Adweek "Why Audio Advertising Could Be Your Campaign's Secret Weapon"

September 30, 2016


Everybody seems to be talking digital video, but another attractive opportunity for many marketers has emerged in digital audio.

Streams. Playlists. Podcasts. They're the soundtrack of today's life experiences. That's hardly anything new. Advertisers have long turned to audio as a way to connect with people in a way that feels both authentic and contextually relevant—as years of radio success will attest. But what's different are the technologies that make audio advertising more effective and more targeted than ever.

By advertising in the middle of news, talk shows or music, brands can weave themselves into the routines and memorable moments of their target customers. In fact, audio advertising has been proven to shift perception and drive sales at rates that would make even the most successful digital marketers envious. Just two years ago, a Nielsen study found that advertisers on terrestrial radio received an average of more than $6 in brick-and-mortar retail sales for every $1 they spent. Meanwhile, Spotify reports that ads on its platform drive 60 percent greater recall than a benchmark of more than 1,600 online campaigns.

The story is the same in the emerging field of podcast advertising, where publishers are connecting brands to listeners by leveraging the relationships those listeners have built with podcast personalities. For example, a survey conducted by advertising agency McKinney of fans of the breakthrough podcast Serial found that more than 80 percent of season-one listeners correctly recalled that the email marketing firm MailChimp was one of the show's sponsors. Pretty impressive.

Precise, relevant and easy to scale

What makes the space so enticing right now is how brands are using the strengths of digital to take audio advertising to the next level. Platforms like Spotify have login data that allows marketers to home in on specific groups of users based on their age, gender and listening habits. Not only does digital allow advertisers to know they're reaching the right people, but its reporting tools can help them understand exactly how many of those people actually listened to their ads and if they took action.

Digital audio providers are also starting to allow marketers to access their inventory with the same programmatic buying tools they use to buy digital video and display. For Spotify, this means giving brands the chance to target users listening to individual playlists in near real-time to create contextually relevant messages. For instance, a coffee shop can now target someone listening to their "Acoustic Chill" playlist with an ad encouraging them to step out of the office for a coffee break.

The development of programmatic audio buying tools will soon make it much easier for marketers to reach their audiences at scale. In addition to being able to extend their terrestrial radio buys online, marketers will be able to automatically purchase user segments across video, display and audio inventory across the web. As more and more inventory becomes available for programmatic buying, it will become that much easier to include audio in your digital media plans.

Turning up the volume

The opportunity in digital audio advertising is only going to grow in the coming years. According to eMarketer, the U.S. audience for digital radio has expanded considerably over the past three years and will top 191 million listeners by 2019. With programmatic buying tools only just beginning to scratch the surface of this medium, there's no telling what new ways marketers will devise to reach this audience. Certainly, digital audio's combination of emotionally engaging content, pinpoint targeting and growing scale is an enticing proposition.

So while video is still an important aspect of your media mix, you might want to give digital audio a chance, too. After all, audio is a proven success and only seems to be growing in the digital age. It might just be the hidden ingredient that turns your next big campaign into a smashing success.