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Audio Ad Agency Oxford Road Says, ‘It’s Time To Toss Vanity URLs Onto A Bonfire.’


From small shopkeepers on Main Street to multibillion dollar brands, how someone winds up buying from them is a key question. That’s led to more emphasis than ever on developing attribution metrics to track which ads turn into sales. But a new study by the audio ad agency Oxford Road and the business-to-business software company Bambee suggests one of the most-used techniques in audio advertising – the vanity URL – may not be delivering as good results as it could. Instead, they pitch the idea of using more website surveys to give audio ads the credit they deserve.


“Vanity URLs typically don't yield enough attribution data to be reliable,” the white paper says. Instead, using a two-tiered new customer survey with predictive text could increase audio ad attribution by more than 700%, their study suggests.


“It's time to toss vanity URLs onto a bonfire,” the report concludes. It is based in part on the realization that while vanity URLs may sound like a good idea, most often consumers don't take the precise actions that advertisers want them to take, even when presented with an incentive for doing so. It means that an advertiser would have no idea that the radio station or podcast where the ad airs is driving business growth.


Two Questions Is All It Takes


The most common form of a customer survey mimics the question the shopkeeper might ask: where did you hear about the product? The pop-up survey box would include media where the ads are running including on the radio, streaming audio, or in podcasts. The second tier gets specific. For radio, a listener may see a list of shows or stations. For podcasts, it may offer names of series where the marketer’s ad is running.


Oxford Road and Bambee say they conducted extensive rounds of testing to reach their conclusions. For 25 weeks, they ran a comparison between the two methods for two similar audio ads for the same B2B product. In the ad with a vanity URL, the host read out the URL during the call-to-action. In the two-tiered survey ad, the host mentioned the URL and reminded the listener about the show’s title. The result was a 711% increase in visibility into where a new customer heard an ad—which Oxford Road describes as a “significant increase” in confidence about which media is working for the client’s ad.


“In terms of attribution, a lot of information gets lost at every step between when a host reads out a vanity URL and when a listener takes – or tries to take – action,” the report says. “Even when everything works perfectly on the advertiser side, vanity URLs still only capture the listeners who hear an ad, write down or remember the URL, and then enter that URL into a browser to claim the offer—that's a tall order!”


Bambee CEO Allan Jones says the biggest win for the brand was that nearly half of the people who said they heard their ads on radio, a podcast, or a different audio channel were able to identify the specific show where they heard the spot.


“That's a big win across-the-board and a game changer for how Bambee tracks show level performance within our audio plan,” Jones says. He thinks audio attribution is harder than digital attribution overall, but they have stuck with audio since it works well for them. “The value that podcasts and radio advertising can bring to a business like ours is immense. If you're willing to do the work, sift through the data, and get tight and disciplined about how you're reading that data, then it can be an incredibly profitable channel for your business,” Jones says.


Oxford Road says its use of two-tiered customer surveys has offered more than a powerful way to identify the shows where audio ads perform well. There is also a privacy benefit.


“In an era when digital tracking has come under increasing pressure from governments around the world, this new survey method yields attribution insight without relying on ad tech or third parties,” the report says.

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Paul McDonald
Paul McDonald
12 abr 2023

When you create the survey, add in some options where the advertisement does NOT appear, and see how many people check that option. Nice concept, but not foolproof.

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