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John Fix On Audio Advertising: It’s Measurable And It Works — If Done Right.

John Fix, who during his tenure at Procter & Gamble led the charge for moving the company’s radio advertising profile from non-existent to first, addresses the power of audio in his debut column for Westwood One.

“AM/FM radio and podcasts provide extensive reach and are very effective in creating incremental reach when coupled with a traditional media plan,” the now-consultant says. “There is a myth that advertising needs sight, sound, and motion, [with] the prevailing wisdom that audio lacks two of the three, [but] the ‘theater of the mind’ can remind a consumer that a product exists in a category and create top-of-mind awareness. The legacy of DJs delivering the advertising message in the ‘local language’ emphasizes the power of the on-air read.”

Fix’s column focuses on the framework for evaluating an advertiser’s position and the ability of a media vehicle to scale, addressing five key questions: does audio work, can audio be planned and purchased at scale, are there creative best practices for getting audio right, can audio be measured, and is the brand properly set up for success?

Regarding the first of those five, Fix says, “The strength of audio in a media plan is that it serves to remind, relate, and reach. Done correctly, a branded message can describe how the brand delivers a meaningful benefit. Audio is most powerful when branded and a trusted voice delivers a message. [And], planning tools can show the incrementality of audio.”

As to planning and purchase, Fix notes that “once brands start to believe in audio, they want to see how it fits into the media plan. With this, there is a transition from ‘buying beads to buying a necklace.’ A media plan is about putting together an investment that creates a holistic plan, [which] is where incorporating audio (AM/FM radio, streaming, and podcasts) into planning tools plays a major role. For brands, this takes audio from being an investment in the margins to becoming an important part of a media plan.”

Fix also stresses the importance of creative for audio to work best for clients. “A brand can believe in audio, and can plan and buy audio, but if poorly executed, the investment will be wasted and the media suppliers will suffer,” he says. “The industry needs to assert itself here to make sure that audio is done right, [and] needs to work with the agencies and advertisers to make sure the key levers of audio (creative, placement, audience matching, flighting, reach, weights, etc.) are sufficient. Brands don’t want to be told after the fact that their execution was flawed.”

In terms of audio measurement, Fix points out that “many brands will not make an investment unless they know that they can have information that spans proof-of-performance to attribution. Audio, and all media done at scale, needs to have data that is available and in front of advertisers. The inclusion of audio data in syndicated data sets not only allows brands to make the investment, but is a way for brands to learn where their competitors are and are not.”

Addressing the final question, that of brands properly set up for success, Fix says, “It is the responsibility of the advertiser to make the message work. The ability of a consumer to bridge all the media elements is important as a brand needs to look, sound, and feel consistent to the consumer. Here is where sonic branding can play a role. A brand that uses its iconic assets, in this case its sound, can ensure that audio works. For a marketer who is new to audio and seeks to test the medium, I highly recommend pre-testing the creative. Is your ad audible? Are emotions evoked to ensure memorability? Are there strong levels of brand linkage?”

Taken together, Fix says, “These five questions are important to advertisers, providers of audio, and the industry in general. Communication with advertisers is best when it is acknowledged as to the stage of the advertiser and the industry. Failure to identify and address each step in the five-question framework will cause unnecessary delay.”

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