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Carat Says Audio Is Among 2021’s Hottest Trends In Media.

Call it the screen time backlash. The advertising giant Carat says one of the hottest media trends for 2021 is “screen-free media” and audio is poised to benefit. “Voice and audio have gotten an unexpected boost from the pandemic,” says Carat in its annual report on the biggest trends in advertising.

“In 2021 we expect there to be a significant increase in audio advertising as both brands and platforms realize its value and power,” said the Carat Trends 2021 report. It pointed out that video giant YouTube just announced audio-only advertising as an option to marketers for people you use its site to listen – but not watch – content. “We are likely to see lots of fresh inventory coming to audio and lots of new ways to target,” the report predicts.

The intersection of streaming audio, podcasts, smart speakers and voice search and controls is especially intriguing to Dan Calladine, Head of Media Futures at Carat, and Sean Healy, the agency’s Chief Strategy Officer, who authored the report. “Digital audio is also growing fast, and targeting can be similar to digital video,” they said. “Brands’ audio strategies are expanding from voice search and podcasting to advertising and audio identities.”

Parks Associates reports that over 30% of American households have a smart speaker, many incorporated with other voice-controlled technology. Edison Research has similar data which shows AM/FM has the biggest share of ad-supported smart speaker listening. Even though voice commands are right now doing things like finding a radio station, podcast, or weather forecast, Carat sees a growing opportunity for advertising to play a role with the platforms.

Technology is driving that evolution said Carat. It points out that both Pandora and Spotify have been experimenting with ads that allow a listener to interact by using voice controls. Pandora has tested several ads, including with the carmaker Acura, while Spotify has run a campaign for the NARS cosmetics brand that let listeners respond to a commercial in order to receive a free sample.

“Digital audio is a growing area for advertising because of creativity like this, but also because it is getting easier to target more creatively,” said the Carat report. “There is also so much more content now with the boom in podcasting.”

The ad agency says the fact that Spotify has laid out hundreds of millions of dollars to build its podcast business is an affirmation that people want more than just music to listen to. “The fact that Spotify can put ads into the shows means that they are valuable for both retention and revenue,” it said.

Carat is also taking notice of the spread of sonic logos, including one created by Mastercard that can be used when someone completes a payment or as a musical stinger in their commercials.

Audio Strategies Are Needed

To capitalize on the audio renaissance, Carat advices marketers to develop an audio strategy to not only place spots, but to literally adopt a distinctive voice and sound for their brands.

It also said that brands need to find ways to reach their target audience with new advertising and content channels. “There’s never been a better time to investigate the opportunities within the latest creative technologies like voice-response advertising,” the report adds.

Among the other media trends that Carat is predicting will be buzzed about this year are new uses for mobile phone cameras, such as augmented reality and QR codes. It also says more people will pay for content, something that can be worrying for brands since it would mean the amount of available high-quality ad inventory will shrink. “It’s time for brands to look for sponsorships, partnerships, and ways to integrate messages into the content,” it tells clients.

Carat also sees the need for companies to be more “responsible” about where they spend their media dollars. “It’s not just about brand safety,” the agency’s report said. “It’s also about societal safety – ad spend should not fund bad people.”

Download the Carat Trends 2021 report HERE.

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