Digital audio is making noise for advertisers in 2021
Developing an audio strategy is key to keeping up with fast-paced changes
More brands are using data points to personalise their advertising message at scale and aligning their social media strategy with their digital audio strategy. Photograph: Getty Images
In Ireland we’ve always been obsessed with audio, it’s an innately personal medium that provides the soundtrack to our lives. It could be a trusted relationship you’ve built with your favourite radio presenter, a meticulously curated music playlist that reflects your current mood or it could be a carefully selected podcast to expand your knowledge or escape the mundane.
Digital audio has gone from strength-to-strength as a channel in recent years and in particular during the pandemic. A piece of research called Listen Up Ireland, conducted by IAB Ireland and Red C, showed that digital audio usage has expanded to critical mass with over 2.53 million people in Ireland listening every week.
On average we are consuming 16.6 hours of digital audio per week and it shows no sign of stopping any time soon. The same piece of research tells us that one in four expect to increase their digital audio listening over the next 12 months.
By no means a new advertising channel, however some brands are only beginning to experiment and see the true power of the medium.
On this week's Inside Marketing podcast, Rob Timony, business director at audioXI and chair of the IAB's digital audio council, joins us to discuss the growing options for brands in the world of digital audio. Listen now:
For advertisers digital audio provides the art of audio advertising, coupled with the science of digital media buying, so you get to communicate with a voice in an intimate one-to-one environment but with all the tracking, data and transparency you get from your digital display or video ad buys.
However, unlike the cluttered environment of display advertising, only one audio ad plays at a time, meaning you have the listeners’ undivided attention and because they’ve leaned forward to consume the content, they’re more engaged and attentive to your advertising.
One of the major benefits of advertising on digital audio comes in the form of the creative opportunities it presents. Given the data points available from the listener we can start to tailor our audio creative (and in turn targeting) in numerous ways.
More brands are now using these data points to personalise their advertising message at scale and aligning their social media strategy with their digital audio strategy. This could be tailoring your audio ads by weather conditions; we recently ran a suite of six different weather-targeted ads for Halls Menthol Cough Drops. So if it’s snowing in Donegal but raining in Dublin, listeners in those areas will get a different dynamic ad based on local weather conditions.
It could be geo-targeting your ads and creative to a certain county, town or even within a 10km radius of your store or business location. It could be creating a piece of binaural creative, where you immerse the listener into a 3D variation of your audio ad, layering in depth and substance to the creative.
We regularly run campaigns with different device targeting options. This could be a specific smart speaker creative or a bespoke mobile creative targeting only android devices with a call to action to download an app from the Google Play store. Dynamic audio is also becoming increasingly popular in the world of digital audio.
We’ve recently, in collaboration with Carat, created more than 400 variations of a Vodafone Broadband audio ad which was tailored by device, content the listener was about to consume and also geo located to over 30 different towns that Vodafone Broadband was available in. This meant the listener received a tailored ad when they were listening, which increases the salience and cut through of the Vodafone Broadband message.
Almost 11 years ago the first iPad was released and we started experimenting with touch, rather than typing. Now we’re starting to experiment with voice and the smart speaker is currently driving a large proportion of this usage across the world. Globally it’s predicted that smart speakers sales will overtake tablet sales in 2021, according to canalys.com.
Closer to home in Ireland, IAB Ireland’s Listen up Ireland research shows that more than one million people now use a smart speaker in Ireland, with a further 18 per cent in the market to purchase in the coming 12 months. Analysing our own inventory within audioXi, Smart Speaker inventory makes up more than 19 per cent of our exchange and people are spending a lot of time with these devices in their homes. Average time spent listening via smart speakers in comparison to a smart phone has a whopping 168 per cent higher dwell time, or an extra 64 minutes per listening session.
On average we are consuming 16.6 hours of digital audio per week
Smart speakers are only one part of the wider equation that is voice technology. We feel things will start to evolve quickly in relation to voice and we can already see this in the rise of earbuds. Not only great for consuming audio, they’re now a hands-free form of access to our voice assistants.
New models of Bose headphones now come with the three major voice assistants built in (Alexa, Google and Siri). These devices will also add innovation as an advertising medium for brands. At audioXi we’re currently working on developing two-way voice ads, which can be executed on voice-enabled devices.
This will allow brands to enter into a dialogue with the audience, rather than a one-way monologue. So, when a user hears an ad via a voice-enabled device, they can create an action by interacting with the ad.
The listener can choose to skip the ad, find out more information, request a call back and other actions, depending on the brand. This gives the listener a much better ad experience, but the brand also gains more data on what works and a huge amount of insight into user intent.
It would be remiss of me to write an article around digital audio without mentioning podcasts. Whether you love them as a listening medium or are more interested in the recent batch of global multi-million-dollar business acquisitions, one thing is for certain, podcasts are now mainstream. As Spotify, Sirius XM and iHeart are all drawing global battle lines, many Irish advertisers are just testing the waters with podcasts as an advertising medium.
Some advertisers are using traditional pre-recorded “spot” audio ads within podcasts, others are jumping in and executing podcast sponsorships, and finally more brands are starting to explore podcast live reads. In January we worked with Carat and Mondelez on a campaign where they purchased live reads in Irish Podcasts for Dairy Milk 30 per cent less sugar. These 60-second live reads were executed by the podcast host and in the tone of voice of the podcast. This ensured that the key messages were being hit for the brand but the advertisement was integrated into the content of the podcast rather than using a pre-recorded “spot” ad.
In 2021 we’ll see this live read format being utilised more. Brands will begin to see the power in the medium, and how a message can be portrayed to listeners in such a personal and trusted environment.
When we look at podcast sponsorships there are some really exciting opportunities with a host of fantastic Irish Podcasts available to sponsor and varied ways brands can collaborate with them.
Recently audioXi executed the sponsorship of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Conversations, geo-targeted to the Irish Market, with Oral-B toothbrushes. This meant Oral-B could execute a sponsorship of a huge global podcast, but without any wastage of their Irish marketing budget to other geos. It allowed Oral-B to localise it message and link its brand with one of the world’s largest podcasters.
The message is loud and clear: Grab your audience by the ears and develop your digital audio strategy.
Rob Timony is business director in audioXi, and chair of the Digital Audio Council with IAB
Inside Marketing is a series brought to you by Dentsu and Irish Times Media Solutions, exploring the issues and opportunities facing the world of media and marketing.
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