Media

Digital audio: 6 experts discuss today’s innovation and tomorrow’s possibilities

By Catherine Cribbin | Head of partnerships

IAB UK

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August 15, 2022 | 8 min read

As part of The Drum’s Deep Dive into Audio, IAB UK put three questions to a selection of its members - A Million Ads, DAX, NumberEight, Octave Audio, Spotify and Triton Digital - to find out what is exciting them most in the sector and what to expect next.

A man walks on a bridge with headphone on

Looking at IAB UK’s latest Digital Adspend report, it’s clear that digital audio advertising is booming. The market grew by 58% year-on-year in 2021, a drastic increase on the already healthy 17% growth rate it saw in 2020. So what is attracting advertisers to invest? And how are new innovations shaping the sector? Here's what our members had to say.

What single innovation is exciting you most in the digital audio space at the moment?

Ben Corbett, head of creative production, A Million Ads: 3D audio is hugely exciting; it uses a binaural head to make music and special effects sound as if the audio is in 3D, traveling from ear to ear using spatial elements. This replicates the environment for the listener and, as a result, listeners are able to feel the message as well as hear it, creating even more of an intimate, personalized experience. This presents a myriad of opportunities for brands as they can add in additional benefits, such as dynamic audio, to immerse listeners in a way that connects with their individual context in that moment.

Sally Keane, head of enterprise sales, Northern Europe, Spotify: Spotify recently launched call-to-action (CTA) cards as a new format that makes podcast ads interactive for the first time. CTA cards transform podcast ads from something that can only be heard, into an experience that users can also see and, most importantly, click. This makes it easier for listeners to directly discover the products and services they're interested in without having a hard-to-remember promo code or vanity URL. For advertisers, bringing interactivity to the audio experience provides an unparalleled opportunity to get creative in how they communicate their key messages, and paves the way for greater engagement between brands and their target audiences.

Mark Halliday, director of DAX, Global: Digital audio has evolved and new audio environments have created fresh advertising opportunities - in audio articles and mobile games, for example. Research undertaken by Global identified that casual games are used for relaxation and enjoyment with 47% saying they play to unwind, 27% whilst commuting and 23% after eating. Furthermore, the majority (65%) play with sound on, and overall, audio ads are trusted more than video and display formats. Audio campaigns bought via DAX are generating high engagement in games and less than 5% are skipped, indicating that the non-intrusive, brand-safe placement offers a positive experience for gamers and advertisers alike.

What do you think will be possible in digital audio in five years’ time?

Sally Keane, head of enterprise sales, Northern Europe, Spotify: As brands look to Gen Z for future trends, our recent Culture Next report shows how digital audio streaming habits are a strong predictor of Gen Zs' attitudes and moods, and of culture at large. 41% of Gen Zs in the UK said they like being able to select the ad they listen to on a digital audio streaming service, and more than a third said they like when they can interact with ads. More interactivity and personalization in digital audio will enable advertisers to understand the mood and moment that Gen Zs are in and use those insights to offer them a unique, impactful experience.

Benjamin Masse, chief product officer, Triton Digital: In five years, I believe it will be possible to activate and measure campaigns at scale, with no reliance on consented personal data. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be consented data, but that it will be possible to achieve the expected outcome without it.

Tom McKay, head of product & strategy, Octave Audio: The dreamer in me thinks we will get to a point where digital audio could insert itself into other media. For example, you could be enjoying a virtual reality game and then your favorite radio station or podcast could seamlessly be integrated into the experience. I also think voice technology out of home (OOH) will take off in a big way with smart speakers successfully integrated into cars, or within the working environment. Lastly, I think we will see a more developed programmatic ecosystem for audio, one that values the quality of the inventory and avoids the pitfalls of programmatic display.

Emma Raz, director of commercial, NumberEight: We’re already seeing new smart devices on the market, allowing us to experience audio in new ways. The increase in device types means we must deliver consistent experiences cross-device. Imagine you’re at a ball game. You leave early to avoid rush hour, but you don’t want to miss the game. So you open a radio app, and the first recommended channel covers the game, you listen to it while you walk, and as you step into your car its speakers start playing the same show. In five years, technology will work for us instead of us working for it.

Tell us about a recent ad campaign you have worked on that you think embodies what’s possible in digital audio at the moment?

Tom McKay, head of product & strategy, Octave Audio: We recently partnered with the voice activation specialists, Say It Now and three charities: Crisis, Macmillan, and the NSPCC. The goal was to create interactive, actionable audio ads as well as raise awareness and drive charitable donations. For this, we created and delivered an actionable audio campaign, where the listener actively engages with the charities via their smart speaker. The results were overwhelmingly positive and enabled the charities to effectively raise awareness of their cause, drive intent and importantly donations.

Ben Corbett, head of creative production, A Million Ads: We worked with Benadryl to drive awareness and purchase intent of Benadryl allergy products. In this campaign we used 3D audio technology, as well as contextual points such as day, time and weather, to tap into consumer moments during allergy season to find real time pollen data in the listener’s area. This then allowed us to recommend the correct type of relief for the listener, directing them to their local Tesco store. In total over 800,000 ad variants were created, tapping into contextual consumer touch points, whether the listener was heading to a festival or a football match.

Emma Raz, director of commercial, NumberEight: We recently collaborated with a partner to get more people to order food delivery. We first identified three consumer personas based on their behaviors and context: fitness enthusiasts after a workout, homebodies relaxing at home, and desk jobbers after a long day at work. We then personalized the message based on their unique motivations: fitness enthusiasts need high protein meals after their workout, homebodies would like to continue relaxing at home, and desk jobbers are tired after working all day and want something simple and easy - making each of these personas the hero of their own story.

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IAB UK

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) is the industry body for digital advertising, committed to building a sustainable future for digital advertising. We do this by bringing the industry together through our 1,200 members including media owners, agencies and brands.

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