Pandora Is Overhauling Its Ads to Amp Up Native Video for Mobile Users

Lexus and Express will test campaigns this summer

Pandora is overhauling its ads to create a more dynamic experience for some 80 million monthly users—blending images and sound, and integrating native video into its mobile experience.

The streaming-music service is introducing responsive mobile display ads that automatically adjust to a phone's screen size and that live in the square space housing album art. The format, which also applies to images that accompany audio ads and first impression takeover ads, is a move away from pop-up ads. A second major update for the app is the introduction of muted video ads, which will allow advertisers to serve promos within a responsive display unit that can be unmuted and watched in full-screen view.

According to Jonathan Eccles, senior product manager at Pandora, the goal is to let users move around the app in a way feels visually "native but styled."

"So often it's easy to think of Pandora as a listening format," Eccles said in an interview. "And it's a wildly successful listening format—we see over two hours of time spent per day per listener—but a tremendous amount of attention is also visual attention."

The new formats let users swipe to dismiss ads, and while Pandora wouldn't disclose the entire list of brands included in the pilot phase, officials said it saw twice the number of listeners engage within an advertiser's landing page. 

Pandora, which runs around 18,000 campaigns during any given month, can target 1,000 different audience segments. A beta test for the new formats will launch in August with nearly a dozen brands, including clothing line Express and auto organization Lexus Dealer Association.  

Express chief marketing officer Jim Hilt said advertising on the app has been effective for the brand. "These beta opportunities with Pandora have really pushed the boundaries of finding new ways to break through, but in a way that is super relevant and targeted to the customer, which we think is critical to our success and Pandora's success," he said.

Hilt added that the brand will promote a new denim campaign, which focuses on how denim, like music, is meant to be personalized. The mobile formats are important, he said, especially as the brand sees customers increasingly using their smartphones in stores. Express already has a Pandora station that it uses to create stronger relationships with customers.

"Music and entertainment has always been synonymous with fashion," he said.