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New Form Of Ad Measurement Could Change How Media Plans Are Built To Include Podcasts.

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 executives 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. The first-of-its-kind study found that audio performs better than video in grabbing people’s attention and generating brand recall.

“The key takeaway is that podcast host reads drive the highest attentive seconds per 1,000 impressions compared to any digital social TV benchmark,” Hungerbuhler said. “We saw that the brand choice uplift was there, especially when it was host-read versus the traditional audio ads within the podcast, and that it also aided better recall. I think the moral of the story is the host read ad is really powerful.” She sees what is happening with podcasts as a natural outgrowth of DJ endorsement ads on radio.

In Dentsu’s 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.

On average, the research found 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%.

Idil Cakim, Senior VP and Head of Research & Insights at Audacy said one of podcasting’s benefits revealed in the study was improved audibility which drove higher attention rates.

“It was heard, and it was listened through,” Cakim said. “That lines up with everything else that we've learned from similar studies where people report saying they paid full attention when they listened to a podcast, because it's such an intimate setting. That's why the study is so confirming of our beliefs and findings from before. It's such an intimate setting. It's like a host led fireside chat that you’re joining, and that intense sense of intimacy is what fuels that attention-grabbing.”

David Shiffman, VP of Research & Measurement at iHeartMedia, said the data also reinforces the power and the relationship listeners have with podcast content.

“There's a reason why the growth of podcasts has been what it is and the kind of content that people want – that long form audio content that draws them in and pulls them in. It is real. We've seen it in other research we've done, and it fits a very unique place in people's lives. And I think this really helps to showcase that,” Shiffman said. “The host-read is often an underleveraged unique aspect of podcast. But brand-sponsored podcast advertising drives really great results too, and one of the things that we often have conversations with clients and advertisers about is it's not an either-or and they can leverage the hosts in the most compelling way possible, and then layer that in with some of the brands spots to really take full advantage of what makes this such a unique media platform.”

Cakim agreed, saying the study shows “very similar” trends between over-the-air radio and podcasting attention results.

“We know that the effective over the air and digital is stronger than the parts itself,” she said. “Audio is a tremendous motivator, so you could be switching in and out of radio into podcast and carry that with you into workspace where you switch to some other form of audio. You have to be in every touchpoint. And what the study confirms is that radio and podcasts are highly attention grabbing and hard, highly efficient media.”

‘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 at 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 Shiffman. 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.”

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 a new way of measuring the impact of advertising messages and want to learn more about it. Following what Hungerbuhler called an education phase, she predicts the industry will begin to integrate advertising attention data into media planning systems in what she described as a crawl-walk-run process.

“We are already using them to plan for our clients, we're planning against it,” she said. “So while it's not technically in there yet, it will be in there by September, and then we will be able to take it to the market.”

Hungerbuhler said the latest research helps ad buyers to be less wasteful with their media spending and shows them how the different audio formats work together. “What we've learned is that podcasting drives the highest attention, radio drives cost efficiency, and streaming audio is driving outcomes,” she said.

View a recording of the session HERE.

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