A panel discussion on innovation in audio was organised by the IAB last September as part of their Audio Week. Adam Pattison, UK Country Manager for Targetspot, gives us his thoughts and conclusions.
Those of us who work in the digital audio industry love to let our thoughts wander to innovation. The next platform or environment, the new “content hotness” fuelling the next stage in digital audio consumer consumption and revenue growth. Much is made of the explosion in podcast consumption, the hype around the eye watering sums of money with which Spotify parted to secure the exclusive services of – among others – Joe Rogan and Barak Obama, as well as the consolidation within the space after the headline acquisitions of Wondery by Amazon and ad network Megaphone by Spotify. And there is no doubt there has been a marked increase in both podcast consumption and brand investment – with nearly $2bn forecast in the US alone in 2022 (Statista)
There is also innovation via technology. Software exists to convert written articles into naturalised audio content where the user can listen on demand. Targetspot works with Trinity Audio to deliver advertising solutions in this area and radio and outdoor giants, Global, acquired Remixd in October 2021. And much is known of the innovation around the hardware itself, Smart Speakers account for growing and significant shares of the existing consumption of audio and offer the unique and powerful ability of being able to enable an interaction with a user via voice technology.
But what if we are missing something? Something so obvious it is right there in front of us, hiding in plain sight. In fact, what if the next big innovation in audio was here with us all along?
I am talking about the opportunity that presents itself to us with visual media. In particular, the opportunities brought to us via Video and Gaming where over 5.5bn consumers currently engage with one or both today.
The significance of video platforms
Video streaming platforms and players will make up a staggering 82% of all internet traffic by 2022 (InterDigital report – the sustainable future of video entertainment). There is already a well-established role for audio here and I am not talking about replacing your audio content with videos of kittens dancing or Gen Z’s playing video games (or maybe I got that the wrong way around).
No. I am talking about the simple step of monetising the extensive audio opportunities that already exist in video players or streaming your existing audio content via video platforms.
While the other tech giants spent hundreds of millions buying new audio content or technology, YouTube has quietly and organically amassed the largest library of audio content on the planet. The service now accounts for nearly 50% of all on-demand music streaming time (IFPI consumer insights report) and was mentioned as being “the top destination for podcast consumption” for 70% of respondents to a Futuri Media and University of Florida survey. While there are some question marks over the full veracity of these figures, when we factor in the fact the global audience of YouTube is now over 2bn and only 30-50m of those (or 1.5-2%) are Ad-Free, premium users then you start to get a picture of the sheer scale of the advertising and content opportunity that exists.
And it isn’t just YouTube. Dailymotion is the second largest video platform on the planet, with over 350 million unique users per month, both on Dailymotion and via third-party publisher partners where the Dailymotion player is used by publishers to stream their own content. Dailymotion studies and data showed that its users are increasingly ingesting audio content on the platform – live music and concerts, live or on-demand radio streams, talk shows and even publisher podcasts. So much so they launched their own, exclusive audio advertising product “Audio-Roll” in October of this year.
Video games in the running too
But it doesn’t end with video There are an estimated 3.24 billion gamers on the planet, the majority of whom fall into the casual and hyper-casual category (mainly on mobile devices). In this world, advertising via display and video formats is an established practice. Yet, both formats can be intrusive in the gaming experience. And on top of this, advertising within the gaming ecosystem is dominated by other game developers, often driving users and consumers of a game away from the game they are playing in order to download another, competitor game. Both situations make for an imperfect user experience and can be commercially detrimental to the publisher involved in the longer term even if in the short term they benefit from advertising revenue generated as a result.
Audio has a natural place here. It is much less intrusive and detrimental to the gaming experience and traditional brands like McDonalds, Volkswagen, Sky, Vodafone already invest in the medium and their potential migration to this environment via audio ads may mitigate against the over reliance on gaming and performance advertising budgets. Companies like AudioMob, Odeoo and Targetspot are now leaders in non-intrusive audio advertising formats.
Why does this matter?
I hear you. Just the fact that this potential advertising inventory exists should not and will not, justify investment from a brand. Afterall, there is no shortage of unfilled, audio advertising impressions making up the long tail of digital audio. Agencies and advertisers have long established commercial partnerships with radio stations, podcasting platforms, streaming services and…Spotify. There needs to be a very good reason why a “new listen” is as good as, or better, than an older, more established “listen.” We already know, radio, streaming and podcasting offer remarkable engagement rates.
But there are three key reasons why Audio in Video and Visual media deserves a place on your media plan; Audience Reach, Audience Targeting and Campaign Performance.
A Kantar study by Dailymotion in 2020 highlighted some key facts about this audience. While more and more users are accessing audio-only content on the platform they are not necessarily repeating this behaviour elsewhere:
- 30% of users report listening to less than 30 minutes of all radio (linear and digital) over a full week. This represents approximately 120 million users who are not available via radio – either digitally streamed or via traditional FM bands.
- 33% of users rarely listen to streaming music via digital platforms like Spotify or Soundcloud
- 58% of users are described as “light” podcast users – who do not regularly use services such as Apple Podcasts or ACAST
- 5m UK users never use Spotify – either the free, ad-enabled version or the ad-free subscription service.
As a result, between 30 and 40% of Dailymotion’s user base is not available via radio, podcasts or music streaming platforms. This is a significant proportion of users. If we apply a similar logic to YouTube, the argument becomes even more compelling. Hundreds of millions of consumers who are accessing audio content on video platforms are not reachable via any other Audio specific service. Let that sink in for a moment. When you factor in video platforms, you add hundreds of millions to your incremental reach among consumers of audio content.
The contextual targeting available on online video services offers significant advantages over audio.
Take the example of a radio station. While a channel provides a certain amount of information on users (usually via consumer research studies or the increasingly limited info available via a device ID or cookie), the level of detail displayed on visual media platforms offers more options, especially when this is inventory bought programmatically. You have the content and context, from which you can draw conclusions about a user’s interests. Syndicated publisher info and IAB category among many other things can also be sent in the advertising bid-stream. As a result, if you have invested in specialised data ingestion solutions (behaviour, interest, page content), this data can be fed back into the DMP (Data Management Platform) and used to inform the bidding logic in the DSP (Demand Side Platform) – enabling the execution of more nuanced and targeted digital audio ad campaigns.
Additionally, because user consent for the use of data is more easily obtained by the visual media platforms over audio solutions (particularly radio), this level of granular targeting is easier to scale. And where there is no consent, then modelling or assumptive, context and content-based audience planning is easier to do with these more meaningful visual cues.
Audio on video platforms offers the possibility of introducing accompanying visual banners. In the case of YouTube and Dailymotion, branded visual elements can be displayed while the audio ad is playing.
In video games, an accompanying display advert could be considered, as well as an invitation to listen to the ad to earn in-game bonuses.
Shorter form adverts should be considered, with a more compelling call to action or brand identity pushed earlier in the advert. Video ads have been doing this for over a decade now and have had to innovate to maximise engagement in order to live within the reasonable confines imposed by the skip button. This should not be seen as a hindrance, but a call to arms for new creativity. Audio pushing the boundaries of what is possible instead of sticking to the older, tried and tested 30 second, non-skippable spot radio advert. If we want to grow the audio pie then we need to look to innovate, not stick to what we know.
What conclusions can be drawn?
The opportunity for audio advertisers on video platforms and in the gaming world is compelling. It offers new and incremental reach, rich and diverse audience segmentation and targeting and the ability to combine visual, direct response mechanisms in combination with innovative short form audio content. Most importantly, it is available now. We don’t need to “wait for the next big thing” in audio. The future of audio is now – and it could well be visual.