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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Advertising Audience Insights

80’s music in ads ‘Rock(s) the casbah’ for Millennials

Nostalgia is known to be a powerful emotion and is a common theme in advertising. Nostalgic cues delivered by music in particular are a dominant feature in TV ads:

  • 60% of YouTube’s most-watched global ads in 2018 featured popular music, 80% of which was nostalgic music;
  • and last year most of the major UK Christmas TV ads featured nostalgic cues, 59% of which included nostalgic music
    This got me thinking about what type of nostalgic music is the most effective, especially when on closer examination of the 2017 major UK Christmas TV ads, I found that the nostalgic tracks used span many decades (see figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1 UK Christmas Ads

Figure 2 UK Christmas Ads
Figures 1 and 2: 2017 UK Christmas ads analysed: Aldi, Amazon, Argos, Asda, Barbour, BBC, Boots, Debenhams, Heathrow Airport, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Lidl, Matalan, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Sky Cinema,Tesco, TK Maxx, Toys R Us, Very.co.uk, Waitrose

A lack of research in this area inspired me to focus on this for my MBA dissertation, and one of the key research findings was surprising:

Millennials showed a higher emotional response and a more positive attitude to the brand when watching an ad featuring 80s music than watching an ad featuring music from their teenage years. Why?

You would expect Millennials to respond more positively to the music from their own youth as research shows that the peak musical memory age is from when you were between 14 and 17 years old (1, 2).

But musical memories are also formed from hearing music played by your parents or grandparents (tracks from their teenage years) and this is known as a ‘cascading reminiscence bump’ period (3).

These two musical memory periods differ in the way they evoke nostalgic emotions as tracks from another generation will usually evoke positive, happy memories of ‘the way it was’ (4) and are associated with a time before you were born. This ‘historical’ nostalgic reaction is less risky than evoking personal nostalgia, which can remind you of ‘the way I was’. Music can instantly transport you back to a personal moment in time and if a song is associated with a negative event in your life, this negativity can instantly be transferred to the brand if featured in an ad.

So, what if your brand targets both Millennials and Generation X? How can you choose a track which will evoke positive emotions for both age-groups?

Do the ‘Safety dance’

Using gut feel to choose the right song will get you a long way, but with large media budgets in play and ROI always front of mind, pre-testing your ad’s audio content (i.e. doing the safety dance) should be the tune of the day.

Television delivers 71% of total advertising-generated profit, yet it is pervasive with 2.6 billion ads seen in the UK every day with each person ‘viewing’ on average 43 ads daily (5). Brands need to stand out but not just visually as ‘viewing’ does not mean consumers are paying attention – 21% of people leave the room during ad-breaks and 40% look at a second device. However, consumers still ‘hear’ the commercials (6) making the audio elements and music in an ad paramount.

Using nostalgic music in an ad is one way to get stand-out and brand recall, increase brand attitude and achieve better overall ad performance, but how do you know that the track you choose is evoking the right nostalgic feelings i.e. ‘the way it was’?

The music selection clearly needs to fit a brand’s values as well as the ad creative but understanding the target audience’s emotional response to the music is also essential. And the only way for brands to determine this is to test music with their customers right at the beginning of the advertising process.

References

(1) Hemming, J. (2013), ‘Is there a peak in popular music preference at a certain song-specific age? A replication of Holbrook & Schindler’s 1989 study’, Musicae Scientiae, 17(3), pp.293-304.

(2) Gerlich, R., Browning, L., and Westermann, L. (2010), ‘I’ve Got The Music In Me: A Study Of Peak Musical Memory Age And The Implications For Future Advertising’, Journal of College Teaching and Learning, 7(2)

(3) Krumhansl, C. and Zupnick, J. (2013) ‘Cascading Reminiscence Bumps in Popular Music’, Pyschological Science, 24(10), pp.2057-2068.

(4) Marchegiani, C. and Phau, I. (2011), ‘The value of historical nostalgia for marketing management’, Marketing Intelligence and Planning, 29(2), pp.108-122.

(5) Thinkbox (2018) TV Advertising’s Killer Charts – What Every Marketer Should Know. Available at: https://www.thinkbox.tv/Research/Nickable-Charts/Killer-Charts/TV-advertisings-killer-charts-full-deck (Accessed: June 1, 2018).

(6) Council for Research Excellence (2017). Nielsen Neuroscience Study: The Mind of The Viewer. Available at: http://www.researchexcellence.com/files/pdf/2017-03/id423_cre_the_mind_of_the_viewer_arf_presentation_3.14.17.pdf (Accessed: June 1, 2018).

Findings are part of an MBA Thesis by Michelle Heywood: Identifying Generation Differences: The Impact of Nostalgic Music in TV Advertising on Emotional Response, Brand Attitude and Purchase Intent, Brunel University London

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Advertising Audience Insights

NEW DATA: Radio Rocks The Vote

Katz Radio Group proves the power of radio to move swing voters in Florida

Katz Radio Group proves the power of radio to move swing voters in Florida

Greetings from Orlando, where team Veritonic is all over Radio Show, the industry’s annual confab.

As Katz radio group has begun leveraging our platform to generate ongoing research around radio’s influence on the electorate — and to create best practices for making more effective political radio spots — what better place to announce its first findings: radio has a strong ability to influence crucial swing voters in the current U.S. Senate race in Florida.

The Veritonic platform identified undecided voters in the hotly-contested race between Republican nominee Rick Scott and Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson. The voters assessed political ads for their emotional appeal and ability to influence a vote.

One group of panelists rated television ads from the Bill Nelson campaign. Because the Nelson campaign isn’t running radio ads yet, a second group of panelists listened to the audio bed from the TV campaign as a proxy for radio spots. Listen to one of the spots here.

The results were substantial.

Radio creative can deliver the same emotional impact as TV

The audio spot demonstrated an emotional impact on par with the TV spot, for example, delivering 93 percent of the impact generated from the TV spot when it came to trustworthiness — obviously a key element of political campaigns. For some emotional attributes, the impact of the pure audio spot exceeded that of TV. Voters, for example, found the radio ad to be 9 percent more inspirational than the TV spot.

Radio influences a person’s vote

Perhaps most critically, the radio spot drove the swing voters’ intent to choose Bill Nelson as effectively as the TV ad — both showed an 8 percent lift.

Katz is continuing to investigate best practices for political ads and the importance of radio for the political market. Get the full research note from Katz here.

To learn about how you can conduct similar studies on the Veritonic platform, contact us.

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Advertising Audience Insights

NEW DATA: Proving the Power of Personalization with Pandora

NEW DATA: Proving the Power of Personalization with Pandora

Dynamic audio creative drives better ad performance

It’s hard to deny that a customized brand message — to someone’s gender, age, location, weather, behavior, preferences and more — is going to resonate better. It’s customized for them. Dynamic creative optimization was created to do this on the fly and at massive scale, piecing together the most relevant components of a given ad for each person in real time.

Dynamic creative is, of course, not new to digital advertising — the practice has been a component of programmatic display, video and other advertising for years. But audio is catching up, and there’s no time like the present; with, for example, 160 million people streaming audio weekly, the prospect of brands engaging each of those listeners with the most targeted message is simply too great an opportunity to squander.

With that, we’re proud to provide the testing platform for Pandora’s new ad products around personalization to help them determine just how powerful customized audio ads can be for brands and consumers alike.

The test:

Pandora evaluated 12 customized ads against each other and one, non-customized control ad. Personalization included different messages and voices for men and women, and time of day. The ads were assessed for a range of emotional qualities — if they felt exciting, happy, inspirational, interesting, unique, and made people feel good — as well as for how much they drove intent to purchase the product, and how memorable they were.

Creative Testing Results

Key findings include:

  1. Dynamic ads perform better
    Overall, 11 out of 12 personalized ads ranked above the non-personalized control. Perhaps most importantly, the dynamic ads drove 125% higher lift in purchase intent, and 13% higher recall, than the control.
  2. Younger people are even more receptive to personalization
    18-34 year olds in particular responded even better to the dynamic creative, with personalized ads driving 133% higher lift in purchase intent, and 43% higher recall, versus the control.
  3. Don’t poke the sleeping man-bear
    Messages delivered to men in the morning (and related to morning) performed substantially worse than the other time periods — driven by very poor recall — especially among 18-34 year olds.
  4. Room to get even more personal
    Two-thirds of respondents were unaware that they were being dynamically targeted by the audio ads, which suggests that there may be room to personalize more — grounded, of course, in solid data safe-handling practices — without triggering “the creepy factor.”

The study not only validates Pandora’s investment in dynamic creative optimization, it helps them guide their clients on exactly how to personalize to different segments to generate the best results. In other words, on how to capitalize on the sonic truth.

As always, the data makes a difference.

See TechCrunch’s coverage of Pandora’s personalization release and the study here, and Pandora’s post here.

To dig into these results further, and to see where your own creative stands, talk to us.

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Advertising Audience Insights

NEW DATA: Righting misperceptions about tier-two auto ads with Cumulus Media/Westwood One

The largest automotive radio creative test ever assuages advertiser fears about speedy disclaimers.

NEW DATA: Righting misperceptions about tier-two auto ads with Cumulus Media/Westwood One

You know the car ads that promote a big sales event? The ones in which, after the offer is described, the announcer speeds through a range of disclaimers (which are required for those kinds of ads)? That’s the “tier-two auto ad,” which sits in-between national brand advertiser campaigns in tier one and local dealer campaigns in tier three.

The common gut reaction has always been that they’re pretty annoying. But more than that, they’ve led to a perception that tier-two auto ads aren’t effective, and, as a result, to a reluctance by domestic dealer groups to buy these kinds of campaigns on radio.

But do those quick-talking disclaimers really have a negative impact on how consumers feel about those ads? The answer is a resounding no, and now the market has the data to prove it.

Cumulus Media/Westwood One spearheaded the largest automotive radio creative test ever — powered by the Veritonic platform — conducted to measure consumer response to tier-two ads. The study tested the emotional impact and effect on purchase intent of twenty, 60-second tier-two auto ads with over 873 auto-intenders. Disclaimers, on average, were just over 16 seconds long. Key findings include:

  1. Tier-two auto ads generally outperform tier-one: The 20 tier-two creatives (with disclaimers), on average, tested in the top 20 percent of a pool of 2,330 audio ads in the Veritonic database. Overall, they outperformed tier-one ads by 15%.
  2. Disclaimers don’t hurt the ads, and speed often helps: Fast-paced and normal-paced disclaimers yielded the same creative scores; faster disclaimers, in that case, allow more time for branding, messaging, or additional offers without any negative impact.
  3. The closer to purchase, the better the tier-two ads perform: Creative scores, relevancy and purchase intent scores were all higher among consumers who planned to buy a car within the next six months, as opposed to within 6-12 months. Purchase intent scores in particular doubled for those intending to buy in the next six months. The “sales activation” messaging of tier-two ads clearly works for this group.
  4. The stronger the creative, the higher the purchase intent: The top five-testing ads drove a 45% higher lift in purchase intent than the five lowest-ranked ads. This validates the necessity of testing audio creative pre-market to maximize the value of every campaign.

Tier two automotive ads were some of the best testing ads in American radio

“The Veritonic study debunks long-held myths about the use of disclaimers in audio advertising, offering important insights to enhance connections with in-market consumers,” said Stacey Schulman, Chief Marketing Officer for Katz Media Group. “Thanks to this study we can clearly see the huge benefits of marrying effective audio creative with radio.”

Revealing data like this is critical — kudos to our friends at Katz Media Group, the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) and Cumulus/Westwood One for ensuring it gets out there — to correct a misperception in the market that disclaimers hinder growth. As the audio market moves more toward an evidence-based approach, all parties involved will benefit, from the advertisers who will spend every ad dollar with greater confidence, to their media partners who empower them to do it, to consumers who will receive more relevant, useful offers.

We’re excited to release this groundbreaking data jointly with our friends at Cumulus Media/Westwood One. See their coverage and get the full report.

To learn more about leveraging this kind of data to help your business, talk to us.

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Advertising

From Audible to MDC to Veritonic, the message is clear: you need an audio strategy

We were honored to be a featured participant in two great and important events before the July 4th holiday: Newark Venture Partners (NVP) Demo Day and MDC’s Immerse event in Soho.

At Demo Day, where some of the best, most innovative young companies pitch to a packed house of business leaders, investors and fellow startups — where we pitched Veritonic only a year ago — our CEO Scott Simonelli dug in on the power of bringing an evidence-based approach to audio marketing with Audible CMO John Harrobin and Ian Schafer, CMO & President at Muzik.

Five hours later we found ourselves at the swanky Galvanize coworking space in Soho, where Scott and MDC Partners Chairman/CEO Scott Kauffman chatted about the importance of audio measurement for brands.

While both panels covered a wide swath of the audio marketing landscape, the fundamental takeaway was clear: you need to be building a data-driven audio strategy now to capitalize on a massive opportunity.

Why now? There are plenty of reasons, but let’s focus on three.

1. Because the old frontier is the new frontier

John Harrobin from Audible was quick to point out the irony of labeling audio the hot new thing. And yet, it’s hard to find an article these days, if it relates at all to the current state of media and technology, that doesn’t touch on the “renaissance of audio,” driven substantially by innovations around voice.

The power of audio is both eternal and topical.

“Three seconds of sound can last a lifetime,” Scott said. Anyone who’s ever lost in Pac Man knows exactly what he means.

“Your eyes are busy but your mind is free,” John stated, perfectly capturing one of the many things that audio can do that other formats cannot. Combine that inherent power with the state of modern media consumption and things get really revealing. A recent Nielsen Neuro Science study found, for example, that TV ads aren’t seen 61 percent of the time — a reality driven primarily by our multi-screen culture. According to Edison Research, 44 percent of U.S. consumers say they’ve streamed audio in their cars.

In other words, people are distracted but they’re always hearing — and being influenced by what they hear.

At MDC’s Immerse event later that evening, the conversation between the two Scotts equally emphasized audio’s unique power: It’s not just about a brand’s look and feel anymore, it’s about how a brand sounds and feels — audio evokes emotion and catches attention faster than visuals.

There are so many facts and prognostications about the power of audio, it’s hard to know which to think about first (we’ve consolidated a bunch of good ones in this infographic to help). But this–a point emphasized by Scott Kauffman–is probably most telling: by 2020, more than 50% of searches will in fact be driven by voice. In other words, search is moving to audio. How can brands, agencies and platforms not be building voice into their strategies and testing which voices will be most effective at driving sales?

2. Because people tend to over-rely on technology

It’s easy to be taken with the bright, shiny object, and AI is only growing brighter and shinier. Rightly so; artificial intelligence, machine learning and the like are helping power our lives and businesses in ways no one ever thought would be possible. But the key word in that sentence is help; AI is a tool — it’s meant to serve and facilitate a strategy, but it’s not a strategy in and of itself (I’ve written about this before; unsurprisingly, the title uses a music metaphor :-).

While the conversation at Demo Day focused a lot on the growing power of technology, everyone agreed that people will always need to inform the machine-learning layer. John Harrobin exemplified the point in the way Audible customers regard many audiobook narrators — that is, as celebrities. There’s personality-power there that technology can’t capture in the same way.

As Brad Simms (CEO, GALE & Partners) articulated on the first panel at MDC Immerse, it’s easy to get carried away with technology and devise overly-complex solutions to problems that can be solved, at least to some degree, by merely listening to what your customers are telling you. Again, the point is not to take technology out of the equation, only to keep it in its proper perspective — as a supplement to a strategy that’s equally about listening to people.

Veritonic’s methodology for generating audio effectiveness data embraces a similar philosophy, as one Scott explained to the other Scott on the second MDC panel. Our “machine listening and learning” capability provides a unique, instant prediction of how clients’ audio creative will perform in the market. But our technology also queries panels of people to figure out how voice, music or any other sonic asset makes them feel (which, in turn, continually helps the system learn). That requires clients figuring out exactly what types of people they want to query, what questions they want to ask them and more — in other words, a strategy based on their specific needs and goals.

3. Because audio creative measurement is finally here

The most important word in the vocabulary of advertising is TEST. If you pre-test your product with consumers, and pre-test your advertising, you will do well in the marketplace. (David Ogilvy, 1963)

It feels like everything is measured these days, from overall campaign effectiveness to attribution to brand studies. And for good reason — testing means maximizing your opportunity to reach people, and it empowers you to spend responsibly. Why, then, has it been glaringly absent from audio creative — particularly quantitative analysis of pre-market audio creative?

Part of the answer is that the ability to measure a lot of audio creative — quickly and easily — simply hasn’t existed. Consumer neuroscience tools, for example, can be leveraged by brands, broadcasters and others to help predict people’s emotional response to ads. But studies like that don’t lend themselves to fast decisions, and they’re expensive.

Another part might be that marketers think they have audio creative covered with other kinds of measurement. Take attribution: if a certain piece of creative is what drove an ad’s success, then attribution, in theory, should reveal that. Perhaps, but attribution, as we all know, is a complex ball of wax and, more importantly, it’s after-the-fact — it measures what’s already in-market. If you subscribe to Mr. Ogilvy’s wisdom above, you know that pre-market testing is a very different, critical thing.

Yet another reason why there hasn’t been much audio creative testing might relate to the nature of audio itself, that is, it’s something that everyone has a strong opinion about. With music in particular, everyone wants to be the one who matches the perfect track with the rest of the media (ad, video, podcast episode, etc.). There’s something fun about the debate. But when opportunities like what the audio market is currently producing are at stake, sticking by a hunch, without the data to support it, is not responsible marketing.

Whatever the reason why it hasn’t existed, the good news is that audio creative measurement exists now, and it’s part and parcel of any sound audio marketing strategy.

About 10 years ago, if you were a marketer without a social strategy, or an agency without one for your client, you had good reason to be paranoid about your job. With the way the market is evolving now, when someone asks, for example, how smart speakers relate to your overall audio strategy, you probably don’t want to be the one without a good answer. And whatever that answer is, you probably want to be sure you’re backing it up with proof.

Categories
Advertising Audience Insights Branding

You never really gave a !@#$%!! about Laurel and Yanny

What are we hearing? It really doesn’t matter. But when it comes to how what we hear affects bigger business decisions, there is a sonic truth and it matters a lot.

Laurel and Yanny Just Doesn't MatterTired of the “Laurel or Yanny” debate? So is everyone. And the reason why is that you never really cared.

Now, we’re not in the business of hurting robots’ feelings, so robots of the world (or people actually named Laurel or Yanny), please don’t hold that headline against us. Surely the question of what you hear has spurred tons of stimulating debate across media…and across the kitchen table. My daughter nearly sacrificed a week’s worth of dessert by calling me an idiot because I wasn’t hearing the truth (that, to her, it was clearly Yanny).

But, amidst deep analysis of the range of personal and environmental influences at play, the debate is, ultimately, just good intellectual fun. What you think you hear, apart from potentially causing a few mild scuffles, is not really going to affect your life in any important way. You’re going to keep doling out the brownies.

But when there’s something bigger at stake — when what we hear actually has a material impact on our lives — an objectively “right” audio becomes really important, especially in business.

An objective, sonic truth

As we all know by now, there is no one right answer to Laurel v. Yanny. People interpret what they’re hearing differently based on a whole host of reasons — everyone has their own sonic truth.

The marketing world obviously solved this problem with targeting; if you are, for example, a young woman listening on a particular kind of device, a brand could ensure that they’re playing to your sonic truth by serving you Yanny content. When targeting technology got really smart, there were suddenly plenty of right answers to go around.

Again, no one is really thinking about the hot business possibilities of Laurel v. Yanny, at least not yet (maybe if they were built on a blockchain). But when the question of what we hear does start to have real business implications, it’s a whole new, often very tense ballgame.

When the sonic truth matters

The critical question for businesses isn’t “what do people hear,” but “does what people hear impact them in a way that might make them a customer (or a better customer)?” Everyone, from the brands using audio to forge deeper customer connections, to the streaming services and radio networks trying to prove to those brands that their platforms are the best places to make those connections, needs to ask this. Does a given spot (or the voiceover for this podcast, or the audio branding in this video) get the emotional reaction we’re looking for? Is it memorable? Does it compel people to purchase?

Laurel or Yanny?While more generic ad analysis exists, amazingly, no one has really been able to figure out what works about audio in particular yet (in ads, videos, voiceovers, podcasts, etc.), likely because they’ve never had a reliable, easy way to quantify its value. Understanding the relative value of audio assets, and making objective determinations about which to leverage as a result of that insight, has been hard.

We’ve all heard the myriad stories of how audio gets chosen — like, “my gut is to go with the real “Freebird” in this ad because it’s a famous song that people love.”

What if it turned out that a majority of the population has a different sonic truth — that they’d respond just as positively to something that reminds them of “Freebird” at a fraction of the cost to the brand? On the other hand, what if the real “Freebird” is really the best way to go?

The point is, in a market where digital audio ad spend is expected to surpass $20 billion by 2020, there’s simply too much at stake to not look to the data for that objective truth.

So apologies to Laurel and Yanny, but when the question turns to effectiveness over perception — and understanding what’s quantifiably “right” is the difference between making a real impact on consumers or not, keeping clients happy or not, saving money or not — you’re just not that important.