Audio Advertising: Environment Matters

Ron Rodrigues, Sr. Audio Strategist

While clean air, compost containers, and sustainable seafood are all important to our lives, it’s time that we as audio advertisers clean up the environment that surrounds audio ads.

For years, Pandora has advocated for the numerous advantages of audio advertising: it reaches people at times when visual media can’t, it uses sound and words to stimulate the imagination, and it often accompanies people’s No. 1 form of entertainment [1]: music.

Not all audio is created equal. Pandora has always taken the listener experience into consideration before making critical decisions such as the timing of ads served, the number of ads in a break, and even the number of times that a particular ad will be heard.

Decisions such as these are only made after careful evaluation of listener feedback, including the nearly one-billion data signals that we receive from our listeners every day.

The Typical Radio Station Ad Break

Compare our method to the broadcast radio experience. We regularly listen to local radio stations and make note of their overall presentations and commercial breaks. In one example, here’s what we heard on a well-known San Francisco music station in the 11am hour (length of each segment noted in parenthesis):

Radio crams as many ads as possible into a minimum number of breaks as a strategy to minimize music interruptions, and thus, maximize its ratings.

This tactic only benefits the radio station and the evidence shows that a lumping of so many ads is not beneficial to listeners or advertisers.

In the, "2016 Cracking the Commuter Code" study of daily auto commuters from Edison Research,[2] 47% of radio listeners switched away from a station at some point during the first commercial they heard. And to make matters worse, it found that just a quarter of listeners stuck through an entire break.

If nearly half the audience is gone during the first ad, that leaves the audibility of the remaining ads in a break at a coin flip, at best.

According to a recent study of AM/FM listeners,[3] “too many commercials” was the No. 1 cause of less listening.

Mary Quass, the CEO of NRG Media, which owns a chain of radio stations in the Midwest, bemoaned her industry’s heavy commercial loads, “I believe that radio finally needs to deal with the inventory issue. We have been trying to rationalize that the quantity of ads is not a deterrent to the audio experience.”[4]

Ad Clutter Impacted TV

The issue with a cluttered commercial environment isn’t exclusive to radio: TV networks including NBC and Fox have shortened some of their ad breaks from five minutes to as little as one minute.

Turner and TruTV have cut the ad loads by as much as 50%. NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said, “Shorter commercials and shorter pods are going to be better. We have to charge more to the advertiser for that but it’s going to be better for us and better for them in the long run.”[4]

Audio advertising is a powerful ad medium, but it thrives on a clean environment. Unlike with AM/FM, all Pandora audio ads run immediately adjacent to music, personalized for each listener, with no more than two ads per break.

This clutter-free environment has already earned a growing list of success stories:

  • Lexus dealers drew 156,000 additional showroom visits driven by a Pandora campaign
  • Propel registered a 63% boost in ad awareness among Pandora listeners
  • Chick-fil-A reported a 69% lift in store visits among Pandora Young Adults, 18-24
  • Lane Bryant stores experienced a 17% lift in traffic, more than 2x the retail benchmark, among Pandora listeners

We invite you to become an audio environmentalist; for additional advertising insights and to learn more about these and other advertiser success stories, check out Pandora for Brands.


  1. Edison Research, Cracking the Commuter Code, 2016
  2. Jacobs Media Strategies, Techsurvey 2018
  3. Inside Radio, CEO Think Tank: How Radio Can Get Larger Share of Ad Pie, January 2018
  4. CNN, NBC’s Bob Greenblatt wants to get rid of the 5-minute ad break, May 2018