Why marketers should take note of Facebook and Amazon's moves in digital audio

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What are the reasons behind moves toward digital audio and what does it mean for marketers, asks the head of digital audio at Bauer Media.

Already this year, we’ve seen major digital players such as Facebook and Amazon claim their interest in digital audio. This sits alongside global businesses such as Pandora extending their ad tech partnerships, working toward a much more sophisticated digital audio offering.

Facebook acknowledging the power of audio (or the power of sound as we like to refer to it!) in the launch of the Facebook Live Audio platform should make marketers sit up and listen. In fact, Facebook themselves state that 41 percent of their videos are meaningless with the sound off and the company has also introduced automatic sound to videos in its mobile app, demonstrating how serious a subject it believes it to be.

Another tech giant to join the digital audio conversation is Amazon. The Amazon Alexa was the talk of CES this year and could potentially open a raft of opportunities for brands as they experiment with integrating with the tech. Voice activation could mean a real change in the way brands use digital audio—only this month, the world’s first voice-controlled hybrid radio adaptor was launched by Radioplayer, bringing voice activation to the forefront of a consumer experience.     

So why is everyone so interested in it? This anecdote is a good place to start: a Las Vegas casino once decided to silence its slot machines, temporarily turning off every satisfying beep, ka-ching and bop to see what the effect would be. The result? A 24 percent loss in takings. The casino had discovered that sound really does matter! What this means for brands is that as a medium it has always shone when it comes to creating a healthy environment for advertisers, developing meaningful one-to-one relationships with listeners. It’s truly immersive, with a native and linear feel, as the consumer only hears one thing, with 100 percent of their attention on the audio. It unlocks a two-way relationship and the explosion of mobile has only strengthened this, with everyone now having access to a radio at any time through their smartphone.

The growth of mobile devices is of course at the heart of this. Research from eMarketer showed that this year, adult mobile internet users in the US will spend 73 percent of their daily app time on the following activities: digital audio, social networks, gaming, video viewing and messaging. However, listening to digital audio accounted for the most time—an average of 41 minutes each day on an app via smartphone or tablet to be exact.

With this comes access to the heightened power of personalization and targeting. Ad tech is propeling forward to unlock the added value of targeting and a fully connected experience; our InStream+ technology allows advertisers to target listeners very specifically according to a range of first-party data including age, geographical location, gender and device usage. Importantly, this is a value exchange for the consumer—they benefit from more relevant ads, as well as extra content, in exchange for their data. Jaguar UK saw the benefits of this technology when they used InStream+ to target adult males to secure test drive bookings. The campaign targeted reach across the UK, with tailored creative per local dealership, and achieved a 100 percent listen-through rate. 

This personalization is also becoming more sophisticated, moving the dial when it comes to opportunities for brands. For us, that means offering clients industry-leading technology to deliver bespoke audio ads, personalised uniquely for each user. An example of how this works is our InStream+ campaign with magazine subscription service Readly, which used listeners’ genders to personalize adverts around Christmas, leading to an increase in engagement. It’s clear that allowing commercial partners to use data in this manner results in a much more powerful and useful campaign for listeners and the options becoming available to brands in this sector are growing, with a central creative element to them.

As the digital audio market grows, we are also seeing a demand for podcasts, with influential brand extensions showing their worth with huge opportunity for advertisers. Podcasts can speak to niche and specialist audiences due to their fluid set up and production, allowing advertisers to build a relationship with a passionate community by giving them content they can access whenever they like it. This market growth is driven by the increasing demand for multimedia content and podcasts are moving into the mainstream.

Speaking of audiences, increasingly the only guaranteed way to upweight your digital campaign for the hard to reach millennial group is via digital audio; 37 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds listen to the radio via a mobile phone or tablet at least once per month according to Rajar (Q3 2016) and one in three of 15- to 24-year-olds who listen to online audio listen exclusively online (Source: Rajar, Midas, Wave 7). Part of this success is due to digital audio skipping the problem of ad blocking, with no option for consumers to opt out.

So where does this leave us? With its strength in ad tech tools and sophisticated opportunities for brands, the future is looking good for digital audio. The immersive experience connected listening creates for consumers—without even needing their full attention—will future-proof the medium as it continues to grow. There is no doubt that digital audio should be demanding more space on media plans and it’s up to marketers to make the most of this rich opportunity.

—Nadia Holmes is head of digital audio at Bauer Media.