Spotify, Diageo and Wavemaker talk audio in an industry obsessed with visual experiences

Spotify event

The potential of using audio to reach consumers in new ways is yet to be recognised by brands. Is the lack of standardised measurement and complex ecosystem holding the industry back from fulfilling its ambitions? Speakers from Spotify, Diageo and Wavemaker at the ‘Age of voice’ Spotify and The Drum event in London gathered to discuss.

Audio can be a powerful tool that can trigger specific emotions, said Spotify’s global head of Ad Product & Partner Sales at Spotify, Les Hollander, who kicked off the event. He outlined how people have gone from discovering music on the radio to now consuming it on a range of different devices, all available in the palm of our hand.

“The fact that people now listen to music on a range of devices has changed the way we consume media. 61% of UK adults regularly listen to podcasts while 40% of UK households will own an echo by 2018,” he said. “People don’t Google music, they Spotify it.”

But while voice is taking off, brands are scrambling to define their voice strategies and deal with the issue of measurement. What metrics are marketers supposed to even use to measure audio?

Diageo head of technology and innovation, Europe, Benjamin Lickfett, raised some of the challenges of navigating audio, despite smarter targeting through audio being “really high” on Diageo’s agenda.

“There’s so many voice assets; voice search, intuitive interfaces for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home. All these require very different assets and a very different approach. It’s actually quite a complex ecosystem to navigate,” he explained.

According to Wavemaker’s chief strategy officer, Vera Budimlija, the industry has not thought deeply enough about voice and still has a long way to go before it fulfils its potential.

Spotify’s head of programmatic for Europe, Zuzanna Broadbent pointed out: “There are not as many digital touch points around voice as there are with things like search and display which makes it so much easier for marketers because you can track it with clear KPIs. It’s difficult for brands to make that shift to audio when the KPIs are not as visual.”

Audio is not top of the agenda

But as the industry adjusts to this new audio landscape, who will take charge? Structurally within agencies, the boundaries between team responsibilities for audio are not clear – not to mention that voice creatives are not even top of the agenda for some agencies.

As Broadbent added: “Does voice-activation sit within the legacy broadcast teams? Or does it sit more within the programmatic and digital team? Agencies are going through that transformation and trying to evaluate how they adapt to take advantage of the opportunity.”

So what next?

Diageo’s Lickfett does not think we all need to be tied to the assistants powered by the tech giants the industry is all afraid of.

“Voice as the future for brands is going to be interactive while having conversations with consumers that add value in that exchange – and that's where we see the future going,” he said.

For Wavemaker’s Budimlija, brands must not forget the importance of relevance. “Do you really want to have a conversation with your marmite bottle? There is a difference between entertaining and connecting and just being useful. And you need to know where your brand has a right to play along that continuum from connecting on a deeper level and just being useful,” she said.

Broadbent reminded the audience of the current concerns around ad fraud and viewability and also how video is such a highly cluttered environment. “Voice really enables you to break through and you get a 100% share of voice,” she said. “You're not going to hear two voice ads at the same time. That in itself really stands out as a medium.

“The way people are consuming voice today and specifically when streaming - it's a really intimate personal experience mostly with headphones. Unlike traditional radio, where it will just sit on your kitchen counter and play in the background - your voice experience is something that you’re really emotionally engaged in. This enables the brand to reach out and have a personal relationship.”

For more insights, watch the video below.

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