Exchange Wire "Sounds perfect: How Audio Delivers on Immersive Advertising's Promise"

December 6, 2016


Audio is a form of truly immersive content that follows consumers throughout their day. It has the power to elicit an emotional response, while delivering a memorable message that allows advertisers to tell a story that drives consumers to action. In this piece, Tim Sims (pictured below), VP inventory partnerships, The Trade Desk, explains that as era of immersive advertising gains steam, brands must contemplate how they can use audio as a tool in their storytelling arsenal.

Consumers are wary of broad-stroke advertising. TV commercials interrupt their favorite shows, while flashy pop-up ads distract attention online. We have all experienced this in one way or another, and not only is it disruptive, but it’s also proving to be less effective for brands – and that’s actually good news for everyone.

The smart advertisers out there have an opportunity to use our connection to more immersive experiences to offer new ways of delivering ad content. The rise of formats such as native and audio allow brands to reach audiences in ways that seamlessly tie in with what they are already doing. Rather than ruining the user’s experience, this kind of context-driven advertising improves upon it.

The proliferation of audio

Technology is changing the way people experience the world. It’s opening up new and innovative ways to engage our senses – from sight, to touch, to taste, to sound. More and more marketing campaigns are becoming full-blown sensory experiences. And, of all our five senses, sound is arguably the most sacred. What’s truly special about audio is its ability to elicit a visceral emotional response. Sound is an integral, hardwired part of the human experience.

Today, music surrounds us – and our devices – more than ever. According to eMarketer, more than 50% of the U.S. population now accesses digital audio each month, and consumers have the ability to stream audio everywhere, whether they’re jogging through the park, riding on the train, or driving to work. Advertisers are afforded a unique opportunity to tag along with their audience as they go through their day, leveraging audio to make a lasting impression on consumers without ever interrupting their busy routines.

The value of data

Music, and other types of audio apps, have incredibly valuable data at their fingertips, including a user’s listening habits, age, gender, and approximate location. These insights ensure that ads are relevant to the consumer in real time. For example, a fitness brand can target a user listening to a ‘Sunrise Run’ playlist with an ad encouraging them to come to a nearby location for a discount on their products.

Suddenly, advertisers have access to new and interesting insights into the lives and emotions of the consumer. The titles of their music playlists alone can reveal whether they are happy or sad, working out, going through a breakup, on their way to work, or are in the mood to party. The opportunities to offer highly targeted products and services based on these feelings and activities are endless.

The centre of attention

According to Nielsen, about 79% of audio consumption happens while consumers are engaged in activities where visual media is inaccessible to them. These activities include driving, exercising, working, reading, playing games, surfing the web, and doing household chores. Audio, thus, doesn’t have to compete for a user’s attention. Digital audio opportunities give advertisers the chance for their message to be heard at a time when it’s become increasingly difficult to break through the noise and stand out from the crowd.

The immersive nature of audio advertising provides a key advantage: consumers are only exposed to one ad at a time. Delivering a brand’s message in a continuous linear signal creates a much higher impact. Additionally, users don’t have the ability to skip the ad; and, at only 15 to 30 seconds long, they are highly unlikely to mute it. Thus, the message delivers with nearly 100% share of attention and total share of voice for the advertiser.

The role of programmatic

In 2016, mobile programmatic spending will reach USD$15.45bn (£12.13bn) in the US, according to eMarketer. Programmatic buying now allows for ads to be automatically inserted into the audio stream, in real time, leveraging the targeting available in their buying platform. This means ad buyers can offer ads that are targeted to the listening behaviour of consumers as they are listening. Moreover, buyers have access to rich publisher-side user data, such as listening habits and demographics, allowing the ads to be even more targeted.

The ability to measure

When it comes to measurement, it’s important for advertisers to understand the intrinsic value of audio, resisting the urge to think in terms of clicks and conversions, relevant to other forms of digital advertising. It is possible, however, to measure performance for audio in a user-focused way, tied into real-world business metrics. Digital audio, unlike terrestrial radio, offers precise one-to-one measurement. One can measure how many ads a consumer has heard for a given brand, across devices and what action they took – whether they visited a website or a retail store, for example.

The future of immersive ads

There is an opportunity to integrate audio into cross-channel campaigns in which marketers can sequence impressions and follow up audio branding with promotions and calls to action in other formats.

Audio also lends itself well to personalisation. Customising different versions of an audio ad delivered to users based on their habits, interests, activities, and location, in real time, increases ad value for brands by helping to maintain limits on inventory and for consumers by enhancing their listening experience.

The promise of immersive advertising is the ability to seamlessly integrate a message into the consumer’s life, without disruption. Audio is a form of truly immersive content that follows consumers throughout their day. It has the power to elicit an emotional response, while delivering a memorable message that allows advertisers to tell a story that drives consumers to action.

As the era of immersive advertising gains steam, brands must contemplate how they can use audio as a tool in their storytelling arsenal, weaving it into the various routines and activities their consumers take part in, and create meaningful, engaging ad experiences that don’t feel like an interruption.