Our programmatic audio advertising platform connects advertisers with publishers and today successfully monetises podcasts, audiobooks, music and radio streams of over 200 recognised publishers across the UK, EU, LATAM and the US.
Today brands have, at their fingertips, an easy-to-reach audience of more than 272 million unique online audio listeners from the UK and worldwide and the potential of at least 3 billion ad play-outs a month.
AdTonos has brought real-time interactivity to live radio with its Yours Truly technology created to deliver interactive audio ads – a world first! YoursTruly allows advertisers to dynamically insert interactive ads in live radio content.
It all started 5 years ago in London. Michal Marcinik, CEO and Founder of AdTonos tells us all about how the story began.
Michal, how did the AdTonos story start? Where did the idea for this project come from? How did this adventure begin for you?
27th December 1998, exactly 3 months after Google, Radio NET was launched and it was one of the first online radio stations in Europe.
The program went live from 6 pm to 10 pm, presenters connected by dial-up modems from their homes. Another thing is that the stream quality was just 20kbps, so ten times less than current average streaming and we used RealProducer by RealNetworks to stream and RealServer to deliver the streams.
We broadcast lots of events like concerts or festivals and also launched our own one-week event in summer spoti, from where we streamed live 24/7.
Unfortunately, no one was interested in online audio advertising and we stopped broadcasting in early 2004. I remember my early ideas of selling that airtime in a more data-driven approach but it was definitely just too early.
What was the beginning of the project like? What did you think you needed to do to get started?
In 2007 I thought of giving it a try to work on an idea of how to replace ads broadcast by radio with targeted ones online. I tried RDS as a trigger, however, the best idea was to install additional software on the radio’s play-out system, which unfortunately was an expensive and time consuming approach, so I dropped this idea after a couple of meetings with some first VCs.
In 2016 I met Krass, a senior engineer from Bloomberg with whom I started to work on a different approach based on audio fingerprinting technology to detect the exact moment that radio starts to broadcast the adbreak.
We launched the company in London as Radio Net Media on 17th of November 2016.
What are the most significant milestones in the history of AdTonos, in your opinion?
In 2017 we went with the prototype to the RadioDays conference in Amsterdam. We also took part in RadioHack and our team won first place.
As we got back, Krass got notified by Bloomberg of his non-compete agreement and decided to step back from Radio Net Media Ltd, so I started to look for a new CTO and Co-Founder with whom to continue the project.
I also applied to InCredibles, an accelerator programme launched by billionaire Sebastian Kulczyk… and to my great surprise I made it to the finals among nearly 500 startups! Aside from lots of support and the acceleration program, I was also given a $50k grant which I spent on finishing the prototype.
I then started talks with the first publisher: Radio Kolor from Warsaw.
During these five years, what was the most difficult time for the business and how did you handle it?
Mid 2018 I felt hopeless on finding a new CTO. I posted ads literally everywhere, but one day I got an email. Apparently, someone applied directly from the website. I met with the guy in Sopot. And this is how I met Wojciech, who is now AdTonos’ CTO and Co-Founder.
I also reached out to one of my first bosses, who hired me in Wirtualna Polska as an e-marketing strategist, and this is how Kasia got on board.
Early 2019 we had really hard times because of fundraising difficulties, one of the VC we talked to was very tough on us, so we ended up with no personal or company money as we ran out of it. It was difficult for us to pay even $100 for the server.
Luckily, in August 2019 after a long process, we closed our £360k pre-seed investment and things started to change.
What brings you the most satisfaction in this project?
By the end of 2019, we secured one of our first direct budgets: £5k from Answear, and for the first time, we used Audiopixel to measure the attribution. I remember we checked the results three times as we couldn’t believe them.
We also integrated with Triton then, and then in March 2020, we made our first programmatic sales of £2k. A couple of months later we had a reach of around 10M unique listeners and started to onboard mobile publishers. In September 2020 we launched the world’s first interactive campaign on the radio for Audi working with Octave and PHD Media.
Michal, tell us a little about yourself. What are your likes and dislikes? What do you like to do when you take a break from work?
I definitely do not like to waste time and no matter what I do, I will be the most productive I can. I also find small talk difficult to handle as I usually stop listening after a while. I do like listening to music or going out to a concert – I think it is no surprise. I really regret that I missed seeing David Gilmour in Gdańsk, I wish I could’ve seen that. I would like to see AC/DC live, they did an amazing show in Argentina and so I’d like to see them for sure. I also like to spend my free time out in nature and traveling to new places. I love hiking and spending time in the woods, near a lake etc. Last summer, on holiday, I went to a kind of cottage in the woods, and it was near the military field where they were running NATO exercises and so I couldn’t sleep from all the loud noises and they had huge transmitters so there was no mobile coverage or going online to check what was going on. In the future, ideally not a situation like that for holidays.
Let’s look to the future. How do you think the company and the projects will change in the next five years?
We have +3bn playouts and +270M UL. Our reach is bigger than Spotify, Pandora and all other music streaming services combined. We are working on several exciting projects, to underline our position of a 360degrees audio advertising marketplace: all formats, and for all devices. We have the best team so I am not sure how the company will change in the next five years as the market is in turmoil, but I am sure we will be doing great.
How do you think the audio advertising landscape will change in the coming years?
We will probably continue to see growth in audiences, probably bigger in the EU now than in the US, as Europe has lots to catch up on. It will be interesting to see how social audio chats find their way to the market as they struggle now with the connection quality and user experience. We will also communicate more with voice devices and they will understand us better and better. This will probably bring a growth opportunity for interactive ads.
What is your dream for AdTonos? What would you like to achieve in the future?
I’d like AdTonos to be the best audio advertising solution and I am sure we’ll get there.
We believe that the predictions and dreams that Michal talks about will come true, and in the coming years, our project will develop and grow beyond our initial imaginings. We believe that the next 5 years will be a great adventure in the world of audio advertising for our entire team.