How Can Audio Ads Connect With Listeners? The Key Is Being Funny And Entertaining.


Hard-sell ads will always be a part of the media landscape, but the best ads may be those that bring a smile to listener faces. And that holds true when it comes to the newest form of audio advertising, podcasting.


Leaning into research done by DDB’s Adam & Eve Group Head of Effectiveness Les Binet, Cumulus Media Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard makes the case for emotion-based brand building. The research shows advertising works best when it creates positive feelings and associations with a brand through broad reach ads that people find interesting and enjoyable.


“In order to really build strong brands, you’ve got to start preparing consumers long before they even start thinking about the product or the purchase. That means engaging them when they’re not interested in what you have to say, when they are not thinking about the product, when they have no need to be satisfied,” Binet wrote in a 2020 research paper. “So you can only do that by engaging them with things that are intrinsically interesting at a human level and that will be remembered for a very long time. So emotion is the most powerful selling tool we have. And therefore, emotional media are much more powerful for building brands and generating profit,” he wrote.


Working with marketing consultant Peter Field, Binet’s research shows campaigns with an emotional connection have a bigger impact on key metrics such as awareness. Nearly four in ten (37%) of people exposed to such an ad said they were aware of a brand versus 32% who were exposed to a more rational spot. The gap was even bigger for brand image. Among those who heard the emotional ad, 28% said it had an impact on their brand image compared to 13% who were exposed to the rational ad. Emotional ads also scored nearly twice as high on metrics such as brand differentiation and trust.


The data also suggests that emotional campaigns cast a positive halo on a brand longer-term. Even though most emotional ads make no mention of pricing, the data suggests that consumers imply one. Five percent of marketers say an emotional campaign has a large effect on pricing perception compared to two percent that said the same for rational campaigns. And the metric that may matter most – sales – also scores higher, with an 11-point advantage for emotional ads. The only metric that did not seem to be impacted by the ad creative is attracting new customers, where both types of campaigns performed the same.


As marketers look to put such findings to use, Bouvard says radio and podcasting are better positioned to deliver a spot that triggers a listener’s emotions than television.


“Audio narratives require active participation to imagine the story. Video narratives require less of the audience, resulting in passive engagement,” he says. “Thus the ‘sight, sound, and motion’ ideal that brands seek actually results in less engagement than the same ad on a podcast or AM/FM radio.”


When it comes to podcasting, Bouvard writes in a blog post that listeners prefer funny and entertaining ads. But he points to data in the most recently Podcast Download report coproduced by Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights that shows listeners most often hear rational “feature and benefits” ads instead.


The report finds that 72% of podcast listeners are “very” or “somewhat interested” in hearing ads that are entertaining, with humor scoring nearly as high (71%). The data shows hearing a podcast ad that details features and benefits of a product scores lower, albeit at a still-majority 61%. And 58% say they’d like to hear a podcast ad that tells an interesting story about the brand.


Those high scores for advertising are likely due in part to the engagement that listeners have with podcasts, with a growing library of research showing the strong emotional connection between podcast listeners and a show and its hosts.


Bouvard says the heady research has practical implications for radio and podcast sales reps alike. “The next time you find yourself writing advertising copy or promos for a podcast or AM/FM radio station, consider the power of emotion-based brand building,” he says. “As Les Binet says, ‘Emotion is the most powerful selling tool we have’.”

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