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How audio gets personal without being intrusive

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The drive for consumer privacy has shaken up the ad industry, forcing brands to look at how they target their audiences. And it’s not a bad thing. Google’s imminent removal of third-party cookies means consumers will no longer be followed around the internet and subjected to intrusive advertising without their consent.

In addition, Apple’s App Targeting Transparency (ATT) framework – brought in two years ago – means all iOS apps must now use a pop-up to explicitly gain user permission to share their data.

Such moves have raised consumers’ awareness of their right to privacy. It means brands must take the issue even more seriously, striking the balance between reaching their target audience effectively, and respecting users’ privacy. It’s no easy feat, and to cut through today’s noise ads must be relevant, helpful, timely and valuable.

The power of audio

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One area brands should be capitalising on, to build trust and deliver ads that truly resonate, is the burgeoning audio app space. Spotify now has 515 million monthly active users (MAUs), representing a 22% increase on the corresponding period last year, while there are now 2.4 million podcasts globally – up by 75% compared to three years ago.

Unsurprisingly, audio advertising has grown accordingly, with ad spend increasing by over 75% since 2020. While most audio apps don’t have the same level of cross-app or cross-browser tracking as their visual counterparts, brands can leverage generic data such as time, location and listening habits to ensure optimum ad relevance without the need for hyper-granular demographic profiling and tracking.

For example, utilising time data enables brands to deliver a message that reflects the user’s context, perhaps reaching them on their morning commute or in a more relaxed mindset at the weekend, while location data can enable companies to tailor content to listeners in a specific town, city or airport. By checking the metadata descriptions of podcasts, advertisers can also deliver ads relating to subject areas they know listeners are interested in.

Getting the right balance of personalisation

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Companies need to embrace this data to meet consumers’ growing desire for more pertinent ads. According to AMA’s 2021 research, 61% of UK respondents are willing for advertisers to use their data to personalise ads and offers if it keeps content free and data anonymous. In short, consumers are prepared to exchange their data for better ad experiences.

There is evidence that brands are responding to this shift in demand. In November 2022, WARC asked marketers in what ways their approach to advertising had changed: 48% cited ‘more personalised messaging and relevance’. This includes the use of dynamic audio ads, which has furthered the growth of audio advertising. These ads can adapt in real-time, ensuring that content is personalised to listeners based on variables such as location, weather, and context.

Cancer Research UK is a case in point. The charity conducted its own research and found that runners were not willing to travel more than 10 miles to attend a race. What’s more, the research found that event sign-ups tended to over-index on female runners. As a result, the charity created hyper-localised campaigns using postcode targeting to call out a listener’s local Race for Life.

Using contextual data such as gender, listeners were served ad variants in either male or female voices with regional accents that aligned with where they were located. The campaign generated a 15% increase in participation intent (vs -6% for video or 3% for display), whilst sign up intent was 6x greater than the 2% benchmark for the target audience - males aged 18-55..

Keeping content fresh

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The results speak for themselves, and at a time when stricter privacy controls are impacting advertisers’ efforts on other mediums, more brands should be embracing contextual and first-party data within audio. This allows consumers’ privacy to be respected while enabling personalisation that not only ramps up the relevance, but avoids ad fatigue meaning consumers aren’t exposed to the same creative or messaging repeatedly.

Warner Music provides a good example of this. The company used real time data, such as day of the week and weather, to create its digital audio ad promoting music artist Ashnikko’s new single ‘Cry’, featuring Grimes.

The content was contextualised while various script lines were used on rotation, ensuring the ad stayed fresh and avoided over exposure. The campaign generated 252 possible ad variants and drove a 1.24% click-through rate to the song on Spotify – 4x higher than the average generic music ad the client had run so far.

By applying this level of control, brands can also deliver sequential messaging or meet consumers with a message specific to their stage in the purchase funnel. And no-one can argue with the value inherent in delivering the optimum message at exactly the right point in the buyer’s journey, on any medium.

As other channels grapple with tighter privacy regulations, audio is strongly positioned to cut through the noise, combining creativity with limited data points to amplify relevance. This drives results, reduces waste and, importantly, builds consumer trust while delivering real value. Savvy marketers should be prioritising audio in their media budgets this year.

By Susie Sogot-Lewis, Senior Sales Manager at AMA

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