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Proving Return On Ad Spend Seen As Crucial In Today’s Environment.

Radio’s upfront selling season is in high gear but booking business for 2024 comes amidst financial challenges consumers are facing. “There are headwinds, these are really challenging times,” Audacy Chief Marketing Officer Paul Suchman said Thursday. “There are a lot of advertisers who are thinking about their spends,” Despite that, some marketers are increasing their ad investment, as long as the campaign demonstrates a measurable return on ad spend.

Focused on the middle and bottom portion of the purchase funnel, these advertisers are looking to drive quantifiable results, whether sales, website visits, engagement, or other campaign objectives. That’s why Audacy’s upfront sales pitch this year revolves around attribution and accountability. “We have a story that we're telling about performance,” Suchman said during “Crack The Code: Audio’s Next Play,” a virtual conference presented Thursday by Adweek. “We have a wonderful slate of shows and products that we're bringing out in this upfront season,” he added. “And we're going to be sharing these stories of performance, these content stories we have.”

Radio’s second largest group is also using research in its pitch to brands and agencies, making the case that advertisers are underinvested in audio as a whole. Media agency network dentsu and Lumen Research measured various audio formats and environments across three unique studies in podcasts, radio, and music streaming. The headline: audio performs better than video in grabbing people’s attention and generating brand recall. The study found that each audio channel has its own unique strength in driving attention and brand impact. Podcasts drove the highest attention while radio was found to be the most cost-efficient media platform in driving attention.

“What we're seeing is that marketers are paying more attention to attention,” Suchman said in a conversation with Adweek Senior VP/Editorial Director Chris Ariens. At a time when Americans are bombarded with 4,000 advertising messages daily across multiple platforms, devices, and channels, research that shows audio’s ability to cut through the clutter and grab consumer attention opens new opportunities for radio and podcasting to play a larger role in media plans.

Suchman told the Adweek audience that the dentsu study and an earlier one by Neustar are having an impact. “There's some really great research we're doing and that's having a wonderful upstream impact on helping planners think about audio as part of their plans,” Suchman said. “But the message is really focused on performance and differentiating products.”

The Neustar analysis showed a slight shift of ad dollars to optimize audio brings significant returns across various categories: a 1.2% shift of media investment to audio would increase brands’ return on audio ad spend by as much as 23%. Suchman said they are taking that message to marketers in the entertainment industry, where audio investments are down. “Entertainment probably stands the most to gain,” Suchman said. “There's a visual bias, particularly for movies and TV shows. But the absence of video really triggers theater of the mind,” he said. When audio is done right, it allows entertainment advertisers “to connect in a very, very impactful way.”

When the conversation turned to podcast advertising, Suchman said advertisers are seeing a return on their investment, whether it is a host-read ad, a produced ad, a show sponsorship, or content integration. “We are seeing a definite uptick in brand familiarity, brand recall and brand affinity,” he said. “Because of the passion and the emotion and the connectivity that the hosts are bringing to the table, we're seeing a real preference for brand-focused messages and advertising.”

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