in some way to ad tech that allows those ads to be replaced or dynamically inserted. So that progression has been significant. During during my time in the in the audio industry. And actually what’s been really great to see is there has always been the kind of traditional audio players. So I guess, seems like AdWords and Triton, who’ve had audio specific ad tech have been joined by Google with a noun, specific audio product as part of TV 360, Adobe MediaMath, the trade desk you know, the biggest ad tech players now have audio specific propositions. And again, that’s changed over time. I mean, that’s probably quite old news now, to be honest, but that was definitely in my period. My era. That’s that’s, that’s really been a change.

Norbert Horvath 12:12
So as a follow up question relate to that. I think last year, digital audio was the fastest growing segment that was 58%. Yeah. What would you attribute that growth to?

Steve Dunlop 12:23
Well, I it’s coming of age, and these things are driven by consumer behavior, right? The macro trend, and all of this stuff is this, there’s more ears, listening. And so then, you know, money flows. Following that. And I think there’s more to come, by the way that I’m sure you’ve seen the same things I have, which is where the amount of time we spend on average, and average kind of media consumption day, we are spending a lot of time with audio in one way or another whether it’s podcasting or listen to music or, or radio on in the background. But that share of listening isn’t matched with the share of advertising revenue. And I don’t know if you remember back in probably like 2008 Time Mary Meeker that kind of goes analysts. Which was showing exactly this

Charlie Cadbury 13:06
district just a horrible blue and yellow farmer.

Steve Dunlop 13:10
Yeah, exactly. She needed a little little bit of, you know, finessing of the color scheme. But, but and that’s exactly what’s happening in audio. So I think the 58% is only just the start really catch up. And there’s a lot of structural things that need to continue to happen. It needs to get easier to spend money in audio, it’s hard to spend a lot of money on podcasts, for example, if you come along, and you’re a big brand, and you will spend $5 million at a time, it’s quite hard to get that away on podcasting right now. And that’s because of the tech stack is because of the way audio is bought. And it’s because of the way podcasts are made often still still quite kind of cottage industry style. That’s changing. And it’s professionalizing. And players like Spotify, New York Times, you know, big media engines are propelling podcasting into the future.

Charlie Cadbury 13:53
So it’s looking at kind of, you know, you’re very well placed to kind of comment on radio ads. But if you can cast your mind back to the first ad that you remember one from a while back, that still is lodged in your mind. So I’m

Steve Dunlop 14:04
going to cheat a little bit. It wasn’t specifically an advert, but it is a jingle. Okay. And it’s there was a, as I was growing up, maybe about like 12 years old, there was a show on British TV on a Saturday morning called going live. And to make you remember the number they would sing the number, the number, the number? Oh, 800 double one, double one. And back in the days when you when you when you asked me what’s your, you know, remember this. That’s the first thing that came to my head. And I’m sure it’s not necessarily kind of commercial. But it’s using all the techniques and it ticks all the boxes of why I would remember that it’s some it’s a jingle, it’s catchy. And then of course, it delivers the message and actually on the show, they got you to sing it to the TV. So I’d be sitting there in my living room singing along they had a little song. So here we are. I mean, I don’t give away I’m 30 something years later. I still remember

Charlie Cadbury 14:58
we’ve got quite a splash relationship, you know, after the first kind of global media first first radio ad campaign that you could buy a physical product from, was with Baraka boost. And that was a million ads and sat down. So this whole idea of encouraging the listener to talk back to the advertising very much like going live, did I encourage you to talk back, you know, increases kind of memory retention? Where do you think the role of voice and smart speakers is in the future of this industry,

Steve Dunlop 15:22
I have a fundamental, there’s a big missing link with audio. And one of the reasons why audio hasn’t grown as fast as say, mobile did back in the day when he also the Mary Meeker picture is because it’s actually hard to measure audio still. And there is no live signal today. There was no live signal. If we let’s say we had a speaker on a smart speaker in this room. And we were listening to a Pandora station. And an advert was played Pandora and the advertiser and the kind of ad technology behind all of that. And we got a lot of people coming in. It’s not a common economy, we can do that we allowed to do. The continuity is going to be messed up. Now. There’s no because he’s got she’s got two cameras. So I sent her your mic.

Charlie Cadbury 16:15
Oh, what now? So now. What I’ll ask you about? Well, I’ll ask you about voice. Great. So what do you think is the role of voice and smart speakers in the future of this industry?

Steve Dunlop 16:51
absolutely fundamental. There’s a big issue with audio at the moment, and it’s potentially nobody answers your question about why audio hasn’t fulfilled the space it occupies, is because it’s hard, still hard to measure audio, we could have a speaker on in here playing Pandora station, and Pandora and the advertiser had no idea that there are 10 people in the room, or that we’ve actually heard it, or the volume that we might have had the speaker at any one time. So we know that it was played. But we actually really don’t know anything more than that, unlike, say, digital display, where the click through rate, if someone clicked on that ad, that is the live signal, or in video, the view through how much of a video advert was viewed is a clear signal of intent from the user, and there’s a click and so on as well, in audio, what do I click, and actually the smartest because, of course, the voice action, what I say to the speaker couldn’t become that light. How he said as well, precisely and do I say, Yes, I want to buy this product or add baraka to Alexa and baraka to my shopping cart? Or yes, please tell me more information or whatever the onward journey is. It’s a live signal. And importantly, for my business, where we do a million different versions of an ad, we know will with that life cycle know which version of the audio was the one that created the obvious journey. So then we can do proper optimization and dynamic creative,

Norbert Horvath 18:06
even know, like, it’s

Steve Dunlop 18:09
clear, right to say, No, I don’t want to know more. It’s just as important voice.

Norbert Horvath 18:13
No, there’s a certain way of

Steve Dunlop 18:15
Please no. Absolutely. And because currently, we have none of that. across the industry. This isn’t specifically, this is across audio. And of course, radio gets around it by running panels and surveys, we get around it by running research. But actually, in time, I hope our businesses will grow to mean that we can have the data signals that we need to be able to make this really meaningful and attributable advertising medium.

Norbert Horvath 18:40
What’s your take on smart vehicles and audio in cars?

Steve Dunlop 18:46
So historically, the car has been the home of radio, and I might fluff this number up, but it’s something like 20% of all radio listening in the US is in car. That’s correct. Is that right? And so clearly, that’s a big, that’s a big rump of listening. And you know, previously that the issues with cars, they’re moving, so it’s quite hard to get a data signal in them that’s gone, you know that every freeway now has great selling signal all across the US and all across India, with satellite, broadband and so on, that issue will go away. And that means that the car can be as as connected as our smartphone is in our home is. And in that environment. We can now stream services rather than just having broadcast to us. So all of the flexibility and all of the features and benefits that come from streaming versus broadcast and available in the car. You then wind forward to autonomous vehicles which are coming at some point whether it’s next year according to Tesla or whether it’s in 10 years according to everybody else. They’re coming in at the point when the driver doesn’t need to have their eyes on the road. Because currently obviously you can listen to stuff and drive. When the driver doesn’t need to have their eyes on the road. They can start to watch things I’m done. If you saw the latest Tesla has Netflix built in to the dashboard. Yeah, that’s an issue for audio actually, because that 20% of all you’re listening, if you could sit and watch a Netflix show, and all listen to a podcast and look out the window, you know that there’s there’s competition there. So I think it’s the future of connected car. And it’s kind of love affair with audio, I think is is is that for question because of autonomous driving,

Norbert Horvath 20:25
I guess the interactivity is not taken away, just because it’s now a video, right? I mean, it can be an interactive CTV,

Steve Dunlop 20:31
for sure. I mean, advertising in general, you know, that’s a great opportunity is for other mediums. But you know, selfishly, I’m just thinking,

Charlie Cadbury 20:39
amazing, now kind of looking forward, you know, we were kind of championing the future of this industry, as you know, as well as today. And if you were a kind of a college leaver wanting to get into this world, what would your advice be to people with that kind of,

Steve Dunlop 20:53
I probably got two angles to answer that the first thing, run your own business, irrespective of what the subject matter isn’t, comment and have some thoughts on that. Second, is advertising and second is kind of advertising and the audio industry generally, advertising super fun, it’s, you know, you it’s not going to pay as well as banking or, or finance or other or other sectors. But it comes with this layer of kind of glam creativity, you know, ideas, which you won’t get in the kind of finance world where you’re sitting, looking at numbers all day, you know, we come up with ideas, we come up with 50 ideas a day, on behalf of our clients or on behalf of ourselves. And, you know, for the for the product that we create and for the for the creative that we make. And for me, that’s thrilling, you know, coming up with new ideas is a real lifeblood for me, and I love doing that. So, again, college leaver, you know, person who likes being creative, this is a great industry to be in, and it’s prolific, right, you know, ad campaigns last for two to six weeks, and then we’re on to the next one. So there’s, you always need ideas, you can’t just I’ve had my last idea, no, you need another one next week. And that’s, that’s a really good challenge to you know, being creative all the time is, is a good use of, I think, a good use of your brain. In terms of starting a business, you know, I was a career, you know, I was working for the man, and for first 20 years of my career and you know, had jobs in other big businesses. And you could argue, now I am the man, I started my own business, and we grew the company, we were up to 70 people, we have done a little bit, you know, startups kind of ebb and flow. And I can’t imagine going back to work for for anybody else, you know, running your own businesses is a pleasure and a thrill. And for me, you know, ultimately fulfilling in terms of stretching every part of your, your person, you know, it’s about it’s a people game, it’s, it’s an ideas game. It’s a creativity game. It’s a deep technical subject matter expertise game, it’s a storytelling game, and all of those things combined, it’s really hard. And you’re up against lots of other people trying to do the same thing. I’ve been incredibly lucky that that I started at a time when no one else was thinking the way I was thinking, so I was able to have a bit of breathing space. You know, I was setting the agenda for what dynamic creative rodeo was. Now everyone’s caught up. Thanks. And, you know, we we’ve sustainability because it’s beautiful office room, and we have an office in New York and and how lucky are we right and so, so, the thought of, you know, of anyone becoming so I quit my job and became a founder at the age of 36, which is probably as far as I know, the data suggests that most founders or even maybe the average age, older

Charlie Cadbury 23:28
45 or host is your peak peak, peak peak wind days.

Steve Dunlop 23:32
But then the reason for that probably is subject matter expertise and having had kind of experience of organizations and organizational structure and so on, and organization design, but ideas are not, you know, limited to all people 40 Somethings at all. And so I, you know, heartily encourage entrepreneurialism, I think I think you can express on parallelism in another job as well, by your mindset. And by the way you approach problems and, and try and innovate and think differently, but actually going, I can’t tell you that fear and thrill of I mean, you’ve both done it. So I’m talking about visions that quiet with this audience, but of going out on your own with no parachute, no safety net. No, don’t worry, the the, you know, everyone’s salary will be paid. No, it won’t. If we don’t do our job today. We’ll go no, no. And that’s the thrill and brilliant. And again, as I say, I’ve been incredibly lucky that especially

Charlie Cadbury 24:29
the early days, well, everyone thinks you’re mad because no one would know what you’re doing.

Steve Dunlop 24:33
You think you’re going mad as well, because you have to explain what you’re doing 100 times. So what is it you do again? Well, deep breath.

Charlie Cadbury 24:42
I’m getting better at explaining it.

Steve Dunlop 24:44
Seven years later, I know. I know that you could rewind the tape. Hopefully I didn’t mash it up too much.

Norbert Horvath 24:49
Maybe you should take a job. Response to

Charlie Cadbury 24:57
proper job. Amazing. Now I’m just gonna wrap it up. You know Um, what’s what are your listening habits, what you can be listened to on the way home or when you get home?

Steve Dunlop 25:05
I commute. So I come into the office in Manhattan, but I live in Brooklyn, and that’s a 3540 minute subway ride on the F train, which is a perfect podcast episode length. Okay. And my superpower is I listened to podcasts at 1.2 1.3 times speed,

Charlie Cadbury 25:20
right? You talk the same way. You talk at the same rate. So it’s obviously embedding some way. Yeah, that’s right.

Steve Dunlop 25:26
So you can just listen, you don’t your brain is can probably listen to two acts, actually, in terms of your ability for your ears to comprehend. And then for you to, in view to listen to what you’re hearing. So I listened to them faster. So I get through more. I have there’s one delight that there’s one called pivot that I enjoy listening to, sort of that kind of the US tech scene and, and the two presenters tend to kind of have a go each other all the time, which was quite funny to add a little bit of personality to, to otherwise quite kind of dry subject matter. And I used to listen to radio wouldn’t want, I’ve worked at a radio station. And so I have a skill, which is if there was a radio one in the room here, I could tell you who the presenter was what song they were playing, what ad had just played, just because it’s having worked relative areas, I just had this tuned in ear and even if it’s tinkling in the background, I can kind of detect and that’s quite fun. And we have a little sonar system on here. So we play Spotify, the ad supported version, and we play Pandora stations and stuff. So we hear our work. I think that’s vital. And sometimes I I catch employees listening to Spotify on the premium version, which of course means there aren’t any adverts get on here the work that we make and what our clients are up to who spent doing as well. And who’s spending and who we haven’t done the deal with. Exactly. This brand is out as clearly out in the market. No worries, I mean, genuinely, we have a little slack channel that we call ads, ads, ads. And if we hear a brand that we’ve tried to approach before, or a brand that we think we’ve worked with a competitor, perhaps we’ll send a little message on that channel to say, you know, get and get in with them and say that we’ve heard them and flattered and that we like their approach. And then can we add dynamic to make it even even better?

Charlie Cadbury 27:04
Amazing, awesome. Anything? Well,

Norbert Horvath 27:07
no. Fantastic.

Charlie Cadbury 27:08
It’s been really, really great. I really appreciate you carving out some time for us today. Thanks

Steve Dunlop 27:11
for coming to my place. The branding on the wall here. Thanks very much. Pleasure. Nice to see you.

Charlie Cadbury 27:18
Thank you. So Steve, why are people listening to audio now? Why is that having a renaissance?

Steve Dunlop 27:25
Well, I think three major kind of macro economic and structural things have happened and are still happening. The first is, we have these incredible devices in our pockets. And in our homes, you know, gone are the days when we had a kind of wooden, clunky radio, or in the corner of the kitchen. On the surface, we now all have mobile devices in our pockets and smart speakers so that the actual consumption device is now significantly better. The second is there are some really great services. Spotify is a great I can listen to any song ever written instantly. That’s a great, that’s a really great consumer product. And then the third is content. I can listen to any song but now people are spending, you know, Hollywood budgets on audio content. So actually, when I arrive at these devices and turn on the services, I get incredible array of content to listen to be it cereal through to the daily through to the new album from a great band I’ve never heard of. And therefore there are great advertising opportunities within those. So those three things have really meant that consumers are drawn. And then they stay. And then we see the stats around in our media consumption diets increasingly, bringing audio in

Charlie Cadbury 28:34
just just on that. Do you think that has anything to do with the actual hardware? I know, I know, I used to have a Hi Fi which I was very, very proud of. Yeah, but my tiny little smart speaker they probably has way better.

Steve Dunlop 28:44
My 25 year old self who spent all my first salary on an expensive Hi Fi system with big speakers Yeah, would be hating me right now because I’m perfectly happy listening through the speaker on my mobile or on as you say on a tiny little, you know, smart speaker device where there’s because the size of it, there’s actually been incredible developments in acoustics apartment thing else, things like mounting the battery onto the base speaker. So there’s more mass moving. And when you put it on to it, a surface actually does create a better base effect, for example. And lots of work has gone into creating kind of a sound that comes from every angle from these small devices. So that has definitely moved on. It’s still not the same as two lovely, you know, teak line speakers in the corner of the room that you turn up to 11 You know, but I think when you’re getting the content that you want, like we you can hear speech as one of the things I used to do as a producer. We might my boss always used to say, if you can’t hear what the script you’ve written, there’s no point writing it. And so what we used to do to make sure that the scripts that were created and made in the in the studio was going to sound fine on the radio. We turn off the speakers that you know we used to have this wonderful booth Genelec speakers also return that all off, get some pair of headphones, turned all the way up, take the bass all the way down and then hide the headphones under the desk. And then you press play on the promo that you just made. If, and if you can hear it and understand every word, you’re fine, because the the listener on the radio, they might have a little tinny, you know, FM shower speaker that they’re listening to. And so you they need to be able to hear it just as much as the person in that car with new cars normally have great sound systems. So that was the way that we could tell the credit. But the point is, our brains comprehend the message, even when it’s low bandwidth, or it’s tinny or you can’t hear the full Sonic spectrum.

Norbert Horvath 30:24
That’s interesting in terms of context, right? Because with context, you’re mentally prepared to receive the message of the ad. How much of your volume is actually based on context? Not just a genre, but topics, context words that are spoken before the ad

Steve Dunlop 30:41
getting there? Yeah, part of that is how do we get that signal passed to us in runtime so that we can pass the right ad back? Second is how in podcasting there, I don’t know, 132 categories of genres, whether it’s, as you said before a true crime or business or whatever it is. That’s a big long list. So if you wanted to make a different version, or a different kind of intro line for each one, that’s 132 lines you need to record so we’re getting there. I think that there’s a way to go tech as being the tech is there. I mean, tech is there to do it. All of this is a creative challenge. You know, how do you tell that story and make it work in the true crime context as much as in the business use context?