Why Audio Might Be Your Best Missed Ad Opportunity

Eric Suliga, Creative Director

By: Julie Scelzo, Executive Creative Director, Pandora

When agency execs think about ad creative, it’s rare that audio tops the list. I know that many in the business still equate audio with terrestrial radio, and often add it to campaigns as an afterthought to check the boxes on DR and local. In fact, from a creative standpoint, I have a hard time identifying any infamous radio campaigns since Bud Light’s “Real Men of Genius” in 1998 (...which was pure genius, in my opinion).

But even though creatives are feeling the push to design for mobile, sound-off environments--audio, as we’ve always known it, is transforming into one of the most powerful advertising mediums out there. It’s the thing you may not be thinking of, but should.

Audio ads today are not just streamed across AM, FM or satellite waves, they are delivered directly to the earbuds of most Americans--often in a highly personalized and engaging environment. Creatives are now experiencing a renewed interest in audio as not just another way to distribute a message, but as a winning strategy for creating deep, meaningful connections with consumers.

I’ve worked with a lot of major brands to tell captivating stories that cause pause and spark conversation, yet I keep coming back to audio as one of the most effective storytelling tools at our disposal.

Let me break down the three reasons why I think all marketers and ad creatives should adopt an audio strategy early in their planning process:

  1. The “Theater of the Mind” Effect
Audio offers advertisers the unique ability to deliver more impactful messages by tapping into the Theater of the Mind. There is nothing more personal than allowing a listener to create their own visuals to your audio narrative. This may involve a certain type of voice talent, music bed or sound effect to create an experience in the listener’s mind, allowing their imagination to fill in the rest. The result is an unprecedented level of personalization--something advertisers need to cut through the clutter. With an audio strategy, brands have a major opportunity to present consumers with content that makes them feel something--a connection, an urge to laugh, cry or be entertained.
  1. Embraces the Best of Digital
The best part of today’s audio ads is that they combine the storytelling power of audio with the efficiency of digital. Something many agency execs may not yet grasp is that with digital audio, we can know exactly who’s listening. Segmentation, geo-targeting, day-parting and other data interpretations make hyper-relevancy a reality. It’s changed the game for how brands can connect with their target audience through audio. For me, the most compelling audio creative feels personal and connected to the consumer. There’s simply no reason why audio shouldn’t always be this hyper-relevant given all we know about consumer behaviors and habits.
  1. Contextual Alignment with Music
Music is inherently intimate. And because people frequently stream music via a smartphone, it’s also extremely personal. If a brand does it right, aligning a message with music means their audio story reaches the user when they’re already captive to the listening experience. I believe advertisers need to respect this place and do it justice. Your brand could appear in the middle of a song that makes them dance or cry, so it’s important that your creative stands out for the right reasons: for creating an emotional connection rather than merely interrupting the music they love.

With all this in mind, creating effective digital audio ads is not as easy as slapping a radio spot on a music streaming service. Making ads that truly resonate with the listener means taking full advantage of the medium. You can be incredibly personal if you rely on data and use creative cues that connect with each and every target consumer.

For many art directors, audio is still an untapped market--meaning that good really creative stands. If we take a note from the explosion in popularity of podcasts, the best ones are always well-produced, thoughtful and make their audience feel something ("Homecoming" is my new favorite!). Even the audio campaigns that I love most evoke all of these traits and more. Esurance, for example, is a master at using a consistent sonic identity. You hear the track, you hear the voice and you instantly know it’s Esurance no matter the platform or device. Over time, this has created a strong relationship between the brand and listener that’s not easily broken.

According to Nielsen, 79% of audio consumption takes place where visual media cannot reach consumers.[1] Denying yourself an audio strategy misses out on that attention. I think there’s a lot that brands and agencies can achieve if they take a second look at audio.

Julie Scelzo is the Executive Creative Director at Pandora, leading the in-house agency handling all advertising, marketing, design and content for the company, and most recently Pandora Premium. She is an art director by trade with experience working on major brands like Levi’s, Hallmark, Altoids, Tampax and Dockers, as well as publishers like Facebook and Instagram.

Don’t miss Julie speak on the “Audio Reimagined: The Psychology of Sound” panel at Creative Summit this week in NYC on Thursday, May 11 at 10:50 a.m. at the Conrad Hotel. 

Sources: 1 IAB Digital Audio Buyers Guide, 2015