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Agencies Play Growing Role In Efforts To Increase Audio Ad Spend.

For years, the main advertiser objection to buying radio and audio has been their messaging needs to be marketed to consumers using sight, sound, and motion (IE: TV/video). Another complaint: audio, often consumed in the background without a visual or clickable component, is more of an upper funnel channel and not as effective in driving lower funnel conversions. Now, more and more research is debunking these misperceptions and helping convince marketers that audio shouldn’t take a backseat to visual channels.

“Over the past several years, there's been some great research, as well as technological advancements, that help prove that these objections aren't true,” says Graham Langosch, VP, National Audio Practice at ad agency holding company Publicis Media Exchange. “We've seen recent studies over the past year that show that audio delivers results on par, or better, than other media types across the entire funnel in driving awareness and consideration, as well as some of those lower funnel conversion metrics.”

While radio execs may sometimes feel they’re alone in evangelizing the medium to holdout brands, Langosch and other audio specialists at the agency level have become kindred souls in efforts to reduce the massive disconnect between the amount of consumer time spent with audio (31% according to WARC) and the share of ad dollars it receives (9%).

Langosch has been focusing on audio for the past nine years, starting at Spark Foundry, before moving to Publicis. He’s not the only agency exec working to show clients how audio can help them meet their business objectives. Diana Anderson, Senior VP and Group Director, National Audio and Local Digital Activation at Carat USA; and Lauren Russo, Executive VP and Managing Partner, Innovation & Performance Audio at Horizon Media, among others, have been waving the audio flag for years.

In a webinar tied to Advertising Week, Langosch said a big part of what he does is educating Publicis clients about the available research and measurement capabilities to grow their audio investment.

Among research conducted around audio lately are the three unique studies media agency network dentsu and Lumen Research did to measure various audio formats and environments. The headline: audio performs better than video in grabbing people’s attention and generating brand recall. Separately, a Neustar analysis showed a slight shift of ad dollars to optimize audio brings significant returns across various categories: a 1.2% shift of media investment to audio would increase brands’ return on audio ad spend by as much as 23%. And the results of seven brand-tracking studies conducted among adults 18+ with health insurance over the past four years by Signal Hill Insights, commissioned by Cumulus Media/Westwood One, suggest that AM/FM radio can do a better job reaching users of pharmaceuticals than TV.

These and other studies are helping audio experts at the agencies educate their internal teams and clients about how effectively audio can reach audiences to drive business results up and down the purchase funnel.

“Audio in general is primarily being consumed when listeners are either unable or choosing to disconnect from their screens,” Langosch said during the webinar “3 Reasons Audio Is Your Biggest Opportunity,” presented by SXM Media, the ad sales arm of SiriusXM. “It’s an engaged and attentive medium, when listeners are tuned in and focusing on what they're listening to. And with that, I think audio should emerge as a primary consideration for advertisers to help deliver their message.”

Also helping make the case for more audio investment is the addressability enabled by digital audio. With Edison Research showing streaming audio and podcasting growing year after year, digital audio can now deliver scale with less market fragmentation. And as the streaming wars make the video landscape more crowded and consumers gravitate toward subscription-based channels that are off limits to advertisers, streaming audio offers multiple ad-supported options for delivering messages to intended audiences, Langosch said.

Along with advocacy coming from agencies, the big audio companies are also doing their part to educate and squash misconceptions about the medium.

“As the capabilities and the tools that marketers want from digital forms of media continue to get better – targeting capabilities, brand safety, brand suitability, counting metrics, etc. – you're going to see more investment continue to flow into the audio space and specifically into the podcasting area, continuing to draft off the success of streaming,” said Steve Kritzman, Senior VP, Sales, SXM Media.

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