With all due respect to Marconi’s 100-year old invention, it’s not the radio medium itself that is the most important to advertisers. As ad buyers slice and dice data, it is what comes out of the speakers that makes the biggest difference. “Creative generates almost half of sales effect, way more important than media. Creative is five-times more powerful than targeting at generating sales, so creative matters,” said Cumulus Media Chief Insights Officer Bouvard. That finding is based on a Nielsen study that analyzed 500 ad campaigns and concluded targeting was only 9% responsible for boosting a brand’s sales. Recency at 5% had an even smaller impact. What mattered most was the creative, with the study concluding 47% of an ad’s impact on sales came from how the message was crafted. It mattered more than even reach (22%) – which is typically radio’s strongest pitch to marketers.
To help guide advertisers making audio ads, Cumulus’ Audio Active Group has compiled a collection of data about how best to approach creative. On a video summarizing their recommendations, Bouvard said that two issues that generate a lot of questions from marketers about ad length and fatigue are actually not all that impactful.
“We’ve done tons of audio testing and we find ad length has little to do with effectiveness,” said Bouvard. “There are so many more important things you can focus on, like how many messages are in the actual ad, brand building versus emotional activation, and emotional copy versus rational copy.”
Bouvard says creative tests show only a modest benefit by going long. Hundreds of podcast brand effect studies conducted by Nielsen find 30-second ads achieve nearly the same ad recall and purchase intent of 60-second ads.
Data from ad testing company Millward Brown shows the less-is-more mantra holds true. It reports the more messages a commercial attempts to convey, the lower the likelihood of a single message being communicated. For instance, the first message in an ad with four messages has only 43% of the recall of an ad with one message – and the fourth message’s recall rate falls to 24%.
“The fewer the messages, the greater the recall,” said Bouvard in a related blog post. “Exhibit some restraint, prune down your messages, and drive greater recall.”
Other advice is more nuts-and-bolts, such as making sure the ad is easy to understand – with reasonable word counts and music beds that do not overwhelm the voiceover. That said, a consistent music bed can be used to become a brand anthem and help it become recognizable to listeners. Sonic logos and jingles work too.
Another recommendation is to keep the voiceover at a normal level. The data shows there is no reason to shout when 89% of car commuters are driving alone. And when it comes to podcasts, nearly all listening is personal via earbuds.
“In audio you don’t have to fight for attention, so you don’t have to shout, yell, or sound too scripted,” Bouvard said.
If there is one place not to get too creative, it is probably with the format of the ad. Research has consistently shown the first five seconds of a commercial are critical with the long-held advice of saying a brand’s name early and often still holding true today.
“Leverage the appeal of radio personalities and podcast hosts,” Bouvard continued, noting Nielsen studies have found such host-read ads give an advertiser higher scores on metrics like credibility and emotional consideration. And depending on the brand’s target, the data also shows female voiceover talent perform 14% better than male announcers among female listeners.
In terms of ad wear-out – defined as when a spot’s performance declines by 50% from its peak—it isn’t a huge problem in audio. “The better the audio creative, the longer the ad can run,” Bouvard said, recommending, “Pre-test the audio and then test it again in six months. If the creative is high quality, the scores will be stable.”
The data shows why it all matters. An Ipsos analysis found that ads that fell in the top 25% of best creative had a much stronger lift in ad recall regardless of how many GRPs were bought. “Sweating your creative,” said Bouvard, “can have a significant impact on campaign effect.”
Download the Audio Creative Best Practices deck from Cumulus Media’s Audio Active Group HERE.