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Are Audio Listeners More Engaged Than Other Media Consumers? Neuroscience Says Yes.

As the buying and selling of broadcast advertising continues to transition to a new currency based on audience impressions, new research suggests not all ad impressions are created equal. Working with software platform Immersion and research consultancy Alter Agents, Audacy conducted what it calls an Engaged Impressions study, part of which used biometric feedback to measure how engaged consumers were with different types of media.

“From the immersion study, we saw that audio was the most engaging, the most immersive medium, far ahead of social, far ahead of TV,” says Idil Cakim, Senior VP of Research and Insights at Audacy.

The neuro measurement portion of the study was based on 107,186 data points from 111 participants among three groups of randomly selected media consumers in the New York, Chicago and Los Angeles markets.

“We wanted to truly understand how they interacted with audio and other media, in comparison, in their day-to-day environment in a natural setting,” Cakim explained to BIA Managing Director Rick Ducey during a recent episode of BIA’s “Leading Local Insights” podcast.

Study participants wore a smart wristband that detected second-by-second variations in their heart rate, which acted as a proxy for brain activity. “It really captures those moments when you are deeply connected to the content, almost having a ‘wow’ moment, an ‘aha’ moment,” Cakim added. “And then when you are maybe not so much deeply connected with what you're hearing or seeing – and thinking of something else.” The biometric data is issued to measure how engaged people are with different types of media content.

One of the more interesting findings from the neuro study was the notion of engaged audio impressions. “We believe [an] audio impression weighs more than the average impression,” Cakim told Ducey. “When it comes to audio, we would like to remind our B2B audiences that an impression that you're placing in audio goes further because it is more immersive as a medium. It is more trusted. And when you factor in CPMs, between trust, immersiveness, immersion, and CPM rates, audio is really the optimal medium.”

A separate survey conducted by Alter Agents found respondents more likely to say they trust audio sources, whether that’s over the air, streaming or podcast, than what they were reading or seeing on social media. Participants differentiated between over the air radio and digital pure plays like Spotify and Apple Music because of the trust issue, said Cakim.

According to the neuro study, the highest levels of attention occurred during podcasts. Cakim attributed that to “how deeply involved” the podcast audience was. “They're listening to something that they are choosing in a time that they want, on a topic of great interest to them,” she offered. “And the hosts have a lot of power in that engagement.”

Ducey and Cakim also discussed the growing role data is playing in decision making about everything from programming in the radio/audio industry to media planning on the agency side of the business. “More and more, we're going to rely on data-driven decisions,” Cakim predicted. “This is how big investments and important investments in content and audience development in advertising need to be made. And if anything, we'll get smarter about how we're making investments, how to optimize plans, how to make sure we're speaking in the appropriate, relevant ways to our audiences.”

Another top takeaway from the discussion has to do with the importance to media audiences of local content and local perspectives.“People said the reason why they make a choice of listening is because of local content and host trust,” Cakim elaborated. “And the host trust is over the air or a podcast host.” Familiarity with the host was a leading factor in the quantitative survey.Cakim said the researchers heard comments like, “They just know my city, they know my problems, they live in the same city and they get me.” Or, “They do it so authentically, so naturally that I feel like buying that product because of the way they are able to speak to that product as part of their program without being overtly messaging about it.”

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