Audio has long been known in advertising circles as a good medium for top of the purchase funnel elements like awareness and consumer interest. But at Advertising Week in New York this week, the idea of the linear customer funnel is being challenged and that has the potential to open the eyes of advertisers to using audio in new and different ways.
“The world of audio is coming off mute in many ways, especially in the customer journey,” said Michael Loper, VP at the Omnicom marketing agency RAPP. He said audio plays a role in the way consumers develop empathy for a brand, noting a June study by Spotify found two-thirds of listeners are turning to audio as an escape from video overload. Loper said audio also offers a way to harness consistency. “Repetition breeds reputation,” he said. Audio also benefits from momentum. “Content can be reformatted for an audio channel in a way that that brings a story to life in a way where you might be able to skip a few steps in the customer journey,” Loper said.
Theoretical marketing victories are great, but actual dollars spent is the metric most broadcasters and podcasters care about most. And there, ad executives said an audio tide is coming in.
“When we’re talking to clients about media mix, especially making up for linear declines, audio is the number one place now to reach younger audiences. If you’re looking at Adults 18 to 34, if you’re looking to reach more diverse and inclusive audiences, this is an opportunity,” said Kelly Chiricotti VP, Director at the Publicis media agency Spark Foundry. She said audio’s availability on mobile devices also makes it more appealing to buyers over social media, gaming or online video. “Through personalization it provides an opportunity to give different messages depending on who you are targeting, what the weather is, the time of day, and other triggers, and that just really creates a big opportunity for brands,” said Chiricotti.
SXM Media VP Jenn LaRocco said that message is spot-on, and told the ad community that audio is also a great way to gain incremental reach beyond what they are doing on other media. “It’s also these incremental moments,” she said, noting 80% of audio listening occurs when no visual is tied in.
But audio requires more than just reach. Fiona Benmayor, Associate Manager of Media Innovation & Partnerships at PepsiCo, said top-notch ads are still needed. “Creative is essential in driving that success. It really has to work hand in hand,” she said. It is what Benmayor said has driven its Fritos brand to develop a sonic identity for its audio ads to bring its brand to life with listeners. PepsiCo brands Gatorade and Lays have also leaned into using audio as part of a so-called 360-degree approach to meet consumers where they are.
“We’ve always leaned into audio, but maybe in the past it was significantly more driven by our local bottling partners and we activated more on local radio,” said Benmayor. “The rise of streaming and podcasting has changed the pendulum for us. The rise of digital audio is creating data-driven opportunities that is forcing us to be more contextually relevant with activations that we do, whether it’s through leaning into personalization at scale throughout audio advertising. And secondly, the media landscape is so fragmented that we need to find ways to differentiate ourselves amongst our brands.”
Digital audio has provided a new opportunity to give ad buyers the kinds of measurement data they are getting from other online media. But so far, podcast and streaming audio has not yet matched the measurement that search or social media can offer. Chiricotti said it is to be expected that measurement lags and case studies that have been released help her agency work with its clients to see how awareness grows when audio is added to a television buy.
The ongoing evolution for audio means different brands are at a different place in their “audio journey” said LaRocco, who noted some industries seem to be embracing it more than others. “QSR or retail have a storied history in audio through terrestrial radio and then you have CPGs who are applying all the metrics and attributions that have been able to prove it out over the last five years, and then you have other industries like big tech that just haven’t even gotten there yet,” she said. LaRocco told advertisers still on the sidelines they shouldn’t be afraid to take the plunge. “You’re not behind,” she said, adding, “You will be soon.”