The importance of audio content to modern culture is everywhere to see. Quite literally. Take a look around you the next time you venture out. My bet is that nearly every other person will be wearing headphones. Meanwhile, indoors, smart speakers are becoming equally prevalent – whether that’s in public spaces like airports and shopping centres or in private homes. If you can judge what matters to a society by its artefacts then audio content is central to our civilisation.
This content has never been better. Thanks to digital we no longer need to compromise. No matter how obscure your taste in music, how niche your interests, you can find content that’s right for you. As a result, digital audio content consumption is growing fast. In the UK for example, 36.6 million people currently listen to digital audio content. It’s thought that 57% of the population will be doing so by 2023.
This trend is important for brands and advertisers. The digital audio revolution provides a direct way for advertisers to reach people just as advances in AI and other technologies make it easier than ever for brands to produce audio ads and deliver them programmatically.
In this article, we cover the key reasons why audio advertising is an important medium for marketers to harness in the new age of digital consumption:
What is audio advertising
What are the benefits of using audio advertising?
Some audio advertising stats you should know
How can I create audio advertising?
What is audio advertising?
Audio advertising, also known as programmatic audio, automates the buying, selling and delivery of ads into audio content such as music streaming services, podcasts, and digital radio.
As with other programmatic channels, audio advertising allows brands to set campaign parameters to reach specific locations or audiences. This is personalised advertising that enables brands to tailor their message to individual listeners and contexts.
Advertisers can choose from four main audio advertising formats. 1) Linear audio ads: ads that appear before, during or after streamed content. 2) Companion display ads: linear ads accompanied by clickable display banners. 3) Ad pods: a linked series of linear ads. 4) Skippable ads: ads that listeners are able to skip.
Audio advertising is fast and simple to use. Advertisers set their campaign parameters, targeting preferences and ad formats using a Demand Side Platform (DSP). From there, the process is automated. When a consumer plays audio content on an app or player it sends out a request for ads. The system then automatically serves ads to the consumer using geolocation and other data to target content.
What are the benefits of using audio advertising?
There is a compelling case to be made for audio advertising.
As outlined above, more people than ever are listening to audio content and the trend looks only set to grow. Wherever consumers go, advertisers will follow.
The growing number of listeners is enough to ensure the presence of advertising on audio platforms. However, there are several characteristics of audio advertising that suggest it may become the preeminent digital advertising channel.
This is because, unlike other digital channels, consumers are happy with the idea that they either pay for audio content, or they receive it for free and listen to adverts. There’s a degree of clarity and transparency that makes the ad-funded model well suited to audio services.
1. Tailor your audio to your audience:
Targeting is another key benefit. Audio advertising draws on first-party IP data. This includes information such as location and time of day as well as device data. In addition, most streaming services can connect to third-party data providers to add interest and behavioural information.
Advertisers draw on this data to target specific audiences in specific contexts, leveraging things like music genre, playlist creation, and trending content to engage with audiences. They are thereby able to deliver highly relevant messages at just the right moment.
For example, a fast-food delivery company could choose to target people listening to food podcasts (and presumably working up an appetite). They may further hone the targeting according to time of day (suggestions for subs at lunchtime and curries in the evening, for instance).
Messages can also be tailored to location. Advertisers can set up a radius where ads automatically engage with the devices of target customers. A sports store, for instance, may set up a radius targeting everyone listening to a football podcast telling them about the location of the store and their latest offers on boots and balls.
Audio advertising, therefore, enables brands to target people based on their personal affinities, not just broad demographics. As a result, ads will stop being thought of as necessary evil that people must listen to in return for free content. By perfectly meeting people's interests and tastes with compelling and seamless content, audio advertising promises to replace 'pay and spray' advertising with frictionless, consumer-centric experiences.
There are a range of other benefits of audio programming that should make most brands take note:
2. It reaches people in ways that other channels can’t:
Audio content is highly mobile. People take their music and podcasts with them wherever they go. What other channel offers advertisers the ability to target people regardless of where they are or what they’re doing?
3. Listeners are highly engaged:
The wealth of great audio content means that listeners are engaged in the medium. Importantly this translates into great listen-through rates and onward purchases. One report found that 60% of podcast listeners made a purchase after listening to a podcast audio ad.
4. It’s increasingly measurable:
The area of measurability is evolving all the time. New standards are emerging to define what counts as an audio impression. Reach, frequency, and completion are now fairly common metrics across both streaming and podcast services.
Some audio advertising stats you should know
For further evidence that audio advertising has come of age, we’ve curated a top ten list of stats that should get any advertiser to sit up and take notice:
The European digital audio advertising market will be worth $1.5 billion by 2023
Podcast ad spend growth in Europe is expected to grow with a CAGR of 52%
85% of advertisers and agencies plan to increase investment in audio advertising between 2019-21
53% of advertisers and agencies believe that digital audio offers the most innovative opportunities for advertisers
52% of over 15-year olds listen to digital audio content every week
The average United States adult will spend more time listening to digital audio than listening to the radio in 2020
Audio ads have a 24% higher recall rate than traditional display ads
Programmatic audio achieves a 1.51X higher click-through-rate than direct audio
Only 6% percent of US adults are willing to pay to stream online radio services
40% of campaigns in 2019 included elements of digital audio advertising
How can I create audio ads?
However, if the dream for advertisers is to be able to access perfect sound beds in moments and mix creative elements on-the-fly to target different people in different ways the reality has fallen short.
For most, the experience so far has been frustrating. It can take days or weeks to create ads and advertisers are dependent on multiple platforms and complicated licensing conditions. Finding just one track that’s right for an ad can take a long time. These challenges make the idea of different sound beds for different audiences practically unthinkable – especially for campaigns at scale.
The result is that while audiences are looking for highly tailored services, audio creative is all too often standardised across markets and demographics.
Fortunately, change is afoot. Thanks to advances in machine learning and Artificial Intelligence the creative process for audio ads is now exponentially faster, simpler, and more effective. By automating ad production, advanced virtual platforms allow advertisers to spin up audio ads
Music discovery, long the bane of creatives, couldn’t be easier. AI algorithms can now search for music based on a range of factors such as genre, BPM, key, mood, energy, instrumentation. The best systems allow creatives to search for tracks based on similar music – they simply import an external track and the system will return licensed alternatives for immediate use.
The process of ad production itself is also easier than ever. Take our own platform, Ossia Studio, as an example. To build an ad, creatives need only enter their voice-over, select a track from our extensive AI Music library, choosing according to genre/mood/tempo of choice. The system then automatically creates a variety of ads for creatives to choose from. Importantly, the AI allows ads to be scaled to thousands of variations, enabling creatives to almost endlessly personalise their ads to meet the tastes of different audience segments. Add to this perpetual and global licensing, then suddenly the prospect of true programmatic audio comes into view.
With the renaissance in audio content, there’s a clear opportunity for brands to engage with customers in new ways. Audio advertising offers a way for advertisers to get ads to market rapidly and to personalise their creative to better engage with their audiences. However, the audio advertising opportunity will only be realised in full if brands, advertisers, and agencies can unlock truly dynamic creative.