What Makes an Effective Audio Ad?

Megan McCoy

What really matters when it comes to making a great audio ad? Through recent testing here at Pandora, we know our brains respond in different ways to ads based on key elements within specific ad creative, and we’re now gleaning more insight into an optimal complexion of an audio ad as a result.

Fizzo: The New Feel Good Water

Pandora’s Insights Lab and Studio Resonate teams partnered to create a brand from scratch that would give our Data Science team freedom to test and gain insights into audio trends and some of the questions we hear the most. Enter: Fizzo Sparkling Water, the new feel good water. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

“In creating product benefits for our fake sparkling water brand, Fizzo, we picked talking points that would lend themselves well to the elements we wanted to test,” explains Miya Kanzaki, Studio Resonate’s creative lead on the Fizzo test. “Like evocative sound design (fresh from the mountains, the crack of a can opening, bubbles) and emotional appeal (proceeds donated to a charity). We utilized our existing creative best practices with the goal of making the spots as appealing and memorable as possible.”

How We Measured Success In order to measure the differences between each A/B test, we implemented the following measurement methodologies:

  • Pandora Surveys: Pandora Surveys is our on-platform, proprietary capability that measures ad recall and brand sentiment. Over the course of two months, we ran 7.6 million mobile audio impressions using the Fizzo creatives, and over 20,000 survey responses across all of the distinct Fizzo audience segments. No one listener heard more than one variation of a Fizzo audio ad.
  • Veritonic: Veritonic specializes in testing audio creative to get qualitative and quantitative responses, such as feelings and emotions in real time, in addition to ad recall and purchase intent.

The Results

Brand Placement Which makes more of an impact: mentioning the Fizzo name in the first three seconds or last three seconds of an audio spot? Turns out, mentioning a brand name within the first three seconds creates greater ad recall than the mention in the last few seconds.1

What this means for marketers

  • The first few seconds of an audio ad really matter. Use this time wisely to introduce your brand, offer, or capture a listener’s attention in a creative way.
  • Consider short-form audio. We’ve seen through many experiments that if you can get your message across in less time, then do so! If a listener’s attention is greatest in the first few seconds, short-form audio may be all that your brand needs.

Music Genre Does matching a music bed with a listener’s music genre perform better?

We targeted Country Genre listeners and tested a music bed that has a country, twangy music bed compared to our control spot. Which performed better? The control spot that kept its pop music brand alignment. Ad recall was 22 points below the control spot,1 and brand messaging was five points below control.2

What this means for marketers

  • Keep the music bed authentic to the brand
  • If you have rich audience insights to inform your decision to customize the music bed per the listener’s genre, consider adjusting the entire tone and feel of the creative for consistent alignment.

Feel Good Emotions Do audio ads that put users in a good mood resonate more?

In a recent IPG study, we found that users are 35% more receptive to ads when they’re in a good mood.3 We set out to test how effectiveness changes if an audio ad could put a listener in a positive emotional state (not just the listener being in a good mood already). Our first step was validating that the audio ad, does in fact, put listeners in a good mood compared to the control spot using Veritonic.

It did! The audio ad drove higher lift in Happy and Relaxed scores. Next, we found that the ad did resonate more with listeners. The “good emotions” ad scored higher in both Ad Recall and Purchase Intent.1

What this means for marketers

  • As marketers, we have control over how we want an audience to feel when listening to an ad. The creative opportunity to put people in a certain emotion, and not just catch people in a mood, is a powerful creative tool to leverage.
  • For brands desiring alignment of their message with an audience’s mood, check out Pandora’s Music & Mindsets opportunities for information on Pandora’s Mood Score and other mindset-driven strategies.

Gender Voiceover How does the gender of a voice make a difference in ad effectiveness?

Last year, our Studio Resonate team embarked on a robust voiceover study, including over 200 voice tests, and found that both males and females preferred female voiceovers. The Fizzo test stayed consistent with these results: the female voiceover outperformed the male voiceover when it came to Ad Recall and Purchase Intent.1

What this means for marketers

  • Although we’ve seen female voiceovers perform well in our research, we’ve seen that authenticity is most important when it comes to breaking through with listeners. Choose a voiceover that is best aligned with your brand, and consider testing different ones along the way!

Brand Mentions What is the optimal number of brand mentions?

Our team created five different audio ads for this test, ranging from one brand mention to five within the 30-second audio spot. The results did not yield a significant spread in terms of overall score differences, so there isn’t one magic number to recommend from this test.1,2 The amount of times a brand is mentioned may not have as material of an impact as some other creative factors tested, although this is an area we will explore more in future testing.

What this means for marketers

  • Continue to lead your creative strategy with the overall message and story. If that requires one or two brand mentions or four or five, your audio ad is likely to resonate the most if it’s a compelling story and brand / product story.

Tone Does an ad with more energy and an upbeat tone get better results than a slower paced one?

It’s every marketer’s challenge to capture the attention of the elusive Millennial and Gen Z audiences. We wondered how energy and pacing play a role in the ability to resonate with these younger demographics. Our original (control) audio spot maintained an upbeat energy, so we tested it against an ad with a slower paced voiceover read and more mellow music. The upbeat Fizzo ad outperformed the slower version in Ad Recall and Purchase Intent among Millennial and Gen Z listeners.1

What this means for marketers

  • Similar to the “good emotions” ad, marketers have control over making listeners feel a certain way, especially when it comes to sparking energy.
  • Try testing tempo and tone (humor, bubbly, conversational, etc.) in your next campaign to optimize toward a tempo and tone that resonates best with your audience.

Your Brain on Audio

Your brain can do a lot in a short amount of time. Have you ever stopped to think about what happens in 30 seconds? How about in two seconds?

With diminishing attention spans, it’s becoming harder to reach consumers. This got us wondering: how long do brands actually have to capture attention? To better understand this, we partnered with the University of California, San Francisco to measure how long it takes for consumers to recognize that they are listening to an audio ad. We measured brand recall and recognition for two-second, four-second, and eight-second ads.

The results were pretty surprising! It turns out there is significant evidence that listeners can recognize and recall ad content in as short as two seconds. This finding suggests that brands may actually have only a few seconds to capture attention before consumers actively choose to tune in or out. Knowing how important the first few seconds of an audio ad are, consider how you are introducing your brand or product. Optimize those first few seconds in order to capture attention and keep your audience engaged.

Marketer Takeaways

4533 effectiveAudioAds R1 graph

  • How are you approaching your audio creative? We see that seemingly small differences can impact the overall resonance with listeners and campaign success. Use these insights as a starting point for your creative strategy and bring in our Studio Resonate team to help guide your process.
  • Have you done a test-and-learn with short-form audio? We see that the first few seconds of an ad is the prime time to capture attention. How are you optimizing this time with listeners? Do you really need 30 seconds to tell your story?
  • Though these findings may not be the end-all-be-all when it comes to best practices, we hope they can be a starting point to help inform your audio creative decisions. Look for more audio creative testing to come — we’re just getting started.