Grab Them By The Ears: 3 Facts About Audio Advertising You Need to Know

John Trimble, Chief Revenue Officer

By: John Trimble, Chief Revenue Officer at Pandora

Audio is everywhere. Walk down any street and you will see earbuds on commuters, joggers, kids, shoppers - you name it! And given the growing importance of voice activation, connected-devices and in-car listening, audio is the future.

I’ve been selling audio for a long time and consider it one of the hardest-working and most promising forms of advertising out there. In fact, the IAB has estimated that 79% of audio consumption takes place in moments when visual media cannot reach us.[1] So while audio advertising is a 100-year-old business, it’s never been more critical to master this medium, as the “4th screen” is a proven traditional advertising platform that has been converted into the ubiquitous mobile landscape.

Still not convinced? Here are the three most important trends influencing audio’s viability as an effective advertising format this year and into the future:

1. The smartphone revolution is no longer about “How Many” but “How Much”

Today’s smartphone race has morphed from adoption to usage. With the under-50 crowd saturated with smartphones and the majority of older Americans owning them as well, the key explosive metric now is “time spent.” And across all age groups, time spent with smartphone apps is surging.

Amazingly, the age group spending the most time with apps isn’t the highly coveted Millennial or Generation Z cohorts, but rather those between the ages of 50-64-years old. As of 2017, the 20 hours per week that this age group spends with mobile apps is a whole five hours more than they spend listening to AM/FM radio. Since this is the demographic that grew up with radio, listening to big-name DJs and American Top 40 (they were also the first generation to have FM in the car), their shift towards digital gives even more weight to the changing tides of consumer behavior. Digital is taking over what we look at and listen to, and our media plans need to reflect that.[2]

2. Connected Cars will transform the way we listen

In the first quarter of 2016, it was reported that more new cellular connections were opened for automobiles than smartphones. A long time in the making, the car is quickly becoming our newest favorite connected “device”. Drivers are responding well to in-car technology, changing their mix of media consumption to digital and away from broadcast radio. For example, drivers of the newest cars on the road today listen to 40% less AM/FM radio than drivers of the oldest cars.[3]

It’s becoming clear that digital media is an indispensable source of information and entertainment, no matter where we are. It also helps explain why the car is one of Pandora’s fastest growing platforms, with monthly unique visitors jumping 64% in the last year.[4] Our user growth from Apple CarPlay and Android Audio in particular (both newer technologies that display a driver’s smartphone apps on the dashboard) are growing at an even faster rate.

3. Voice Is the New Touch...and it’s here to stay

People are increasingly turning to voice-activated devices in moments where they would have used a screen in the past. Think about the rising popularity of smart speakers like Amazon Echo or Google Home that are making fast friends with millions of consumers who use them to ask questions, play music, control their thermostat, buy groceries and more.

Interestingly, a byproduct of this shift from touch to voice is a huge uptick in the time people spend with audio. Seven in 10 smart speaker owners report listening to more audio in the home since acquiring it, and 65% say they listen to more music too. There’s nothing more personal than voice, and this shift is allowing people (for the first time) to interact with technology in a very natural, “human” way. But for brands, this is the beginning of a world in which there’s no guarantee your logo will get “seen.” So, as marketers, we have to ask ourselves what our audio strategy will be to ensure our brand gets heard instead.

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Know Audio

From the podcasts we listen to on our morning commute, to the voice-activated devices that control our entire home, audio is a prominent part of our lives...and that’s not changing any time soon.

Ensuring your brand maintains a presence not just visually but also in audio is one way to ensure future relevancy and reach--regardless of what your brand's goals are. Audio not only creates a powerful 1-to-1 connection, but audio captures attention in a very different way from display and video. That’s why when I meet with Pandora’s brand partners to tell them about the benefits of audio advertising on our platform, I feel both confident and excited by what audio can bring to their media strategy. To put it simply, the best way to capture people’s attention, time, hearts and minds is through their ears. If you aren’t thinking about audio today, then there’s no time like the present to start.

John Trimble serves as the Chief Revenue Officer of Pandora, where he is responsible for all advertising revenue, strategic sales marketing and advertising operations. When he’s not on the road meeting with ad partners, John is evolving his station list to keep relevant with his family of four kids. Follow him on Twitter at @JTrimbleNY.

1 IAB, Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide, 2016
2 Nielsen Total Audience Report, Q1 2017
3 Edison Research, Share of Ear, Q2 2017
4 Pandora Internal Metrics, September 2016 and September 2017