No medium in the world is quite like audio. You can’t just remove the picture from a video and call it audio — it’s a different experience. And it’s the only medium you can consume in such a variety of contexts, even while you’re doing something else. This is what makes audio so special, and it’s a big reason why we’re becoming an audio-first society.


Today, audio consumption is booming. Americans spend 32 hours a week listening to streaming audio. Twenty percent of homes have a voice-activated speaker. We take it everywhere we go and use it for all kinds of activities. We may start our day listening to a news brief, tune into a favorite podcast on our commute, listen to laid-back music while working, exercise to a custom playlist and cook dinner while catching a talk show. It’s truly a journey that no other medium can compete with, simply because the attention required is far less disruptive than screen time.


So if the medium is different, shouldn’t the ad reflect that?

Our audio-first society presents exciting opportunities for advertisers and publishers. We often think of advertisements as disruptive or personally irrelevant — but with audio we can leverage new formats and ultimately create advertising experiences that are targeted, engaging and effective.


The power of audio comes from communicating with a user. Have you noticed that in a crowd of 100 people, one person still reacts to their name being called? The same applies with audio when the content is relevant.


Today, advertisers can forgo the traditional method of one-way communication and have a conversation with consumers. And each conversation calls for a unique context to engage differently with an audience — just as you wouldn’t communicate the same way with a mellow friend in a coffee shop as you would with your dad when he’s trying to set up a new TV. Audio offers a unique opportunity to tell the difference, to understand the thoughts and behaviors of a listener without being intrusive. That’s the beauty of audio: ads not only align with the objective of the advertiser, they also align with the context of the user.


New formats enable powerful engagement

Combining what we can learn from a user with the technology to deliver different messages gives us some exciting new ways to engage them, from customizing a creative message for each one of your consumers, to simply asking a multitasking listener to shake their phone to download a coupon.


The latter, a new audio ad format called ShakeMe™, is gaining traction worldwide with early adopters, and showing strong results. During the past year we’ve run a number of successful ShakeMe™ campaigns with agencies and publishers all over the world, including SpotCom in Germany, talkSPORT in the UK, and Australia Radio Network (ARN). SpotCom’s Shell Car Wash campaign on Rock Antenne, Germany’s leading digital audio streaming radio service, delivered nearly 4 percent engagement, orders of magnitude above industry averages.  Another major publisher in the US has run 8 ShakeMe™ campaigns on their network, with major brands like BMW, Wells Fargo, and Best Buy.  Each of these have had engagement results 5-6X higher than traditional mobile display ads.


Second Screen, another example of a new audio format, has also proven effective with higher engagement and brand recall.  The technology employs hyper-targeting on devices with same IP or same household after hearing an audio ad, driving engagement and reach, and giving valuable insights into attribution.  Data shows that engagement with Second Screen ads increases engagement with the display creative up to 400 percent.


Audio also lends itself to excellent targeting formats — back to the “context” we mentioned earlier. Using Weather Targeting, McDonalds ran a campaign on major streaming services across the UK to promote its Iced Cooler drinks, using weather information to enhance campaign effectiveness. The campaigns were set to run only when the temperature outside was over 62 degrees. McDonalds used footfall reports to measure effectiveness and saw a positive uplift in traffic into the stores in the regions where the ads ran.


Virgin Media also consistently uses AdsWizz programmatic technology in audio campaigns, using location-based targeting to drive effectiveness. They ran multiple campaigns delivering over 13 million audio ad impressions on major streaming sites, targeting 4,000 different postal codes. The targeting ensured that listeners only heard the ads on streets and in areas where Virgin Media high speed internet services are supported.


Pandora recently developed three audio ad formats of its own, designed to help marketers target their promotions with personalized messages. The Dynamic Audio format provides personalized ad placement in real time based on listener data. Sequential Audio lets advertisers engage listeners by telling a brand story in real time through sequentially targeted audio ads, and Short-Form Audio consists of spots ranging in length from 4 to 10 seconds. These new formats are part of Pandora’s effort to help advertisers develop nonintrusive and engaging spots.


The future of audio is bright, and we’re just getting started

The formats above are just the beginning — watch this space for even more innovation.  Soon, technology will be able to transcribe podcasts in real time to better understand content for targeting. The industry also is working toward better attribution in understanding listener impact, such as making a purchase or going into a store — and even toward direct voice interaction with ads.  


Although audio is growing faster than any other advertising medium, thanks to streaming music, podcasts and voice activated speakers, it’s still a much smaller piece of the pie than video and display. Audio is today where video was five years ago — facing tremendous growth and opportunity. We’re excited to help support its growth, and help advertisers and brands alike capitalize on this engaging and immersive medium.


— Bruno Nieuwenhuys, Founder and CTO, AdsWizz