Listen up - why digital audio is an untapped opportunity

16 May 2018  |  Tom Cornish 
Listen up - why digital audio is an untapped opportunity

It's the perfect time for CMOs to reassess their advertising strategies in the audio space, writes Tom Cornish

The latest set of RAJAR stats show that radio occupies an enviable position in the media space and continues to play a huge part in our daily lives. Around 90% of the UK population regularly tune in - a figure that’s remained pretty constant over the past decade - and commercial radio goes from strength-to-strength.

Moreover, 24 million people in this country streamed podcasts or music over the past 12 month. And in the US, the number of households saying they were “avid fans” of podcasts rose from 13 million in 2016 to 16 million over the same period.

At the same time Spotify, which went public at the beginning of the year, is aiming to ramp up its advertising business given that more than half of its 150 million+ monthly active users still aren’t the premium subscribers who avoid ads on the platform.

And perhaps most relevantly, technology is allowing all digital audio services to target, personalise and synchronise their ads in a way that would have been undreamed-of a decade ago.

There is clearly a huge audience of highly engaged listeners, but at the moment the world of digital audio ads, and the way brands advertise there, remains largely untapped and underdeveloped. Now could be the perfect time for CMOs to reassess their advertising strategies in this space.

Why podcasts?

Podcasts offer brands an opportunity to ultra-target audiences. By their nature, these shows are usually based on one topic – sports, music, books, crime, ghosts, etc. – so they present a golden opportunity for brands to target specific niche audiences based on their likes and dislikes.

And as the rise of podcasts continues, it also offers brands the opportunity to do more than just run a pre-roll or a 20-second ad during breaks. They could team up with podcasters on episodes and perhaps do more thorough brand partnerships.

The key here is to understand that podcasters are influencers in their own right and need to be treated as such, just like the Instagrammers or YouTube personalities with whom some brands already partner. They might operate in really niche areas, but it’s possible to do some really interesting activity if their hobbies/interests (and therefore their listeners) fit with the brand.

And does it work? According to Nielsen in the US, across a range of podcast genres there was at least a 7% increase in purchase intent among people who’d heard a relevant ad during the show.

Why digital radio or playlists?

Similarly, the digital radio stations and playlists that people listen to can offer useful insights into their potential buying behaviours. Advertising there can raise brand awareness among key audiences and even drive future purchases.

For example, as part of a broader campaign across multiple platforms, children’s medicine brand Calpol partnered with advertising platform DAX in late 2017 with ads on digital radio. Among the key audience of parents with children aged 6-12, DAX users were 48% more likely to be aware of Calpol Fastmelts and 47% of those that heard the DAX ad have bought Calpol SixPlus since then.

Targeting and tailoring your ads

Whether the right medium is podcasts, song playlists or digital radio, technology is also now enabling brands to take a giant leap forward in how they target and personalise their advertising. Geolocation and mobile device tracking data allows advertisers to sync listeners to the local area and even their nearest store.

It can be combined with out-of-home advertising, or the individual’s previous purchase behaviour, and so a consumer can be delivered a hyper-personalised and localised ad through ‘dynamic audio’ – thousands of voiceover snippets covering every conceivable combination of data, merged and delivered at the most relevant moment.

The ad could mention, for example, how the store they’re about to walk past has a great offer on the item that’s the subject of the podcast they’re currently listening to. It’s the sort of ad personalisation that’s reminiscent of the future shown in the movie Minority Report, where ads were tailored and delivered to passers-by via retinal scan.

Untapped potential

This is still a huge untapped potential around digital audio, both in terms of the creativity and dynamism it offers but also as a media platform in general. It gives advertisers access to what’s best about national radio and audio brands, but with the targeting, measurement and flexibility that the digital world can offer.

And, as always, there are plenty of dos and don’ts for brands who want to start advertising through this channel – even if a lot of them are common sense and applicable to similar strands of marketing. Advertisers need to respect their listeners, not bombard them with messages, engage with podcasters in an authentic manner and so on.

But most of all, brands need to be aware that radio is far from dead, as some may have suggested in the recent past. In fact, the advent of digital has made it more vibrant and exciting than ever.



Tom Cornish, AV account director at media agency UM

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