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Express, Lexus seek bigger results from less-intrusive Pandora ads

This summer, Express and Lexus Dealer Association are beta testing muted mobile video ads and a new native mobile display canvas on Pandora, which wants to 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. 

?The click has always been a proxy for intent and engagement,? said Lizzie Widhelm, senior vice president of ad product strategy and sales at Pandora. ?We are more focused on time spent and are we producing a quality engagement to drive ROI for marketers. 

?To really move the needle for many brands, it is about a new attribution mode and what are the best signals on mobile that correlate to ultimately drive sales,? she said. 

Mobile advertising squared
?By providing a less intrusive display experience, Pandora hopes brands will benefit by being able to share visual elements while listeners are enjoying music. 

The new creative canvas automatically adjusts to the size of a phone?s screen. Visuals accompanying audio ads and first impression takeover ads are also now responsive. 

The platform?s 80 million monthly active users can now swipe to dismiss an ad rather than tapping on an x to close it, as they previously did. 

Video ads have also been updated, with advertisers now able to serve video ads on mute, an approach that has gained in popularity across social media sites. Listeners can watch a muted video with their song playing in the background or tap on a video to un-mute it and watch it in full-screen view. 

The strong silent type?
Muted video ads present more opportunities to deliver video on mobile, which is important as this type of content continues to grow in popularity. Previously, Pandora served video ads when users skipped a song or switched stations. 

Preliminary testing with 1 percent of Pandora?s audience, time spent on a brands' landing pages increased by 11 percent after users interacted with the new Responsive Mobile Display Unit. The number of listeners who engaged with a brand?s landing page for more than 30 seconds doubled. 

With the update, advertisers can measure key signs of listener engagement including time spent and viewability. Both IAB standard ads and programmatic needs are supported. Pandora partnered with Moat to measure in-app viewability. 

Pandora decided to reimagine the mobile display ads on its site to take better advantage of screen real estate and features native to the platform for more interactive experiences. 

The goal of the new Visual Ad Experience is also to focus less on impressions as a measure of mobile ads, reflecting the challenges of measuring value on a small screen and attributing that to ROI. 

The right balance
Additional brands are expected to come onboard over the next few months, with the new experience expected to become more widely available before the end of the year. 

For brands, the idea is to encourage them to think less about the number of impressions and more about the quality of each interaction. 

?Can we drive more quality engagements with this new way of delivering display on Pandora ? that is the initial test,? Ms. Widhelm said. 

?In the mobile environment, it is hard to accomplish beauty where there?s a nice balance between ads and content,? she said.