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Digital Audio Has The Spotlight But Ad Pros Say All Of Audio Is Shining.

Digital audio advertising may be growing the quickest, but the real gains may be in perception of audio overall. That was the message from ad professionals during the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting on Wednesday.

“There are lots of clients that are starting to have fully fleshed out audio plans and strategies, where five years ago we never really had that,” said Chris Yarusso, National Audio Practice Lead at Publicis Media. He told the IAB that podcasting gets a lot of the credit. “Podcasting really has in the last couple of years opened up our clients’ eyes and our agency teams as to the power of audio. With everyone talking about podcasting, everyone is listening to it – that has shown our clients that audio is an extremely important part of the media mix, and it’s not just podcasts.”

One of the things leading advertisers to spend more with digital audio is improved ad tech. The attribution company Podsights has been especially embraced by marketers looking to track how well their podcast ads are performing. “Large brands were not willing to dip their toes into the podcast space without digital style attribution,” said Matt Drengler, Director of Partnerships at Podsights. But he thinks audio in many ways is still in a catchup mode to the “immense” amount of data available for digital media overall.

The Data Challenge Remains

The challenge for podcasters and audio in general is that there remains very limited data compared to other digital media, according to Drengler. Even so, Podsights has been able to share with marketers several key findings about how to best use their podcast ad budgets. “Sequential advertising works really well within podcasting, meaning that you are effectively placing a midroll and a post-roll ad or a pre-roll and midroll ad or all three. We find that the conversion rates are higher when you use sequential advertising compared to a single placement,” he told the IAB.

The most recent quarterly Podsights insights also showed the conversion rate for podcasting staying at a relatively high level regardless of the size of the budget.

Some advertisers are also embracing new ways to test and track their audio creative to ensure they get the biggest bang for the dollar.

“It matters a lot what you say,” said Scott Simonelli, CEO of the ad testing firm Veritonic. He said they have done a lot of research that has shown suppository language and a softer sales pitch generate double-digit improvements in ads that they have tested. “Copy matters,” said Simonelli.

Veritonic uses machine learning to look at factors such as emotional response, engagement over a period of time, intent to buy after being exposed to an ad, and ad recall. Those factors are put into a quantitative framework to create audio scores about a commercial. The firm is now releasing a monthly Audio Ad Index that will provide a snapshot of which audio spots are performing the best across traditional radio, podcasts, and streaming audio services.

Yarusso said Publicis buying teams realize that there are some digital audio segments that have more advanced measurement, such as streaming audio. He thinks the biggest opportunity lies in podcasting, where measurement remains uneven with promo codes and vanity URLs still a fallback for some clients. “For larger brands, they’re really looking for that true digital metric of delivery to know that spot was listened to and not skipped,” said Yarusso.

The Big Reach Of Broadcast Radio

As marketers navigate new options, Simonelli says there is no “silver bullet” for what works for an ad, and the right answer can be a moving target with something working today but not tomorrow. “Authenticity matters a lot as you look at things relative to what’s happening in the world,” he said. “Being authentic during COVID is different than being authentic before the pandemic.”

Yarusso said it is important to remember that ad buyers and brands are also taking a fresh look at traditional audio outlets, like AM/FM radio. “There are so many things in audio these days that are really exciting and brands are really starting to get behind them,” said Yarusso. “We talk a lot about podcasts, smart speakers and connected devices, but terrestrial radio is still reaching 98% of the U.S. It is such a huge reach driver for our clients and it’s an amazing medium and I don’t think it gets the kudos that it deserves.”

Among AM/FM’s biggest plusses is that it offers a brand-safe environment with inventory that can be bought by daypart. Yet Yaruso thinks it’s not a digital-or-terrestrial choice. “It seems like at this point everybody is buying podcasting, but our philosophy is to look at the channel holistically and center our approach round the synergies between all facets of the audio ecosystem,” he said.

Simonelli said as standards get higher and higher, the credit will be there for terrestrial radio. “But I also think we’ll see more accurate measurement across the landscape,” he added.

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