‘We’ve never had a better time in audio’, but advertisers are making some key mistakes

Former Editor & Content Director

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Venessa Hunt, Matt Hayward, Hannah Blackiston (moderator), Kane Reiken, Nikki Rooke and Elissa Ratliff 

The potential for audio to generate more revenue has never been higher, as long as the medium matures and advertisers stop making basic mistakes, a key media agency exec has said.

Venessa Hunt, chief digital strategy officer at media buying group GroupM, said too often advertisers using digital radio fail to exploit its potential, and treat it as they would linear radio.

“The most important thing is the behavioural element,” she said at Mumbrella’s virtual Audioland conference last week. “So often people seem to forget. They kind of focus on the actual asset, rather than thinking about what the person is doing at the time… The idea of talking to somebody in their ear… or talking to somebody in a broadcast environment should be different, because the person is actually doing, thinking and feeling incredibly different.”

She said it still surprises her when brands and advertisers use the medium incorrectly.

“When we talk about maturity, especially in digital audio moreso than linear, we do have a long way to go in being able to turn around and actually add the behavioural elements that I talked about before and really understanding that.

“So [something] that I see that surprise me, let’s say, just throughout the industry in general, is taking a radio ad and putting it in a digital environment – so a traditional linear ad – where it’s like taking a traditional television commercial and then putting it into a personal space. It doesn’t feel the same.”

If people properly considered consumer behaviour “we’d stop making those kind of yelly ‘Go to your nearest service station and pick up something’ [ads] into much more personal and harder-hitting advertising that we actually all want to do”, she said.

These missteps aside, however, Hunt told the virtual Audioland audience that as the audio medium is so broad “the opportunities are so huge”.

Hunt: ‘We need to think about consumer behaviour’ 

“We’ve never had a better time in audio, where we can think we now know what people are doing, where they are – not in a creepy way, but definitely in a positioning way for some of our clients – which is incredibly exciting,” she said, noting radio and audio now have more reason than ever to be on the media buying plan.

NOVA Entertainment’s digital commercial director, Kane Reiken, agreed that “we’ve never seen a more exciting time for audio”.

“It is the golden era,” he said on the Audioland panel. “Audio is that companion you have throughout the day for all the moments that you’re engaging with, from the tasks with picking up kids to asking your Alexa what the news is. And I think the opportunity to have that total media mix in terms of audio, connecting with audiences in the most intimate and interesting phases of their day and having a story that connects across all those devices, and I think the innovation we’re seeing is really the most exciting part of audio at the moment.”

Reiken noted the increased demand for digital audio at the moment, and said he’d like perceptions of digital audio to evolve in a similar fashion to how television’s BVOD (broadcast video on demand) platforms are now viewed.

“I really do think for 2021, any brand who is serious about reaching incremental and passionate audiences should really be looking at digital audio as at least a part of a test and learn budget to really understand how it’s so powerful in terms of delivering messaging in that really intimate and also broadcast space,” he said.

Reiken said NOVA is seeing increased demand for digital audio 

Hunt noted that it’s a long way to the finish line for digital audio to reach BVOD’s heights in terms of advertiser engagement and understanding, but said neither linear radio, nor digital offerings, should be ditched in favour of the other.

“For me when I look at digital audio specifically, it’s on top of additional radio, it’s not instead of,” she said. “The brands or the clients that are willing to take a risk and say ‘Actually, there’s a consumer set that’s here, and there’s another’ – I call it the reflection, there’s a consumer set that’s in the reflection, and I want to be able to do both of those. And it could be the same consumer at a different moment in time, or it might be a completely different consumer altogether, especially when it comes to the younger generations that are listening to less linear radio, but their digital radio consumption is absolutely through the roof.

“So the idea of reflecting those two things from a strategic perspective and understanding that it’s not ‘instead of’, it’s ‘as well as’. So, really taking the time to understand what your brand sounds like, and then understanding that it’s ‘as well as’ – I’m not moving money from here to here – I need to be able to both because consumers are consuming things differently than they ever have.”

SCA’s national head of radio sales, Nikki Rooke, noted that COVID-19 had accelerated networks’ and audiences’ digital migration “which is brilliant”.

Rooke: ‘The audio landscape is exciting’ 

“All of the richness of radio is still there – the scale and the reach, combined with the amazing contextual environments like sport, comedy, music. But now with the added layer of targeted reach, which we’re able to achieve through all of our digital assets, as well as all the richness of context that podcasting brings to it, with the ability to now overlay attribution modelling, far more richer, deeper testing and results, the quality of reporting we’re able to provide now as a digital publisher that was never available with liner broadcast, just means that everything that’s always worked for brands and advertisers for radio, can now be executed in a much more richer and more meaningful way across multiple assets,” she said.

“And of course what’s exciting for us going from linear to digital is the targeting capabilities that that brings. And we’re seeing increased demand from the market to buy more of that, which is really exciting.”

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