WPP and iHeartMedia launch Project Listen to encourage advertisers to invest in audio

WPP and iHeartMedia launch Project Listen

Consumer listening is at an all-time high at an average of 17 hours weekly, and iHeartMedia and WPP aim to help brands reach those engaged consumers with the launch of Project Listen, an initiative designed to enhance insights from, planning for, and creative capabilities in audio. The two companies announced the new platform today (17 June) at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Audio platforms are experiencing rapid growth — whether through digital streaming, podcasts, broadcast radio, or the availability of new listening devices. Global ad spend is project to slow, but digital will capture 50% of budgets by 2020 says GroupM. The iHeartMedia/WPP partnership aims to help brands use audio more effectively reach their customers in ways that are more personal.

“Consumers are listening more than ever, and we already know the power of music, voice and sound to create engaging and emotional human connections,” Mark Read, CEO of WPP, said in a statement. “As consumer behavior evolves, from the media they enjoy to how they relate to brands and make purchase decisions, it’s essential to have a modern approach to creative and strategy for all media, including audio.”

One element of the partnership is to establish a creative audio studio at WPP media shop GroupM’s headquarters in New York, where WPP clients and creatives will work together with creative producers on modern audio marketing programs in a series of pilots.

Another aspect of the collaboration will see iHeartMedia’s Smart Audio Insights joined with proprietary data from GroupM to supply quarterly intelligence reports for clients and the broader market. GroupM agencies’ planners will also have the opportunity to participate in an audio certification program later in the year.

“Like every other medium, audio is quickly evolving,” Tim Castree, CEO of GroupM North America, said in a statement. “This requires work with our clients and our partners to test and learn how to leverage the scale and reach of audio, and the creative and innovation potential of new platforms, which is what we’ll do with Project Listen.”

Project Listen will also offer a monthly podcast, including 18 episodes launched throughout 2020 that will include lessons from client pilots and research to encourage other marketers to take advantage of the fruits of the audio world.

“People are wired for sound – it grabs our attention, sets our mood and triggers our memories and imagination. It transports us from a favorite artist’s soundstage, to a podcast courtroom or even another galaxy. It’s quite literally a soundtrack for our lives,” Brad Hiranaga, NA chief brand officer at General Mills, said in a release about Project Listen. “Because audio is an incredible driver of culture and yet is so personal, it’s a profound way to tell a brand story that connects with people authentically in the right moments of their day. That connection is a great match to our mission for our brands to create experiences for people and provide value in their lives.”

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