"The Sell Sider" is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.
Today's column is written by Sonia Jain, senior manager of custom research for The New York Times.
It’s time to stop overlooking the most obvious place to invest ad dollars in 2021: audio.
In our search for comfort, information and entertainment in 2020, many of us consumed a higher-than-average amount of content.
But we didn’t only increase profits for video streaming brands last year. The podcast industry also accelerated.
As we relied on our ears to journey outside the home, we turned to audio platforms as never before and ad dollars followed. Compared to 2019, audio ad spend rose 10.4% last year. Podcast spending will hit $1 billion this year.
Despite this proof of strong growth and consumer adoption, many brands remain wary of investing in audio.
Most brands still see audio as a medium best used for a narrow group of brands or KPIs. The approach is outdated, based on old views of the channel and its audience.
Here’s what has changed about audio that should make all brands climb over the fence about investing in audio:
1. New attribution players
Only two years ago, the best attribution for an audio spend was to drive listeners to a vanity URL mentioned in the ad spot. This simple approach posed several challenges. Advertisers needed to dedicate a significant portion of their airspace spelling out a URL, and then trust that listeners would remember the URL and seek it out. Attribution was lost if a listener found the brand later via search or another route.
Exciting new attribution solutions like Podsights, Chartable, Claritas and others have solved that problem. We can now save listeners from a tedious “check us out at w-w-w-dot-....” while getting proper credit for those consumers that navigate through search.
Brands can better understand what drives users to their website, what content they are engaging with, the products they are buying and so much more.
2. Great performance is always driven by smart creative
The ad creative experience matters both for the podcast listeners and the podcast advertisers.
The audio creative team needs to test which voice actors are the most effective along with several other creative considerations, including call to action and ad length. Researching these creative attributes gives us a better sense of what makes for a good experience not only for advertisers but for listeners.
Host-read ads are often the default for advertisers, but they come at their own price. Podcast listeners become familiar with their hosts and are exposed to their lifestyles. This creates a powerful sense of intimacy, but in an era when trust and authenticity are so important, you can also open your brand up to accusations of partnerships that are disingenuous
Selecting the right voice actors sets the tone. For example, Nielsen research agrees with our own independent NYT Custom Study on our podcast users, which found that listeners are four times more likely to prefer a female voice.
3. More than direct response
Brands are limiting their ability to convert new users by thinking of audio as exclusively a DR mechanism. While awareness and perception are hard sells for anyone tasked with conversion, there is endless opportunity waiting on the other side if they can broaden their advertising goals and look at the full consumer funnel.
When it comes to brand lift, podcasts outperform digital. Kantar’s crossmedia norms demonstrate that podcasts outperform digital, with lifts up to nearly 50 times higher than their digital benchmarks. Kantar digital favorability norms show 0.3 percent lift, a podcast brand lift averages to 14.8 percent.
We’ve found this to be true when we compare these figures to our own podcasts. At the New York Times, we have seen an average 23% point lift in “intent to look up more information about a brand” among consumers who are exposed to audio advertising compared to control.
I remember clearly that Mailchimp was one of the original “Serial” advertisers, even though it’s been years since I’ve listened to season one. The Mailchimp ad had no vanity URL and I wasn’t in the market for their service, which means the impact it had on me wasn’t necessarily captured.
If the advertisers were solely focused on DR, they would miss out on the opportunity to educate me on their services, possibly excluding themselves from consideration when I am in the market.
The industry has a long way to go in terms of measurement, but the immense growth in the last two years has me excited to see what is next.