This year, radio and digital audio advertising has trended globally with an overall expected adspend of $1.6bn - of which $1.3bn is projected to be delivered via mobile devices [WARC, April 2018]. As advertisers invest more heavily in digital audio formats, it’s imperative, now more than ever, for brands to embrace audio advertising. Amidst the challenges that come with advertising in an increasingly screenless age, how can brands really make the most of the opportunities that audio advertising offers?
London-based SNK Studios is a dedicated Audio Post house that sound designs and dubs traditional soundtracks for TV, radio and cinema ads. Their unique long-standing partnership with specialist audio creative agency, Red Apple Creative, puts them at the forefront of some of the biggest recent changes in the media landscape - including a huge resurgence of audio-only advertising. Having worked with world-leading brands including international advertisers on Spotify, Seb Juviler, founder of SNK Studios, and Kathleen Moroney, global head of creative and content at Red Apple Creative, reveal the secrets to fully embracing the power of sound.
The Changing Sound of Audio
As technology advances, advertisers and brands are reigniting their interest in audio advertising. Red Apple Creative have been working closely with the world’s largest streaming service, Spotify, for several years. Kathleen says: “With Spotify growing to over 190 million users worldwide, it’s an incredibly valuable platform that offers advertisers unique data-driven insights and targeting opportunities.”
New technology, such as voice-activated speakers and digital audio streaming services is also contributing to audio’s resurgence. We can listen around the clock, and as our lives get busier, it’s much easier to consume the content we enjoy whilst on the go.
That places an urgency on brands and advertisers to tune into their audio advertising now, says Kathleen: “Brands must realise that if they don’t develop the sound of their brand now, they’ll get left behind because smart speakers and increasing mobile consumption are leading us towards a screenless future. Brands need to have a solid sonic identity and they also need to consider how they will tailor their messages to each platform to create more contextual conversations.”
New technology and changing listening habits give rise to a plethora of new opportunities for brands to connect with audiences.
The user data collected from digital audio streaming platforms allows advertisers to listen to the desires, moods and moments of audiences, and to shape their creative approach to offer more value to the listener. As a specialist agency, Red Apple Creative uses audio narrative combined with data signals from the media platforms to devise campaigns with more meaningful emotional engagement. This aims to rethink personalisation for the new digital audio consumer.
Kathleen says: “The point of purchase is now at our fingertips, so the opportunity to use audio to emotionally engage and instantly drive sales is incredibly exciting for our clients.”
Emotion is the key to any effective advertising and has been central to their successful audio campaigns for dozens of global brands. Kathleen explains that campaigns with emotional content are around twice as effective as using only rational content and, considering that the majority of purchase decisions are emotional, an effective audio campaign can deliver great ROI for clients.
“Drawing on what is traditionally called the theatre of mind, audio creates strong visual images by evoking a listener’s memory and imagination. This means brands can get creative at a fraction of what it might cost to produce the same journey through other media, such as video. Digital audio offers three unique qualities: it’s incredibly personal, immersive and tailored. This allows advertisers to create more authentic connections and build more meaningful relationships with their target audiences,” says Kathleen.
Getting even more personal, data targeting is a pivotal opportunity available to brands in the audio advertising landscape. Red Apple Creative utilises genre, mood, time of day, days of week, weather, gender, moment and geo-targeting to deliver specific audio advertising content through Spotify. For example, by running a food ad while the listener is physically enjoying food during a dinner party playlist or delivering a peaceful message of relaxation during a sleep playlist.
This is an attractive appeal for advertisers with 49% of Spotify’s ad impressions delivered programmatically using data in 2017 [WARC, April 2018].
Paired with technology, sound and audio opens up possibilities that were previously not possible with broadcast. This allows advertisers to connect with audiences in ways they never thought they could. Kathleen explains: “When working with a leading international sports brand, we used sporting sounds to create music that fitted with their audience’s tastes. We also targeted users whilst they were running to advertise the launches of new shoes. Another example is when working with an alcohol brand that received a lot of industry attention. They wanted to support more female artists in music so, by inviting listeners to have their own musical tastes, we analysed responses to measure how equal their listening habits were.”
Kathleen adds: “We’ve also created fun family-targeted campaigns with a Dairylea in the UK. We made them bespoke ‘cheesy’ and ‘cool’ sounding music to target listeners and invite them to engage with a wider ‘cool or cheesy’ marketing campaign which gave the opportunity of winning cool and cheesy prizes!”
Effective Sonic Branding
Whilst advertisers and brands are beginning to invest more in audio digital, Seb and Kathleen warn that a comprehensive approach to audio is imperative to sustain effectiveness.
Broadcast reaches three-quarters of homes across key global markets and 64% of internet users also use an online streaming service [WARC, April 2018]. Consumption of both broadcast and digital audio continues to rise, which means brands need to stand out, says Kathleen: “Smart speaker sales have increased by 40% and this year it was predicted that half of all homes would have an Amazon Echo. So, unless brands use their campaigns to build emotional connections with their audiences then, when the consumer orders products through their smart speakers, they’ll just order whatever is the cheapest because there is no brand loyalty. Brand trust is more important than ever. If the brand is not in their head and heart, own-brand products will dominate. That’s a game-changer. Advertisers need to act now to avoid missing out on their market share.”
Partnering with Experts
New demands on agencies and brands means that now more than ever they need specialist insight to stay ahead.
Seb says: “The brands that aren’t taking audio seriously are the ones that are losing out. Brands need to work with a team of people who really understand and embrace this world, who create audio content specifically for these new platforms - not leaving it as an afterthought where a TV script is simply adapted for audio. That’s just not effective.”
Of course, integral to this is creating a consistent sonic identity across all media. That requires brands and advertisers to invest and allow time for audiences to become familiar with the brand’s sound. Seb says a joined-up media plan committed to the consistency of sound is important. He explains: “It’s not an ‘either/or’ situation - a focus on audio for advancing technology and digital media mustn’t mean that traditional media gets left behind. But the pace and tone of audio-only scripts can be very different - sound design and music work differently. We’re exploring journeys, first-person listener experiences, 3D audio and mnemonics. It all needs to be considered carefully by specialist writers, creatives and sound designers looking at the overall brand direction and how that is best communicated in an audio-only landscape on these new platforms.”
Furthermore, sensitivity to how audiences listen is an important consideration, says Kathleen: “The way people consume audio is different depending on the platform. For example, traditional broadcast ads such as radio generally have lower numbers of in-ear listening compared with Spotify. Radio is an auxiliary medium; it’s like walking into a room where you have to shout against the noise. You need to broadcast your message and grab someone’s attention. With digital audio consumption, the majority of consumption is through headphones, so suddenly you’re much closer and if you shout in that person’s ear, desperately trying to get their attention and jarring them from their curated listening experience, they certainly won’t thank you for it! You need to alter it to take a softer, more personal approach with in-ear listening as opposed to traditional broadcast.”
Pictured above: SNK Studios’ Dolby Certified Studio 7 is one of the Audio Post house's 11 suites in Central London
The Future of Audio and Sound Advertising
Kathleen says: “The future of audio advertising is creating more personalised messaging but ensuring that you’re doing so in a way that gives value to your audience. There’s no point microtargeting with 50,000 messages if it can be done with 50 more meaningful ones. The days of one generic ad to hit all audiences is gone. It’s not a smart use of budget and it doesn’t make the media pound work as hard as it should.
“We’re also going to see content go from strength to strength and brands will increasingly allocate larger proportions of their budgets to podcast advertising and exploring the storytelling space. Podcast advertising offers the most intimate advertising environment of all and, when brands get it right, the trust they can tap into is unrivalled across all media.”