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RAB On 'The Evolution Of Radio': Success Lies In Deepening Listener Engagement.

Whether from the broadcasting or advertising side, changing technology has set the stage for radio to fine-tune and improve audience engagement. That's the major takeaway from “The Evolution of Radio,” a report from ad tech company Say It Now in conjunction with the Radio Advertising Bureau.

“In this industry, it is seismic change multiple times a year, constantly,” Tremor International Global Head of Creative Les Seifer says in the study that earlier this year asked industry experts for their views on radio's future.

Audio's digitization has given radio broadcasters and marketers more chances to retain and increase audience interaction given additional listening opportunities. “Innovation underway prior to the pandemic was turbo-charged when listeners found themselves less tied to a commute or an office environment,” the report says. “Radio has traditionally been most dominant as an in-car medium and indeed still is, though [now] through increased engagement with home-based smart speakers, online audio or an ever-growing number of podcasts, those listeners have rapidly gained the ability to continue those audio interactions almost seamlessly from one setting to another.”

Of increasing importance is tailoring content, including advertising, to diverse local and regional as well as national communities to strengthen listener loyalty. “There was a day when there was a cookie-cutter format across the board, and you could take it and do it in L.A., New York, Miami or Austin,” Univision Austin President and General Manager Christina Escobar says. “Now you really have to cater to the needs of who's listening.”

As a result, with advertising having become more sophisticated and targeted, the report says, “it must feel directly relevant to the listener in order to deliver results. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when creating impactful audio creative and, in radio, the importance of a truly local feel is huge.” Using the sports format as an example, it recommends that advertising “be informed by an understanding of the passionate fan base listening in to follow live games, or to tailor messaging by predicting the mood of the supporters the next day, depending on the outcome.”

RAB Senior VP of Business Development Tammy Greenberg expands on the study's findings in a look at how radio has already leveraged other ad formats to deepen audience engagement. Examples include Beasley Media Group's use of Quu's video texts to car dashboards in sync with audio messaging for clients such as BET, iHeartMedia's work with advertisers like State Farm to move into the metaverse with additional listener experiences, and study partner Say It Now's software enabling conversational and actionable radio advertising through smart speakers using artificial intelligence.

“Actionable audio ads allow marketers the opportunity to get close to their consumer base, collect invaluable data, and personalize the experience for the listener,” Greenberg says. “As consumer behavior evolves and brands strive to remain relevant and drive growth, the medium they choose will be as important an ingredient to their success as the message. The radio industry's focus on innovation to serve listeners is a recipe for growth, for both the medium and the brands that use it.”

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