Despite an uncertain economy and a growing menu of marketing avenues, brands continue to gravitate to audio advertising in all of its manifestations, drawn to the medium’s human connection, ability to drive recall, efficacy, and low cost. Execs at ad agencies that specialize in audio say the channel’s efficiency is helping drive an uptick in business for their shops in what may be the start of an audio-first advertising approach for some brands.
“There's something about removing the screen that creates more of a personal connection with the brand,” says Adam Pleiman, Sonic Strategist and Creative Director at Cincinnati-based Play Audio Agency, which works with numerous Procter & Gamble brands, global nutrition company ADM, Sports Clips, and other major advertisers. “Being able to establish your brand's emotion in seconds flat – that happens through music and sound and it’s more efficient in the audio space,” he says. “You're able to forge a tighter emotional connection with your target consumer that way, and then that efficiency of spend is huge.”
Pleiman believes the efficiency of audio is causing an uptick in business for his agency from brands “shifting from a visual-first medium to possibly looking at an audio-first approach to their advertising in years to come.” He cites continued audience growth from podcasting and streaming audio and the ability to hit the right audience target in a one-on-one listening environment. “It's kind of a no-brainer when it comes to understanding what you can do with your brand’s spend in this audio renaissance,” he says. While Play Audio is a big user of broadcast radio, Pleiman says digital audio’s ability to better show ROI and attribution is leading to more confidence in audio ad spend.
Vijay Iger, CEO of Detroit-based agency amp sound branding says drivetime radio not only reaches audiences when they have a “very high attention level,” but the audio medium itself has an advantage over visual media. “The brain digests audio in a slightly different way than visuals and it's something that sticks really well,” Iger says. “It's proven that you get a really good solid brand recall in response to audio.”
Amp helps clients like MasterCard, Mercedes Benz, General Motors and various Kraft Heinz brands translate their brand, mission and vision into sound that aligns with their visual identity. St. Jude Children's Hospital and job recruitment service Indeed, both big radio partners, are also clients.
‘More Opportunity At A Good Price Point’
The meteoric rise of podcast listening, which accelerated during the pandemic, has been a factor in bringing more brands to audio. Nearly one third of Americans 12+ listen weekly to podcasts, an estimated 89 million people, according to The Infinite Dial 2023. “The rise of podcasts feels like it has helped remind people of how strong radio can be as a medium and the radio world has become much more efficient in measurement and targeting with streaming audio as well,” Iger explains. “People are now seeing a lot more opportunity at a very good price point.”
Meanwhile, advances in audio technology, like Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio, are opening up new creative vistas in the audio space, says Pleiman. Play Audio Agency used an ASMR style of production (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, defined as a producing a tingling sensation) to create an innovative and disruptive way to advertise Sports Clips’ signature service, the MVP Haircut Experience. What’s more, production costs for radio/audio ads are far lower than for video or TV, even when research costs are factored in. Pleiman said radio’s efficiency of spend saved Sports Clips about 20% on what it spent on advertising the previous year.
Wanted: More Standardized Data
Scott Simonelli, CEO of Veritonic, points to the resiliency and “innate power” of radio throughout its 100-year existence. “Nothing is more powerful at invoking an instant reaction, a visceral emotional response or at recall,” he says. Now, with economic uncertainty causing marketers to tighten their purse strings, the low cost of creating and placing audio creative is another big draw. “You're getting a lot of bang for your buck. It's very powerful, and you’re very close to the consumer, that's hard to beat.”
While the power of audio to deliver for clients is widely acknowledged, there is a desire among buyers for more standardized data and measurement. “Some of the pressure in this market is puttinga higher emphasis on data and efficacy,” says Simonelli.“You have an industry that's growing to a scale now where it matters more to the person buyingthe ad, the personcreating the ad, the person running the campaign – they're more accountable, as the stakes get higher.”