Audio Offers a Wealth of Marketing Opportunities, and It’s Time for Brands to Find Their Niche

With digital on the table, it extends far past just AM/FM

Digital audio offers more opportunities than many marketers realize, and it's time to tune into those. Getty Images
Headshot of Steven Kritzman

As technology frees consumers to program their own media menus, digital audio has never held more appeal. The ubiquity of smartphones, along with the rise of voice-activated speakers and cars with in-dash entertainment systems, has empowered consumers to exert more control over their audio choices, be it podcasts, music, sports, spoken word or audiobooks. Such a wealth of options also offers great opportunity for marketers. But not all audio is equal, and the trick is to decide which audio works best for your brand.

Streaming audio revenue jumped a huge 53 percent to $3.4 billion last year. AM/FM over-the-air ad revenue was a solid $14.9 billion, but it flatlined. While AM/FM certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, the shift to digital will only continue to grow rapidly. In just 18 months’ time, total marketing audio spend in the U.S. is expected to exceed $20 billion, $7.2 billion of which will come from digital. And there is one more stat to consider: Almost three out of five Americans listen to online audio weekly and listeners who stream use audio for five hours a day. This is 25 percent more than the average audio listener.

Not all audio is equal, and the trick is to decide which audio works best for your brand.

So, the numbers are there, but what does this mean for brands looking to connect and engage in such a fast-growing, evolving and dynamic area?

It’s vital that advertisers look at the driving forces behind the growth of audio. Diversity in content, personalized user experience and almost infinite distribution channels have allowed users to spend as much time with audio today as they want to, wherever and whenever they like.

This individual programming freedom needs to be matched by a marketers’ ability to take advantage of, embrace and understand the world of hyper-targeted advertising. Being able to dive into more reliable listenership information and adapt strategies, creative and planning is vital. Taking advantage of digital’s one-to-one delivery provides marketers with the opportunity to be very prescriptive with their reach and frequency modeling and optimize for their specific KPIs.

It’s a daunting task to be across every new tech innovation, but it’s important to remember that advanced technology sits at the center of all growth in the marketing world. Technology has driven the arrival of unlimited data plans on mobile devices that encourage listening hours on the go, while voice-activated devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa are accelerating in-home listening. In fact, these voice-activated devices have an impact on in-home listening comparable to mobile’s influence on total listening when the iPhone launched in 2007.

The connected car is another major listener growth area. The advent of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto has dramatically diversified content available for in-car listening. Now, drivers listen to personalized streaming music, SiriusXM, favorite podcasts and audiobooks. These options are now in serious competition with AM/FM, which was the only content choice in cars for decades.

Ultimately, consumers no longer need (or want) to restrict their listening to one place or device. The possibilities for where they can hear their favorite music, podcasts and more will only expand as we become increasingly connected. Our tastes now travel with us wherever we go. Advertisers need to have the ability to do the same.

Steven Kritzman is senior vice president of advertising sales for Pandora.