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New Studies Show How Ad Effectiveness Is Driven By Audio Personalities.

While the power of live ad reads to move the needle for a brand's sales has been a long-held assumption, now there's proof of this from creative effectiveness measurement researcher System1, based on results of research conducted in September among podcast listeners compared to the general population.

“It has long been known that the talent read, either on a radio show or a podcast, generates significant sales effect, but until recently, there wasn't hard evidence as to why that talent read is so effective,” Cumulus Media/Westwood One Audio Active Group Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard says. “[This] study reveals the actual evidence on why those talent reads are so highly effective for advertisers.”

According to an analysis of the data in Westwood One's weekly blog, when talent-read ads tested by System1 are given a 1-to-5-star rating based on consumers' positive emotional response, only 17% of those ads generate enough emotional impact to get three to five stars, and the more stars an ad achieves, the greater the brand’s long-term market share growth. Ads in the two-to-three-star range generate a 0.5-1.0% lift in long-term brand share growth, while four-to-five-star ratings up that share by two to three percentage points.

System1 also rates audio ads based on the intensity of listeners' positive emotional impact, along with how well they associate it with the advertiser, to determine its sales effect within eight to 10 weeks of airing. More than half of ads (55%) attain good-to-exceptional ratings in this measure.

The tested ads' ratings among 150 podcast listeners earned an average of two stars, compared to a national sample of 300 people giving it a one-star average. “The emotional effect of hearing the podcast host improved the ad response enough to cause a long-term increase in the market share of the brand,” Bouvard says.

Likewise, podcasts listeners' ratings of their happiness with these ads – the emotion most strongly associated with long-term brand share growth – more than doubled that of the general population. “That is a crucial reason why talent-read ads work so well among radio or podcast audiences,” Bouvard says. “If you want to drive your brand, your ads need to make people feel happy.”

As to measuring short-term sales effect, podcast listeners' scores were 16-18% higher than those of the control sample.

Other research cited by the blog backs up the argument that audio ads are stronger in various measures of effectiveness, including ad agency Dentsu's study showing that audio ads outperform video for attention and brand recall, and that both AM/FM radio and podcasts were more cost-efficient. Also mentioned is earlier research from MARU/Matchbox showing that ads on AM/FM radio and AM/FM steaming, as well as on podcasts, are among those noticed most and skipped the least.

Addressing the importance of AM/FM radio personalities to their audience, there's additional MARU/Matchbox data on how connected listeners are to air talent, and Jacobs Media's Techsurvey 2023 finding that personalities have replaced music as the main reason for listening. “The elements that make radio personalities so attractive to listeners, it's about laughter, entertainment, [and] it's that local feel, learning what's happening in my city or town,” Bouvard says. “Talent [also] makes them think, and it becomes part of their daily routine.”

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