Tune in to tune out: How audio is bringing growth for advertisers in the digital detox world.

30/09/2019

We’re in a difficult place when it comes to interacting with the digital world. Consumers are exposed to 5,000 ads a day, and according to Dentsu Aegis’ Digital Society index, 30 percent of people are worried about how their mobile phone usage affects their mental health.

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This over-exposure is causing audiences to disengage — or digital detox — actively limiting the time they spend, data they share and ads they see online. What’s intriguing though, is that it’s the most technologically advanced, affluent and younger demographic that are detoxing most often. The audience most likely to engage with a brand digitally, is becoming the hardest group for brands to reach.

But where are these consumers going? Have they disconnected completely? Not quite. While people cut back on their digital lives, podcast listenership has risen above a third of the population in many markets, and is only predicted to grow in the 2020s’. While the increase is across all age groups, the most active listeners are the same young adults with higher-than-average salaries, degrees and digital skills, who are most eagerly turning off their screens and detoxing.

Yes, new technology like smart speakers and platforms like Spotify make spoken-word content more accessible than ever before. But the ultimate reason for the rise of audio may be deeply human: In the flood of visual stimulus, audio content feels refreshing. Screen-less experiences provide an antidote to the fast-paced, always-on, digital overflow. Nearly half of listeners tune in to unwind and, according to a recent BBC Global News study, 94% of listeners consume podcasts while engaged in another activity. Whether relaxing in the bath or cooking, people can go about their lives, or retreat into the theatre of their minds, whilst actively enjoying the experience.

What does this mean for advertisers? It’s no secret that reaching people when they are in a good mood boosts ad effectiveness, in terms of both awareness uplift and receptivity to advertising. Research from BII reports that 55% of users pay attention to podcast ads, compared to only 34% for online video ads.

The fact that audiences are more engaged means that podcasts are making audiences inclined to buy. In research conducted by Midroll, they reported that there were significant uplifts in brand recall and purchase intent for podcast ads, compared to other forms of online advertisement. People forget what they’ve seen but remember what they’ve heard. Two-thirds of respondents could name an actual product feature or specific promotion mentioned in a podcast ad. Interestingly, in the BBC Global News study, performing other tasks while listening even boosted brand recall by 28%.

If audiences are closing their eyes to advertising but opening their ears to audio, how could brands enter the audio space, the theatre of the mind? The key is to have a solid understanding of the format (along with a sprinkling of creativity). There are no hard and fast rules for podcast success, but a few proven strategies stand out:

1. Commission branded content.

In 2018, Kellogg’s executed a podcast campaign around the hit ITV show Love Island. Due to the quality of the content, Kellogg’s were able to connect to a very hard-to-reach young audience. The podcast “The Morning After” was ranked the №1 podcast on iTunes for seven weeks straight, driving millennial supermarket visits by 16%.

2. Build integrated partnerships.

Guinness partnered with the number one podcast sports show in the UK, the House of Rugby Podcast. The weekly show covered the main talking points from the 2019 Rugby Six Nations which extended Guinness’ rugby credentials to upmarket young adults that were hard to reach elsewhere.

3. Let the host speak for you.

Two-thirds of the nearly $500 million podcast ad revenue was spent on host-read ads. Ideally host-read ads become part of the show: The tech podcast Reply All turned an ad for a metallic photo print service into a three-part narrative series climaxing with the show’s hosts surprising each other with special prints they had made.

4. Go programmatic.

With a programmatic approach, advertisers can make the adverts as unique as the podcasts themselves. It doesn’t cost the earth to create the ad asset, and with the scale of audiences and podcast topics, advertisers will be spoilt for choice. After which, they are also able to extract as much data as they receive from other digital channels. The fact that programmatic podcast ad revenue increased by 85% between 2016 to 2017, shows the power of this strategy.

The digital landscape is shifting. From visual information overload, to a more refined and engaged method of communication in audio. This is radically altering the marketing paradigm for brands, as growth is supplemented by what we hear, and not just what we see. But this is not an easy switch, or a quick-fix for audience engagement. This shift will only be beneficial for those brands that take hold of the opportunity fully, and invest long-term. In the bewildering landscape of visual ads, audio will continue to provide an oasis. If more brands are able to understand why this is the case, then the more audiences and brands will be able to cohabitate within it.

Elio LaGrua is Global Strategy Director at Carat.

Find out more about Digital Detoxing in our 2019 Trends.

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