It is a truism that advertising money follows the audience. Where audiences are, advertisers want to be. The challenge for marketers is that media habits change. The ebb and flow of media behaviour means that audiences can build as quickly as they dissipate.
Good media planners and smart marketers usually spot these developments, get on it and steal a march on rivals.
One of the new media habits we have formed in recent years here in Ireland involves digital audio. Digital audio is audio content listened to on an internet connected device. This could be your laptop, smart speaker, in-car entertainment system, TV or simply your phone. Digital audio typically refers to music streaming, digital radio or podcast listening.
Covid was a major accelerant for digital audio going mainstream over the last two years. In the recently released IAB / PwC Online AdSpend Study for 2021, we see that overall digital ad spend grew by 27% in 2021 compared to 2020.
Within that, digital audio was confirmed as the single fastest growing ad format with revenues rising from €4M to €11M in the space of a year. Contributing publishers to the study was a factor for the rise but it is undoubted that many new advertisers have discovered and continue to invest in digital audio because of its inherent advantages.
If digital audio is not on your advertising plan, there are compelling reasons as to why it should be.
As with any advertising medium, scale and access to large audiences is a good place to start. With over 1 million adult listeners tuning in daily to digital audio in Ireland, this represents a large accessible audience.
Digital audio listening is an immersive experience. Mobile is the device used most often to consume digital audio content. And headphones and earpods are the way we listen to audio on our mobiles. Because of that, digital audio listening is literally a direct to ear experience. Audible and actively listened to, both critical ingredients if you want people to remember you ad.
Ad load is a measure of the number of ads people are exposed to whilst listening, reading, watching TV or on the Internet. With thousands of visual ads competing for our attention daily, digital audio has the distinct advantage of offering advertisers a low ad load environment. We know from research that people typically spend close to an hour listening to digital audio at any one time. In that time period, you are likely to hear only 4 ads across music streaming and podcast listening. On commercial radio, by comparison, you might hear more than 20 ads.
Because ads running across digital audio have far fewer ads to compete with, they tend to stand out and impact.
With digital audio, we can be definitive about how many unique people/devices hear the ads. These are actual numbers as opposed to research or panel-based numbers. We can also report on how much of the ad was played and likely heard. Advertisers who cherish transparency and value can opt to only pay for ads that are played out in full ie. this costing model is called cost per completed listens.
What to consider when planning a digital audio campaign:
Because the environment is less noisy with fewer ads, your ad doesn’t need to be too shouty. Respect the listener’s environment. Softly does it. This might involve a different creative treatment to a standard radio ad. In our experience the optimal ad length for digital audio ads lies between 15 and 20 seconds, not 30 seconds.
The key metrics you should use to measure success when it comes to digital audio campaigns include: a) reach – how many people heard my ad, b) impressions – how many ads were played c) listen through rate – the % of ads that were listened to in full. A good campaign should deliver a listen through rate of 90%+ and d) attribution – did the ad contribute to a website visit or subsequent action.
An attribution pixel is an end-to-end attribution solution placed on an advertiser’s website that provides insight into website actions linked to the audio campaign activity. The attribution pixel is a way of measuring a consumer’s path to purchase. There are various attributions which the pixel can track and measure including home page visits, app downloads or purchases.
It is important however to state that digital audio’s role in the media mix is more closely linked to driving awareness and consideration than direct response.
Advertisers have widespread access to demographic data to better target their ads. A lot of digital audio content requires some form of user registration. As a result, we can identify listener profiles in terms of age and gender. This information can really benefit advertisers as their ads are targeted to very specific audiences.
There are more expansive opportunities when it comes to contextual targeting. Advertisers can target by content type eg, podcasts as opposed to music streaming, but they can get even closer. They can target people who are listening to certain types of podcast content eg. comedy podcasts instead of business podcasts. And because a standardised content classification system is used, they will find that their comedy campaign can run across dozens of comedy podcasts which in aggregate will deliver a sizeable, contextually relevant audience.
Finally, there are new technologies which take digital audio advertising even further forward. At AudioOne, we use Podscribe. This is a speech to text translation technology to identify relevant conversations and build out contextual audiences.
We also use data to create Dynamic Ads in real time that are truly personalised. For example, ad copy can be varied to reflect different weather conditions or to fit in more seamlessly with listener location eg. personalised ad copy that inserts location data so says “Cork” instead of “Dublin” if the listener is in Cork.
ShakeMe is an interesting interactive technology. AudioOne can run ads featuring copy instructions to encourage listeners to do things with their phone eg. Shake your phone to donate to Ukraine. Needless to say, this feature can drive very high levels of engagement and immediate results.
Second Screen is another idea worth exploring. Using an IP address, it can identify different devices within the same household that are connected to wifi. It can target people in that household with display and video ads secure in the knowledge that they (or indeed someone else in the house) has been exposed to an audio ad. It is a neat way of delivering another ad exposure using a different format. Multiple exposures using different formats and possibly across different devices have a positive compounding effect on brand recall.
The combination of great content, an uncluttered listener environment, powerful targeting capabilities and that unique sensory impact our ears give us creates the ideal conditions for advertising impact, centred around content we not only hear but feel.