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Pandora shows that putting the user experience first benefits advertisers

Music streaming platform Pandora is rolling out the full version of its visual ad experience that caters to users, after beta testing brands such as Denny?s, Express and Google saw a 50 percent increase in time spent with the ads on mobile. 

Pandora?s new visual ad features are employing a wide range of new tactics that enhance the user experience rather than hindering it, such as better placement, easier ad dismissal, responsive design, in-app landing pages and muted video. Advertisers will be able to connect with consumers who are truly interested in their product instead of interrupting their music and experience. 

"With our new Visual Ad Experience, we have reinvented our visual ad suite on mobile to deliver a winning solution for both advertisers and listeners alike," said Brad Beal, product manager at Pandora. "First, we?re removing conflicts that had existed between ads and content.

"Now, when an ad is present, rather than covering our album art, we will reduce it to a smaller size to live in unison with an advertiser?s message," he said. "Listeners have responded well, with 3 in 4 indicating they prefer the new experience.

"Likewise, advertisers in our beta have seen up to 50 percent more time spent by our listeners with their messaging ? attention that is leading to not only better performance on Pandora but more conversions down-funnel. Second, we?re introducing two, new ad units.

Consumer first
This past summer, Express and Lexus Dealer Association were among those that beta tested the muted mobile video ads and a new native mobile display canvas on Pandora, which deliver more compelling ad experiences for listeners while helping brands look beyond impressions. 

As part of the update, display ads now live within the square space that houses album art ? a core visual element on Pandora ? switching out with the cover visual, which shrinks and moves to the bottom of the screen while an ad is being shown. Previously, ads appeared as an overlay blocking the album art (see story). 

This enhanced ad placement is helping brands that advertise on Pandora better connect with users instead of frustrating them. Beta testers saw an increase in click time, conversions and decreased bounce rates. 

Mobile landing pages saw a 7 percent increase in time spent within. There was also an increase in the number of users that spent at least five seconds within a video by 32 percent. 

Consumers are responding favorably to the new ad unit as well. For instance, three out of four of the beta testers believed the new ad format was better in a recent survey from Pandora. 

"At Pandora, we have a principle that what?s good for the listener is good for the advertiser, and we?re excited that, with these new offerings, we are able to meet the needs of both," Mr. Beal said. 

The new ad units now allow users to swipe left to dismiss an ad, which is indicative of common user behavior popularized by the dating app Tinder. Within the survey, two out of three claimed to prefer the swipe left experience when dismissing ads. 

More than half of Pandora?s listeners scored the new ad units with high favorability. 

Pandora?s new visual ads will roll out in full within the month on Jan. 19. 

Mobile importance
The new mobile experience is vital for Pandora, as eighty-five percent of all of Pandora?s traffic comes from mobile, an executive from the audio streaming platform said. 

At a session at ad:tech New York 2016, the executive spoke about how Pandora views audio as a platform for connecting brands, audiences and artists in a talk called The Future of Music. Pandora is focusing on a seamless integration of listening across devices, as well as a branded live experience that the company says will be the main force of revenue for artists in the future (see story).

"The first we?re calling Responsive Mobile Display," Mr. Beal said. "This ad product leverages responsive design to automatically adjust based on the screen size of a listener?s mobile device. 

"In taking better advantage of the native form of the Pandora app, we?re providing our advertisers a larger creative canvas that lends itself to more authentic listener attention," he said. "Our second new ad unit is Muted Video. 

"What really differentiates this offering on Pandora is the personalized nature of it ? the fact that the sight and motion of the video plays to the soundtrack of the listener?s current experience. And, that intersection of the emotional bond of music playing in tune with an advertisers video truly resonates. In our beta, we saw a lift in video completion rates of 30 percent."