Categories
Advertising

Making Do, and Still Making Great Brand Messages, with NPR

“We’re the people — we go on.” (The Grapes of Wrath)

It’s amazing to look around and see the myriad ways people and businesses are refusing to let the current socioeconomic situation slow them down.

Can’t see your favorite band at Coachella because it was postponed to October? They’re playing for you online. Can’t wait until the fall to get great business insights from the rescheduled Advertising Week EU? They’ve launched an amazing new podcast — Great Minds, featuring everyone from Martin Sorrell to Ndaba Mandela — to rise to the occasion.

The same is happening on a day-to-day business level. When our partners at NPR’s sponsorship subsidiary National Public Media (NPM) needed to temporarily leave behind their amazing production studio, producers had to adjust quickly to the new normal. Because their Spotlight mid-rolls feature a voice from the sponsor, the team pivoted to remote recordings with guests joining from home. With that, they wanted to ensure that the quality of these custom sponsor messages would be just as high as those recorded in the studio, and that NPR listeners would respond to them just as favorably.  As any diligent business would, they turned to the data to find out.

NPM leveraged the Veritonic platform to measure how podcast listeners reacted to two variations on a custom mid-roll creative where the featured voice was captured during a remote recording. In addition to indicating their overall response, listeners were asked to assess the sound quality of the “remote” spots.

Both mid-rolls performed above the Veritonic Audio Score benchmark average, and post-intent numbers for the Spotlight audio featuring a customer voice were higher than a standard mid-roll.  That additional lift held strong even with the difference in audio quality.

Most encouragingly, after listening to both spots 87% of the audience felt that the audio quality was very good/good.

Making do in tricky times does not mean you have to sacrifice quality and impact. We continue to be proud to provide our agile clients with the means to prove it.

Categories
Audience Insights

In tricky times, the world turns to audio (again)

This article has been updated to include a new list of companies that are making audio content to support listeners. See below. 

From March 1933 to June 1944, Roosevelt addressed the American people in some 30 speeches broadcast via radio, speaking on a variety of topics from banking to unemployment to fighting fascism in Europe. Millions of people found comfort and renewed confidence in these speeches, which became known as the “fireside chats.” (history.com)

Not that he had too many other options at that point, but FDR clearly understood the power of radio to speak to and comfort the American people in a time of crisis. In both his choice of words and the manner in which he delivered them — informally, with calm — Roosevelt was a master of leveraging the medium to placate public concern, even if temporarily.

In our own current period of complexity, audio’s ability to comfort the world is more powerful than ever. Part of that power lies in the sheer number of options now available to us, from radio to streaming services to podcasts. Some of it surely lies in the fact that audio programming can be churned out easily wherever you are — perfect for the age of social distancing! 

But perhaps the most powerful part — as it was in the case of FDR — is built from smart, compassionate people. Getting up-to-the-minute news on developments is, of course, critical, but we’re talking about something different. Coming up with innovative ways to capitalize on the medium and develop programs that engage, distract, or otherwise remind us that there’s still a lot of fun to be had, is just as critical. We should be thankful for the people who do it.

Update: April 1, 2020

As we all get a little more settled in our new normal (at least what will be normal for a little while), we wanted to continue sharing the ways audio – be that radio, podcasting, or music – is here to comfort us.  There are obviously plenty more, as you see/hear them, don’t forget to share them! 

  • We are loving Pandora’s social campaign #WFHTips where members of the Pandora team share how they are keeping calm these days. This example is from our friend Steve Keller, Sonic Strategy Director at Pandora who practices ‘Virtual Commuting’.
  • Never expected 2020 was going to be the year that you took up a second career as a full-time teacher? Neither did we. Our partners at SiriusXM are giving parents a break with ‘Kids Place Live’ radio.
  • One perk for music lovers working at home is you can now listen out loud instead of through AirPods and have between-zoom-call solo dance parties. Veritonic team members were asked to each pick a song to add to a playlist with other audio industry members — check out our top picks! Isolation Radio.
  • Now trending on Stitcher is Westwood One’s new podcast: Scott Galloway’s The Prof G Show. A little humor and economic advice can go a long way in uncertain times like these.
  • Last but not least, sometimes being in the know can calm nerves. In case you want to stay up-to-date on the latest news (minus the fake news) Coronavirus Daily by our partners at NPR is our go-to.

If you wish to give to others during this time, consider MusiCares’ coronavirus relief fund. 

Here’s our favorites from last week:

Categories
Advertising Branding

Which consumer brands are winning audio?

“We’re now thinking about the sound [of a brand advert] first versus the look second. It’s a really interesting way of approaching that immersive consumer experience.”

– John Burke, global chief marketing officer of Bacardi and president of Bacardi Global Brands

The proof is now abundant: getting audio marketing right — powered by a methodical strategy — has never been more critical. If a global CMO testimonial like the above — declaring that audio now takes precedence over visual — doesn’t convince you, consider any of the latest realities about the audio market.

Continue reading on Mediatel News.

Categories
Advertising

Full-flight Optimization: Attribution Comes to Veritonic

The stats around how critical the audio market is to marketers continued to pour in through 2019. From the rocketship that is podcasting to the fact that audio accounts for the majority of adult time spent on mobile, last year’s message was clear: build a solid strategy for audio or squander a tremendous opportunity to influence customers in the most culturally-relevant way possible.

2020 is the year that we take that message to the next level. 

With the urgency established, marketers now need clear guidance on what exactly to do to maximize the opportunity — a “map of winning the audio renaissance,” if you will. We’re building a lot into the Veritonic audio intelligence platform to give marketers that holistic guidance in one place and help bring that promise to fruition.

Today, we’re proud to announce one of the first and most critical pieces: attribution data will now be available in the Veritonic platform. Flagship partners include LeadsRx, specializing in radio and TV attribution, and Podsights, specializing in podcasts.

Attribution data, as most of you probably know, guides marketers on the best way to optimize their campaigns once they’re out by homing in on which parts are most responsible for driving desired results (site visits, conversions, sales, etc.), and why. 

So let’s say you’re a sneaker brand advertising on podcasts that’s trying to drive a special offer for show listeners. And your attribution data proves that your midroll ads targeted to shows with high listenership among urban moms are driving the most sales. So yeah — you build up that end of your campaign.

Audio creative data, foundational in the Veritonic platform, focuses on optimizing creative pre-launch, allowing marketers to determine which audio ads — or parts thereof — are most memorable, emotionally resonant, engaging, and likely to drive sales.

This data can tell your sneaker brand — before the ad even goes out — things like how it scores relative to other ads like it, the optimal voice or script to leverage, where to place a brand mention, and much more.   

Tie both datasets together and what do you get? We like to call it “full-flight optimization” — clear direction on how to capitalize on what works the best across the entire campaign lifecycle, all in one place.

The value doesn’t end there. Marketers are clamoring for modern analytics platforms. As we’ve discussed a lot, predictions on what drives the best results need to be smarter and come faster. Tying attribution data (the factors that drive a conversion) back to a particular piece of audio creative helps our platform predict how effective that kind of creative will be. And smarter predictions breed faster, more reliable insights. 

So big thanks to our friends at LeadsRx and Podsights for helping us fulfill the promise of fast, comprehensive audio guidance for marketers in 2020. We’re rapidly filling in the map, making the path to deeper connections with people through sound clear and easy.

To learn more about the integration of attribution into the Veritonic platform, contact us.

Categories
Advertising Audience Insights

What Winning Audio Ads Sounded Like in 2019 — 5 Key Learnings

What do you count on at the end of the year? Skating at Rockefeller Center? The annual showing of Scrooge (the 1951 British version, thank you.)? Eating until you pass out? 

For a lot of us, it is, of course, the ubiquitous “best of” or “year end” analyses, many of which focus on ads. What would this time of year be without the great reveal of this year’s John Lewis ad, the tear-jerkers, the massive missteps… dividing co-workers and families everywhere?! Great fun all around.

If at least part of all that analysis centers around cultural relevance, then the area to analyze going into 2020 is — from a channel perspective — audio. Everyone’s walking around with earbuds — when they’re not, they’re talking to a smart speaker. People aren’t looking at TV ads 61% of the time*, but they’re hearing them. Everyone and their grandmother are making podcasts, and a lot of new, innovative technologies are enabling them — and their advertisers — to turn great content into great business. The list goes on, and it’s only going to grow.

With that, what made for the best audio ads in 2019? We ran an analysis of the ad creative (in podcasts, streaming audio and radio) that flowed through the Veritonic Audio Intelligence Platform over the course of the year to find out. 

Powered by Machine Listening and Learning (M-LAL™), the platform analyzed thousands of 2019 audio ads — assessing each creative against myriad characteristics, correlating them with second-by-second human response data, and assigning a Veritonic Audio Score. Each score bakes in consumers’ emotional response, the ads’ ability to drive recall, impact on intent to purchase and engagement with each asset.

Brands with winning audio ads included Tommy John, Burt’s Bees, and Vital Farms.

Here are the five key learnings about the top 100 audio ads of 2019:

  1. Leverage female voice 

Consistent with a lot of research we did this year (with our friends at Westwood One, for example), data around the power of female voice continues to debunk the long-accepted assumption that consumers prefer male voices in audio ads. While, historically, male voices have been used around 75% of the time in ads, female voices test as well — and often better — than their male counterparts. Analysis of the top ads on Veritonic supports the trend.

  1. Size Matters

In this case, the shorter the better. A strong majority of winning ads were 15 and 30 seconds long. While a few non-standard-length ads (eg, 45 seconds) were tested in the system over the year, only 16 longer-format creatives made the top set (60-second ads). As some of our partners continue to experiment with less conventional, longer formats — many of which we’re seeing in podcasting — we’ll see how these numbers change in 2020.

  1. Don’t muddy ads with too many voices

From smart speakers to the ever-present “host v. announcer” podcast fracas, voice has never been more important. But, as this data shows, there is power in singularity of voice. 2019 audio ads featuring one voice, as opposed to several, brought a focus to those messages that clearly resonated with consumers. 

  1. Music isn’t a given for ad success

While melody may make for stronger audio logos (as we demonstrated in our most recent Audio Logo Index), the practice may not always extend to using music in ads. Of the highest-scoring audio ads in 2019, over 75% did not include a music bed, possibly suggesting that the added secondary element may distract from the primacy of message. 

  1. Direct response is a mixed bag

Compared with something like digital display advertising, audio is obviously still a bit challenged when it comes to driving fast, easy conversion. Voice command/commerce will likely start to change that soon (as evidenced by, for example, Pandora’s recently-launched interactive voice ads). In the meantime, 2019 audio ads that included a URL for a listener to visit performed similarly to those that did not.

Happy end-of-year-analysis to all. Look for new kinds of data out of the Veritonic platform in 2020 to help you understand and quantify the most effective way to use sound.

In the meantime, learn more about Veritonic Audio Score. And if you have any questions about this analysis, contact us.

*Nielsen Neuroscience

Categories
Advertising

Audio: Old Medium, New Tricks

Audio is one of the oldest forms of marketing. Make sure it’s effective with one of the newest forms of analytics.

“In the insights industry, there is a real gap between what has been traditionally available and what we need today,” says Tim Warner, who heads PepsiCo’s consumer and market research…. Leading consumer goods companies want to upgrade decades-old techniques, such as consumer surveys … which are seen as too slow, too expensive and often incomplete. (FT)

With all the technological innovation out there for marketers, it’s hard to say why market research hasn’t caught up. Maybe it’s hard to break out of “just what we’ve always used.” Maybe some lucky salesperson from the old guard scored a two-decade-long contract.

Whatever the reason, brands are increasingly less willing to wait around for a research vendor to assemble the right panel, organize data, suggest how to use it… and pay a hefty sum for the privilege. Business decisions — from product to marketing — need to be data-driven to be responsible business decisions, and the process for gleaning and leveraging those data needs to be modernized.

Ad creative needs smart, fast, actionable research more than anything. Why? Because, as Nielsen Catalina documented, creative drives nearly 50% of advertising effectiveness, more than targeting, reach, and brand combined. With that much power, who wants to leave figuring out what’s most effective to “the old methods that were invented before the digital era?”

In audio marketing, the problem is actually compounded. More than just facing legacy measurement systems, many of the biggest companies in the world have yet to measure audio creative at allIn today’s “audio renaissance,” how is it possible that decisions about ads, sonic branding, voice and more are still often made by gut? Look no further than the most commonly referenced stats (e.g., smart speaker adoption is growing faster than the early days of smartphones; 65% of podcast listeners are inclined to buy a product advertised on the show; etc.) to understand just how unsustainable that is.

So, for marketers concerned about getting audio marketing right — and tired of hitching up the horse and buggy of traditional research to try to figure it out — there’s good news: Machine-learning measurement — that quickly and accurately predicts how people will respond to audio creative — is here. It’s called the Audio Effectiveness Platform. 

What makes an audio effectiveness platform effective? Four things.

Merely moving from traditional research methods to a predictive platform is a big step as it is. But four critical components need to be present to fulfill the big promise.

1. The robot has to continually absorb tons of creative data

The smartest machine learning platform in the world can’t learn without analyzing a large and  steady volume of audio assets, from voices to streaming ads to sonic logos. Creative needs to be assessed for characteristics like timbre, brand mentions, use of music and the like, then weighed against other assets in the system for its’ ability to drive the marketer’s desired outcome. 

Let’s say a sneaker brand is assessing 50 voices for the one that will sound most “inspiring” to podcast listeners. The platform needs to be able to analyze those voices against a critical mass of other voices that have been gauged for their power to inspire podcast listeners.

Pandora’s Lauren Nagel describes a similar test that Pandora did on The Sonic Truth podcast.

2.   It needs to know what “effective” is

“…market research was all about mitigating risk of the decisions that the business had already made,” says Stan Sthanunathan, who has led consumer insights at Unilever since 2013. “Today our role has changed to anticipating consumers’ desires….”

For the system to predict how effective audio creative will be, it first has to understand what “effective” audio marketing actually is. An aggregate of different research philosophies points to four key components. Effective audio marketing:

  1.   grabs someone’s attention (engagement)
  2.   connects with them (emotional resonance)
  3.   is memorable (recall)
  4.   persuades them to want to buy the product (purchase intent).

While “machine learning” generally describes how a platform gets smarter as it processes more data, we like to think of the audio version as “machine listening and learning,” or M-LAL. “Listening” describes the machine’s ability to hear and understand the assets, and “learning” means evaluating them in the context of everything ingested and analyzed previously.

Back to our example: let’s say our sneaker brand is also looking for the voices that are most likely to persuade consumers to buy its sneakers. To predict it accurately, the machine obviously needs to be listening to and comparing against thousands of other voice assets that have scored relatively high for purchase intent in podcasts.

3.   It needs to keep getting smarter…with the help of people

While survey-based businesses are emblematic of “the old ways,” human response data is still important — just in the right context. Predictions need to be constantly validated and panels of people can help do it.

Back to the sneaker brand. Let’s say the platform, assessing a particular sponsor voice, predicts a relatively high score for “inspiring.” Without losing much time, the brand should be able to check those results against any custom audience segment it wants — say, several hundred in-market sneaker buyers in the midwest who listen to podcasts at least twice a month.

Once that data reinforces (or corrects) the prediction, those new learnings need to flow seamlessly back into the platform. That, in turn, makes the robot predict even more accurately next time.

4.   It needs to produce a simple, standardized score quickly

Intelligence about audio creative needs to be robust, cost effective and fast. But ultimately, if it can’t actually be put to good use easily then what’s the point? 

The most useful output of audio effectiveness analysis is a simple score that not only incorporates the most relevant data, but that adheres to a standard that makes comparing across the market easy.

One more time to our sneaker brand. With smart speakers as a key part of their strategy, they know the “voice of their brand” needs to resonate with listeners as much as, if not more than, their competitors. The platform needs to make that benchmarking easy. 

A simple, universal score makes the relative value of their voice asset — and their smartest path forward —  clear as a bell.

It’s unsurprising that audio, which is driving some of the most ubiquitous innovations in the modern era, is driving innovation in analytics as well. Technology at its best gravitates to where it’s needed the most. If one innovation ensures that millions of podcast listeners get ads for products they actually care about, another one needs to ensure that what they hear actually compels them to buy.

From the earliest days of radio, the smartest brands, media companies and others have always known just how resonant and powerful audio can be. Now, in the audio renaissance, the same types of leaders are embracing technology to reveal that power clearly and quickly. And it’s only getting smarter.

Categories
Branding

The Unique Power of the Everyday Sound

Living is easy with eyes closed…. (Lennon/McCartney)

I, like millions of others around the world, am a diehard Beatles fan. My love for their music is so extreme that, when people ask me to name my top five favorite bands of all time, I don’t even include them, asserting that they just can’t be ranked like any regular old band.

I feel their impact often — and not only when I’m listening to their music. I feel it every time I walk by the Dakota building on the upper west side of Manhattan (where John lived). I feel it every time I hear Oasis (sorry, fellas). 

And I feel it every time I turn on my MacBook, because that single chord that plays will forever remind me of the opening of McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” I don’t know if Steve Jobs intended it that way. I also don’t think they’re precisely the same chord, but yeah, go ahead and revisit that.

The full effect of hearing that customized functional sound — what some call an earcon — requires analysis, but this I know: I hear it and I feel good, both in general and, by extension, about using that product. There are, of course, a lot of other reasons why I love my laptop, but its association with that sound always seals the deal.

The ability for brands to foster that association has never been more important. Why? You heard it from me first (:-): audio is huge. From the endless entertainment of podcasts to the myriad innovations that make it easier for people to listen, consumers are simply consuming more audio. And that’s only the content and technology that is built for audio. Endless aspects of our daily experience — putting on a seatbelt, getting a text message…the list goes on — are enabled by sound. 

With such an all-encompassing impact on peoples’ lives, a lot of businesses are starting to hear tremendous opportunity. The sound of their brand, they’re coming to understand, is multi-dimensional, not restricted to the audio logo alone. The more places they can integrate their brand identity in a positive, consistent way, the deeper the connection they perpetuate with customers.

Back to the Mac for a second. What if that power-on sound was merely a generic “bleep” of some kind? Clearly, at least for me, the experience of using that laptop would feel a lot more shallow. There is strength in a carefully-planned, customized earcon. 

The study by sonic branding agency Audio UX, powered by the Veritonic platform, proves it out. Through a combination of “Machine Listening and Learning” and human panel validation, the analysis demonstrates not only the value of leveraging earcons generally but how much more impactful “premium,” brand-customized sounds can be. 

The findings signify more than just personal preference. Others show that premium earcons — multi-layered and more harmonically complex than their generic counterparts — actually do a better job of signifying the correct function to users. 

There’s a lot to dig into. To start: 

  • Listen to our latest episode of The Sonic Truth, in which Audio UX’s Dexter Garcia and Veritonic’s Scott Simonelli go deep on just how big an opportunity earcons present.
  • Read the eBook on the study, available now.

Brands are starting to recognize the lifelong impression they can make on people through little sounds. Maybe they’ll be lucky enough to have as big an effect on millions of consumers as McCartney and the Mac have had on me.

Categories
Audience Insights Branding

The Sweet Sound of Insurance

The 2019 Audio Logo Index is out now!
Download

Is it possible that, these days, we’re hearing brands more than we’re seeing them? There’s a lot of evidence out there that would suggest we are.

Start with the simple fact that, according to Nielsen Neuro Science, TV ads aren’t seen 61% of the time — but they’re heard.

Next, I’ll be the millionth person this week to remind you of how hot podcasting is right now — from the fact that one-in-three Americans listened to a podcast last month, to Spotify’s acquisitions of Gimlet and Anchor. Once some of the growing pains of its ad model get worked through, the opportunity for brands to more deeply impact people through podcasting will only grow.

The smart speaker opportunity may be even more exciting; its full potential is still unknown, but the big-win possibilities are already blaring. When, for example, voice commerce truly kicks in and it becomes common for someone to regularly “talk to” their favorite brands and buy from them directly, we can all pretty safely declare those businesses the Leonardos of the audio renaissance.

But that’s smart speakers phase two. To get there, brands first need to be entrenched in their customers’ psyches, and an impactful signature sound is one reliable way in.

Of all of the components of the holistic sonic brand — anthem, functional sound, etc. — the audio logo is paramount. From ads to experiences, the logo is the quick, ubiquitous identifier that triggers (hopefully positive) emotions in consumers — a little sound with outsized impact. It needs to be right.

Based on the freshly-released results of our 2019 Audio Logo Index, the annual ranking and analysis of the sonic logos of some of the biggest companies in the world, insurance brands seem to be getting it better than anyone. That sector led all others, with Farmers® and Nationwide sonic logos claiming the top two spots in the US, and Liberty Mutual scoring the highest for recall.

This year’s Index goes even deeper than before, with new insights into major businesses’ mnemonics — the power of repetition, the ideal placement of brand mentions in an ad — and much more.

Download the Index and have a look, and check out what The Drum has to say about it. Then talk to us about how this data — and much more coming out of the Veritonic platform — can help you ensure that, when someone asks you about your audio strategy, you have an answer that’s leading you toward your own big win.

The 2019 Audio Logo Index is out now!
Download
Categories
Advertising Audience Insights

Can A Scoring Standard Make Audio Creative Better?

“Despite each 30-second commercial costing upwards of $5 million, on par with recent years, there was a lot of mediocrity.” – AdAge

If you believe certain narratives in the media, you might think that creative is getting a little knocked around these days. The above quote comes from a review of ads from the last Super Bowl, and it’s not the only one like it. A lot of people seem to be complaining that creativity in marketing could stand to be just a touch more creative.

Here’s another common narrative – that a focus on the mechanics of advertising, powered by robots, has often left creative somewhat neglected:

“The last few years the industry has been laser-focused on efficiencies … What hasn’t happened much until recently is taking feedback from the data and trading and incorporating that back into creative.” – AdExchanger

Critical mechanics and efficiencies, like programmatic, for instance, are only growing as AI and machine learning flourish. But, as a recent Nielsen study found, targeting, reach and frequency – the levers most easily pulled by automation – are together only responsible for 36% of the effectiveness of an ad. Creative’s impact on ad effectiveness? 47%.

Some other science-driven tactics, like ASMR, are starting to infiltrate ad creative, but are people more fascinated by how that creative is being delivered than the creative itself? When we tested Michelob’s ASMR Super Bowl ad, the response was underwhelming.

Creative “Magic” at Scale?

Ensuring creative hits home with audiences is complex, in part because not all channels are created equal. How do you maintain a high standard of creative when – as with a buying method like programmatic – when you’re trying to do it across billions of ads?

The creative fodder of Super Bowl (or Grammy or Oscar) ads – big-budget productions that often rightly end up on the awards circuit – is obviously different than creative you might find in a long-tail display ad, at the end of a podcast, or on your local radio station. And if, per the above, one can’t even guarantee that the big effort put into the former automatically equals big success, where does that leave the latter?

Audio’s double-edged sword

Audio, as we’ve been hearing frequently, is undergoing a “renaissance,” from podcasts about every subject under the sun, to the fact that you’re probably talking to your smart speaker right now. Does that renewed emphasis mean audio ad creative has achieved a new level of awesomeness? Not necessarily.

Audio has both inherent creative advantages and disadvantages. For instance, it doesn’t have the benefit of a great visual to give it extra power. Or perhaps because, historically, there’s been so much emphasis on big TV ads – and fascination with their big cost – especially around the aforementioned events, people just don’t expect as much from pure audio channels.

In our new audio reality, that expectation is surely changing.

Audio can also do things that other channels and formats cannot. The host-read ad of podcasts, for example – based on precedents set at the dawn of TV and radio – is now often the ad format of choice, connecting trusted host to a product.

Does it guarantee success? Not necessarily.

A common metric to raise the bar

No matter which of the above scenarios resonates with you the most, whether some audio creative needs triage or some just a little love, a robust scoring system will help make it more effective. Why? Because a common, easily-understood metric for the power of audio assets – from ads to voice to sonic branding elements – gives businesses a simple touchpoint for where they stand relative to others in the market, and where they need to improve.

Creative effectiveness data has, in some cases, led to potentially industry-transforming findings. A study we powered for Westwood One, for example, proved that disclaimers in auto ads on the radio – generally thought to be a necessary evil – did not negatively-impact perception of those creatives. Several other studies have proven that consumers in many instances prefer female voiceovers to male, bucking the longstanding trend of 75% of voiceovers being spoken by men.

Not every finding can transform the market. But a fast, reliable way to gauge similar truths about their own audio creative can help transform a business.

People and robots come together

Some audio creative scoring does exist (for example, Ace Metrix asks about an ad’s music when they test a video ad). The question of how it’s typically done takes us back to that dichotomy between human and machine. Only a human can bring that true “magic” to creative. Similarly, only human response to that creative can bring insight into its true emotional power. With that, some businesses test with human panels, leverage neuroscience, and the like.

But what of efficiency? Like Sinatra sang about love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other. The best insights in the world aren’t worth much unless you can discover and act on them nimbly; the brand that’s engaging people with high-impact creative on smart speakers right now is miles ahead of the brand that’s still poring over data.

When the efficiency of machine builds in – and constantly learns from – that human judgment, the true path to better creative is not only revealed, it’s revealed quickly and easily.

A score built like this will not automatically lead to superlative audio creative everywhere. But it will, in combination with industry and platform-specific norms and benchmarks, provide much-needed tools that help make creative as core to the renaissance as smart speakers or podcasts.

Categories
Advertising Audience Insights

NEW DATA: Michelob achieves calm, but does it win?

The Power of Audio in Super Bowl Ads

If you’re playing along with the periodic release of Super Bowl ads in the lead up to the big game, you may have noticed a small trend: a few of them are clearly counting on the power of audio for their success.

Specifically, as Ad Age reported, at least a couple of brands, including Pepsi and Michelob, are leaning on the audio phenomenon known as “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response” (ASMR) to make a more impactful ad. ASMR, in short, prompts people to “experience a calming or tingling sensation in response to certain sounds like whispering and finger tapping.”

It’s certainly the right time to be leveraging the power of audio — from smart speaker adoption tripling in the past year, to the fact that TV ads aren’t seen 61% of the time (Nielsen Neuroscience). So Pepsi, likely understanding that and a lot more about the “audio renaissance,” puts Cardi B, apparently a loyal devotee of ASMR, in a diner, tapping her nails on a can of Pepsi.

Michelob goes much deeper with the technique, putting Zoe Kravitz on a mountain in Hawaii, drawing a quiet focus to every sound, from fizzy pour to breathy whisper. The ad even has Zoe sitting at a table with two microphones, a direct nod to the way most ASMR videos are made.

Still of the Michelob ad.

Will the power of audio help determine a clear ad winner on game day? We tested these ads on the Veritonic platform in two phases, along with a few other ads released early, to find out.

  • In phase one, six ads were assessed across a range of emotional attributes — happiness, relaxation, uniqueness and more — as well as for their ability to drive purchase of the product.*
  • In phase two, we tested the audio portion of the ads alone to see if perceptions of the spots change.
https://youtu.be/9sYElEbRzKA
Pre-released Super Bowl Ads (full ad with video/audio)

All the results are above, but here are a few standout learnings:

  1. If Michelob’s goal was to create a feeling of relaxation amidst the chaos of the Super Bowl — “a disruptive quiet,” in the words of Azania Andrews, VP of Michelob Ultra — then they nailed it. The ASMR-fueled ad scored the highest for relaxation. It also showed a reasonable lift in purchase intent.
  2. On the other hand, the Michelob ad tested relatively low across other measures, from “makes me feel good” to likeability, suggesting that promoting a feeling of calmness alone might not be enough to drive a broader positive response to the ad.
  3. The Pepsi ad did the best overall, with high scores for happiness, authenticity, likability, playfulness, and uniqueness, perhaps driven by the bigger star-power (Steve Carell, Cardi B and Lil Jon) and humor.
  4. In the AUDIO-ONLY test, the Pepsi and Pringles ads remained at the top, suggesting that, whether they intended to or not, they’re less dependent on visual to be effective.
  5. Likewise, the Michelob ad, engineered to be driven by audio, ranked at the bottom of the audio-only test, perhaps because the beautiful visuals aren’t there to support the ad’s frequent silent spells.
Pre-released Super Bowl Ads (audio only)

When brands and audio platforms are making audio ads, the diligent ones aren’t just recycling the audio from a TV ad — they’re custom-creating based on what’s right for each channel. But, as we note above, there’s a new reality that’s been created by new watching habits: now, a majority of the time, TV ads are heard but not seen. And, no surprise, not every ad creator is thinking about that reality as they create.

It seems that those who are — the brands engineering their ads to ensure that they don’t necessarily need to be seen to be effective — are following the winning playbook.

See and hear all of the above spots (and more) here.

* measured by asking how likely people are to purchase the product before exposure to the ad, and after.