The Ad Creative World Needs an Audio-First Perspective

I’ve said it all before: the new audio renaissance is in full swing. Americans streamed 900 billions songs in 2018,1 have over 700 thousand podcasts at their fingertips,2 and are expected to purchase 156 millions sets of headphones this year.3

While some brands are responding to this tectonic shift in media consumption, many are not. All signs are pointing to audio as the next big thing—but then why is the creative world being so slow to react? When it comes to what we can accomplish with sonic advertising, we’ve only hit the very tip of the iceberg.

As we head into this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, it’s curious to see how slow this supposedly ‘innovative’ creative industry is to reflect these changes. With around 27 specialist award categories, only a measly four are audio related and placed under a category name of ‘Radio & Audio’—two seemingly related categories, but ones that require vastly different strategies. That’s like creating a category that mashed up ‘Newspaper & Social Media Campaigns’.

For the past several decades, Ad Creative Shops have been traditionally TVC oriented, and rightly so, as it has been the most influential media channel for the latter part of the twentieth century. (Looking at the Cannes award categories again, they are clearly still predominantly video-oriented). And while there has been some adjusting in terms of distribution—the TV spots now play on Pre-Roll and on Mobile—they mostly don’t stray too far away from the discipline of filmmaking. Audio creative production, on the other hand, has generally been a value-add service provided by the publishers or handled by production houses or contractors, and tends to be several steps away from the marketers and brand managers who are responsible for developing the actual strategy and campaigns.

Reimagining the Audio Ad

Audio creative is an old discipline, predating the internet, film and television. The traditional radio inspired techniques of witty one-liners and punchy sound effects—which are still effective today. But now with the help of psychologists and psychoacoustitians, we understand some of the reasons why and can use them to our advantage.

Thanks to the field of cognitive psychology, we now know we process sound faster than any other sense, it’s one of the reasons sound can be used to evoke emotion, recall memories or even make us secrete hormones.

The combination of science and data makes audio a storytelling superpower, and the tools we have available to us as creators and marketers have completely changed the game. Rich data targeting allows for dynamic ads that modify spots on-the-fly based on language preferences or user environment, or reach listeners with relevant messages based on their mood. Think, changing call-to-action messages based on whether the user is on public transit (“tap to buy!”) or driving in the car (“say yes to have information sent to your email”). Audio is the only form of media that reaches people in the moment, wherever they are and however they want to be reached.

This is a complete re-think of what an audio ad is, and what it is capable of. This new medium needs creatives that are not only competent in harnessing the power of audio for storytelling, but are also savvy, experienced digital marketers. They need to be fluent in sound and music—the language of the heart—but equally comfortable with science of sound and it’s powerful effect over the psychological and physiological.

This is why at Pandora, we saw the need for a new type of creative team.

Now Introducing: Studio Resonate

We’ve been in the digital audio advertising game for almost 20 years. As the first streaming platform in the world to offer digital audio ads, we literally pioneered the medium. In those two decades, we’ve also collected an enormous amount of data on listeners, their habits and behaviors.

For the last few years we have been working diligently to transform our creative service team into a creative powerhouse full of copywriters, strategists, musicians, designers, developers and audio producers. The team has a wealth of experience developing podcasts, music programs, live events and activations and of course, audio ads. A lot of audio ads. 250,000 of them, in fact. So we really know what it takes to harness the power of audio and get a brand message to truly resonate with listeners.

We are proud to present, Studio Resonate, an audio-first creative consultancy that sits at the intersection of creative and data, science and sound.

We are audio-first (rather than audio-only), because brands shouldn’t be thinking about audio in isolation from other channels.

We are a consultancy (rather than an agency), because we aren’t in it to take work away from media and creative agencies, we want to work closely with them to provide data-informed and data-optimized audio strategies that make brand and campaign strategy more effective.

And while we are still a core part of Pandora, our creative, strategy and production services are intended to be platform-agnostic. We don’t believe they should be exclusive to our own platform; we aim to develop holistic creative strategy that can work across a wide gamut of channels.

We are incredibly excited to relaunch our services under this new banner, and would love to speak to you about how to harness the power of audio for your brand. Let’s talk.