5 Key Takeaways You Need to Know From the IAB’s “A Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide”

5 Key Takeaways_IAB Digital Audio Buyer's Guide

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) recently published a new report on digital audio titled, “A Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide,” marking the first time the organization has produced a comprehensive resource for creatives, planners and buyers working with digital audio advertising. This is also the first update in over 3 years to the IAB’s original Platform Status Report on digital audio—and thanks to the lightning-fast rate of change in this space, a lot has happened in that span of time!

I had the great pleasure of helping create this Buyer’s Guide as the co-chair of the IAB’s Audio Committee since 2011, the group that aims to establish industry guidance, standards and best practices to bring clarity to the digital audio marketplace. With over 50 member companies, the committee is made up of:

• Broadcasters (including iHeartMedia, CBS, Univision and Westwood One)

• Digital publishers (including Pandora, Disney and Spotify)

• Ad rep firms (including TargetSpot, AdLarge and National Public Media)

• Measurement and research services (including Nielsen, comScore, eMarketer and Triton Digital)

• Other technical vendors focused on making the planning, buying, delivery and tracking of digital audio ads more efficient and effective

The purpose of the original 2011 Platform Status Report was to evangelize on behalf of an evolving marketplace. At the time, increasing penetration of high-speed internet and growing consumer smartphone adoption were the two main drivers of growth for online radio, which then reached 22% of the US population [1]. The report also unveiled powerful research about how online radio listeners were more responsive to ads than the average internet user [2]. Back then we knew this growth was undeniable and rightfully predicted that digital audio would become a promising online advertising opportunity.

Fast-forward just four years and the marketplace has continued to flourish! The Buyer’s Guide is a great resource for self-education on the ins and outs of the current digital audio landscape. It provides an overview of the market opportunity of digital audio, the various types of listener consumption, advertising products and more. We were happy to see that the final document reinforced many of the things Pandora has been saying for years about digital audio.

The 23-page Buyer’s Guide is available publicly for download, but we’ve highlighted the key points you must know as a marketer in this space:

1. Streaming is Now Mainstream: The demand for digital audio continues to grow, as seen by the rapid growth of online radio. It is estimated that 115 million Americans now listen to online radio and stream audio content weekly [3]. That’s the equivalent of more than 50% of the US population, a two-fold increase from 22% in 2011! Whereas rapid growth has been the main story in past years, the more important story for advertisers is the massive audience that is now reachable via digital audio.

2. Digital Audio Belongs in Every Media Mix: Digital audio currently represents the least cluttered space in mobile advertising while delivering the same targeting capabilities as other online ad units. On top of that, digital audio ads are generally native, hard for consumers to avoid and highly measurable—making for a necessary and accountable part of every media mix. At Pandora, we think this is how it should be, and firmly believe in the motto: what’s good for the listener, is good for the advertiser. That’s why we keep our ad load under 4 minutes per hour and offer several native ad solutions.

3. “Earbud” Behavior Harnesses the Power of Audio: With the majority of people now owning a smartphone, the ways and places where people consume audio has shifted. Nielsen estimates that 79% of audio consumption occurs when listeners are engaged in activities where visual media cannot reach them—like driving, doing chores at home or exercising [4]. The result is a highly personal and exclusive advertising experience that creates a natural opportunity for brand alignment through audio.

4. Introducing Creative Best Practices: For the first time, the IAB included recommendations on how to tailor ad creative for digital audio. These align well with the recommendations we make to our clients all the time: address the listener directly, use a conversational tone, include a clear call to action and use shorter ads for mobile. The Buyer’s Guide also includes a helpful gallery of digital audio ad examples for marketers to easily reference.

5. What’s Next: The Buyer’s Guide acknowledges that the digital audio market will likely develop enhanced capabilities for attribution, audibility and effectiveness research as the medium continues to grow. In particular, developments in programmatic are expected to allow for more efficient buying in the near future. In-car listening is also promising to create even more options for consumer on the go, as well as advertisers looking to connect with that audience.

This is certainly an exciting time for audio—and it’s no wonder we hear clients and agencies express ever-increasing enthusiasm for a renaissance in audio advertising. As overall media consumption continues to shift to more mobile, personalized experiences, I can only image what the next iteration of this Buyer’s Guide will showcase.

We hope you make use of the “A Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide” and, speaking on behalf of the entire IAB Audio Committee, welcome your feedback!

— Doug Sterne, Vice President of Audio Development 


[1] Edison Research and Arbitron, January 2011 (as quoted in IAB’s 2011 Platform Status Report: A Digital Audio Advertising Overview)

[2] TargetSpot, Internet Radio Advertising Impact Study, April 2011 (as quoted in the IAB’s 2011 Platform Status Report: A Digital Audio Advertising Overview)

[3] Edison Research, The Infinite Dial, 2015 (as quoted in the IAB’s 2015 A Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide)

[4] The Nielsen Company, Music 360, 2014. (as quoted in the IAB’s 2015 A Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide)