Digital audio made the move from niche channel to habitual use by mainstream America years ago. According to The Sound of Suitability, a new report from Integral Ad Science (IAS), digital audio ads spur interaction and purchases from listeners. IAS surveyed 1,158 U.S. digital audio listeners in June, and it found nearly two-thirds (63%) of digital audio consumers interacted with audio ads in the past year, 28% visited a store or website for an advertised brand, and 20% purchased a product or service from a digital audio ad.
The research shows some differences by age. Younger consumers engage more with digital audio ads as 18- to 29-year-olds are twice as likely to click on an ad than consumers aged 60 and older. And younger digital audio listeners are 4.5 times as likely to purchase a product or service from an ad.
While digital audio consumers are open to ads, they’re turned off when those ads become disruptive. More than four in 10 (44%) digital audio consumers say they are okay with ads on audio platforms, as long as the ads don’t disrupt their listening experience. IAS says this means ads that target related content can reduce disruption.
Prior research from the company showed 28% of consumers said unrelated ads are more disruptive than related ads and 26% said related ads make them feel more immersed in the content they are consuming.
The latest report finds consumers are willing to listen to ads on digital audio or pay a subscription fee but not both. By a small margin, free, ad-supported services are preferred by more digital audio consumers (39%) than those that charge a subscription fee (36%). Only 15% are willing to hear some ads for a discounted subscription fee.
Offering more evidence of the power podcast hosts possess to influence consumers, the study shows ads from podcast hosts drive the most purchases. Among consumers who purchased products from ads served on digital audio platforms, nearly half did so in response to ads read by podcast hosts. That is a ten-point advantage on video ads that are displayed on the audio platform. It is also slightly better than the 45% of consumers who say pre-recorded ads led to a purchase.
One of the IAS study’s big takeaways is the relevance of ads being important to digital audio listeners. Nearly six in 10 (58%) say it’s important for ads to be relevant to surrounding digital content. And almost three in ten (28%) say they would favor brands that advertise near relevant audio content. In fact, listeners view unsuitable ad adjacency as a brand’s responsibility and the study suggests it can cost them.
Almost three in 10 (28%) of digital audio listeners says brands are responsible if their ads are placed near inappropriate or unsuitable audio content. And one in four say they would avoid purchasing from a brand that advertises near unsuitable audio content.
IAS concludes that unsuitable podcast content is risky but unsuitable music content is riskier. While consumers listen to music with risky themes – 37% to songs with sexually explicit lyrics, 33% to music with lyrics about drug use, and 27% to music with violent lyrics – they consider this content to be unsuitable for advertisers. Among listeners to risky music, 37% say music with violent lyrics is unsuitable for advertisers to be adjacent to, 37% feel the same way about music with drug lyrics, and 32% for music with sexually explicit lyrics. The perceived unsuitability of risky music content increases with age, the study found.
Digital audio has grown to the point where most listeners now pay subscription fees for at least one service – 35% subscribe to one paid service and 24% to multiple paid services.
Yet the IAS survey finds that consumers are willing to listen to ads on digital audio or pay a subscription fee—but not both.
By a small margin, free, ad-supported services are preferred by more digital audio consumers (39%) than those that charge a subscription fee (36%). Only 15% are willing to hear some ads for a discounted subscription fee.
In other findings from The Sound of Suitability report:
Three in four digital audio consumers use smartphones to listen, followed by cars (48%), a connected TV or streaming device (31%), smart speaker (30%), desktop or tablets (25% each).
Digital audio ad spend is expected to reach $7.51 billion in 2024, according to a June 2022 report from IAS.
Download The Sound of Suitability study HERE.