Americans are bombarded with 4,000 advertising messages daily across multiple platforms, devices, and channels in what dentsu Media U.S. Executive VP Jennifer Hungerbuhler calls “a battleground for our attention.” While the reach and cost of ads are well known, their impact in today’s fragmented media ecosystem is just starting to be understood. Now that the attention consumers pay to audio ads can be measured the same way video ads are, advertising execs see new opportunities for radio and podcasting to play a larger role in media plans.
Recognizing the need for brands to better understand the value of their media investment, dentsu in 2018 set out to define a new value system and challenge the way the ad industry trades. Working with Lumen Research, it developed the Attention Economy Project to measure which ads were actually being seen and which were being blocked. Audio wasn’t included until this year when dentsu and Lumen worked with some of the nation’s largest audio companies to expand its attention metric to include radio, podcasting and streaming. As earlier reported by Inside Radio, the first-of-its-kind study found that audio performs better than video in grabbing people’s attention and generating brand recall.
In the online study, participants selected audio content of their choice and were served 15 ads interspersed randomly throughout the hour-long listening session. In addition to measuring listen-through rates, Lumen sent a set of brand-related questions to participants that dentsu has been tracking across its other Attention Economy studies. This provided an apples-to-apples view “of how audio attention stacks up against other media and insights on how attention given to audio connects with brand KPIs,” Idil Cakim, Senior VP and Head of Research & Insights at Audacy said in a Tuesday webinar presented by Ad Age. “That's how we're able to see, for instance, that audio drives more attention than TV and digital.” On average, 41% of audio ads generated correct brand recall compared to the 38% norm for other advertising studied by dentsu. Brand choice uplift for audio ads was 10%, nearly double dentsu norms of 6%.
‘You Can Look Away, But You Can't Shut Your Ears’
By measuring the attentiveness to audio and comparing it with that of social, mobile and online video, dentsu has provided “hard data” to counter “industry myths,” said Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer, Cumulus Media. “The main message here is you can look away, but you can't shut your ears,” Bouvard said. “The more people can look at this research and relook at their media plans with the lens on attentiveness, it starts to really change some of these perceptions.”
A global study conducted by WARC in 2021 showed audio captures 31% of media consumption but just 9% of ad spend. Factoring in dentsu’s ability to measure the cost to drive attention – known as aCPM or attention cost per thousand impressions – is “not only valuable in and of itself, but it is proven to drive and correlate to business outcomes and response,” said David Shiffman, VP of Research & Measurement, iHeartMedia. As more marketers scrutinize the cost efficiency of their media and marketing dollars, Shiffman said the dentsu-Lumen study validates “the effectiveness of this multi-channel audio universe that we live in.”
The study debunks the commonly held myths among advertisers that video is better for brands than audio as radio outperforms these channels as an advertising vehicle. “It's just incredibly powerful insight into how audio and radio can be a core component of a marketing plan for today's brands,” Shiffman said.
Added Cakim, “If there's someone who claims they have a measurement problem, that they don't have enough perspective on over the air and how it blends in with the rest of audio and the rest of the media plan, that should be done right now with these studies.”
Integration With Media Planning Systems
Hungerbuhler, who heads Local Video and Audio Investment at dentsu Media U.S., said the agency giant’s clients are leaning into this new way of measuring the impact of advertising messages and want to learn more about it. “Having webinars like this and publishing articles is critical, because it is still relatively new,” she said. Following what Hungerbuhler called an education phase, the industry will begin to integrate advertising attention data into media planning systems in what she described as a crawl-walk-run process. “This study just validates that all forms of audio generate large volumes of recall. And it is truly the best of both worlds – it has high levels of attention and efficient levels of attention,” Hungerbuhler said. “And those two together are very, very powerful. It’s going to help inform our overall comms plan as we go to market and when we're looking to put our buys together.”
The webinar was moderated by Ad Age managing Editor John Dioso. View a recording of the session HERE.