Andrew Klein is a creator, influencer, facilitator and collaborator. As Director of Content Innovation at Spark Foundry, he has worked with top tier brands like Microsoft, Coca-Cola North America, Comcast, Walmart, Wendys, Converse, Honda and Mondelez in the conception and production of innovative end-to-end ad products across a variety of media platforms.
As someone who finds new sources of innovation for brands at the top of their game, he is the ideal candidate for our New Perspectives series on advancements in audio and technology. We sat down with him to learn more:
Q. What to you, are the most exciting trends in technology today?
A. As the innovation lead for Spark Foundry, one of my main aims is to find emerging technology and consumer trends to determine what’s next for the marketing and advertising industry. And with the arrival of COVID-19, this has meant that innovation and technological advancements have arrived at hyper-speed. Instead of just thinking about what could be next, brands are seeing innovation as something that they need to be doing, and they need to be doing it now.
The way consumers are using technology has quickly shifted. People who are fortunate to be working from home, 24/7 content consumption is becoming the new normal. For me, I work on my laptop, with the news on the TV in the background, then there’s my two year old playing her favourite songs from smart speakers and my wife attending workouts on Instagram live – there’s so much audio and visual content just in this one apartment!
Yet the question remains, how much audio content can one person really engage with? And how can brands break through the noise? The answer more often than not is innovation.
Another emerging technology I've been using regularly has been VR. I’ve been jumping into virtual hang out spaces and games regularly ever since lockdown began. It gives you that sense of community and social connection that I’m missing from everyday life; the opportunity to high five and hug friends I haven’t seen in months – it’s a really unique way of bringing people together!
Q. How has technology played a role in the development of audio?
A. Technology has played a huge role in the development of audio. If you look at the history of music, it was so limited by the tools which you could use to create, produce and distribute it.
Historically as an artist, you were very limited to such a small window of opportunity to get your music out there. If you look at the billboard charts you can still see it today, with the same artists and genres over and over again. With the advent of digital audio, this created new opportunities for various artists to be discovered.
Of course, this comes with its own complications. With the ultra fragmentation of music, I mean, there’s just so much music now!
This is a huge opportunity for AI-enabled services. Distribution platforms have such rich data at their disposal, with the right tools, they could realistically determine exactly the elements that make a hit and tailor creative to an audience. We can start delivering music that people want right to their very own devices.
The rise of Podcasting is also adding more fragmentation to the audio landscape that’s not even music! With the democratization and explosion in air time for podcasting, there’s something out there for everybody. As with music, it’s not about a problem of the quantity and diversity, but how do you match or discover content that you want to listen to?
Q. What’s been one of the most exciting projects you’ve worked on in the past year?
A. We have a few projects we’re working on at Spark right now where we’re optimising content based on voice search. It’s becoming more and more critical to engage consumers this way with the rise of Google Assistant and Alexa devices in households and across mobile devices. For a long time, search engine optimisation (SEO) has been key for brands, voice search optimisation is the next big thing in this field. It’s all about being more conversational with your content.
Another way we’re using innovation to drive consumer experiences is through AR/VR. We’re exploring the possibilities for retail and e-commerce brands to use VR as a way to replicate an in-store experience in a COVID economy.
Q. What has been the most surprising impact of COVID-19 on the way you operate at Spark Foundry?
A. I am one of those people who rarely take vacation or sick days and when we made the leap to work from home back in March I really wasn’t sure how everyone would handle it, or even how I would! But I have to say, the huge silver lining to this is that I’ve been granted the opportunity to watch my daughter grow up and spend more time with my family.
Here at Spark Foundry, we’re a really tight-knit community, we thrive on brainstorming and those water cooler lightbulb moments. It’s been a point of pride for me to see that since we started WFH, none of this has changed. We’ve adapted using communication tools like Microsoft Teams so well that really nothing much has changed in the way we operate – beyond the scenery.
And this is where our innovative solutions have really come to fore. At the start of lockdown, many partners we work with to produce branded content experiences were impacted and some out of action. The solution? Virtual studios. Using our robust network at Publicis Groupe, we were able to create content virtually using combinations of live streaming, pop up teams for editing and production that could turn projects around quickly without having to put anyone involved with the project in unsafe non-socially distant environments.
In the same way, we saw that music production tools were needed quickly and at scale. And without the ability to put together a band, an orchestra or cram teams into a studio, AI Music presents an interesting opportunity to rapidly-produce excellent quality of music that’s synchronised with the brand's messaging. It’s going to be an extremely useful tool going forward.
Q. What should brands be looking out for in their audio marketing strategies?
A. I think there’s a couple of pieces to this question:
1. Brands need to start understanding just how much effort they should be putting into creative in the audio space. There’s so much fragmentation in the audio industry and with so much content out there, the consumer can quite easily ‘switch off’ when they hear your message. One broad and generic audio ad with poor creative just isn’t going to get your message across.
2. Rather than disrupting the user journey with advertising, why not enhance it? Working with AI Music, we can match the mood and current listening experience of what that person is listening to with an ad that matches this criterion. If someone is listening to rap, why would you not show that you’ve taken the time to understand that and meet the listener where they are with a rap infused audio ad?
3. The demands for brands to use their own music in social media is only growing. With TikTok, brands can only utilize their own music library and now with the launch of Instagram Reels, you can assume that it’s going to take the same trajectory. Now, how can brands ever hope to compete in this space if they don’t have access to culturally relevant music? It’s a huge opportunity for a scalable, one license library solution like AI Music.
Andrew Klein is at the forefront of innovation within audio advertising. With the exponential increase in audio content and competing demands for your consumers’ attention, brands need to consider audio as a core component of their marketing strategy.