A recent study conducted by WPP ad agency Mindshare shows audio ads consistently drive higher levels of engagement and recall compared with other media formats. Using neuroscience and cognitive research, the study found increases in emotional intensity elicited by audio ads were 12% higher than global all-media benchmarks and correlated with an increase in brand breakthrough.
Researchers at Mindshare’s NeuroLab unit and Spotify’s Sonic Science team examined consumers’ subconscious and conscious response to advertising, looking at which parts of the brain light up in relation to which advertising assets to learn which creative work resonates with consumers in an audio-only format.
For the study, NeuroLab researchers first asked participants about their demographics, preferences, and habits as they relate to podcasts and music. “We wanted to understand how these attributes influence interests and vary amongst different cohorts of audiences, such as different generations,” Terence Scroope, Executive Director, Data Strategy at Mindshare, said in a blog post summarizing the methodology and results.
To test the audio creative, NeuroLab ran facial expression analysis while respondents were shown a first-person video simulating the experience of walking through a city. This was done to retain visual focus without distracting from the audio ad.
The facial expression analysis focused on two core metrics: valence, which tracks the overall positivity or negativity of the experience; and expressiveness, which measures the overall emotional intensity where higher levels of expressiveness are associated with increased memory encoding. Scroope says past research has shown that more emotional ads lead to higher reported action intent and improved brand favorability.
The research also underscored how using a celebrity voice in an audio ad can create an association between a brand and a consumer. For one of the brands NeuroLab studied, ads featuring celebrity voices drove a 21% increase in engagement and emotional intensity. “For marketers, a celebrity’s body of work or associations in culture can have a halo effect for the brand,” Scroope said. “This is what will draw in the consumer and deliver credibility.”
The Mindshare Spotify study adds to the body of research about where to name the brand in an audio spot. It concluded that ads that included branding early on showed the biggest peaks in emotional expressiveness.
The study also provides more evidence of the value of sonic branding. A gaming company, for example, effectively trained its audience to associate its sonic logo with a popular video game such that when that audio signature was used, NeuroLab saw a marked increase in positive emotion that continued for the duration of the spot.
Overall, the results “highlight the strength of audio as a medium,” Scroope says. But it is still early days for researching audio’s impact on the consumer mindset “and uncovering further opportunities to optimize consumer engagement.”