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 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.

Advertising Audience Insights

New Feature: Predictive Baseline Reports!

Have you ever wondered how a given piece of audio will perform, but don’t have the time to run a full test? Perhaps your new TV campaign is launching in 12 hours? Or you’re meeting with the CMO in 20 minutes? Or you’re just debating with a friend over beers who sounds better for voiceover work? (Yes, that happens.)

Introducing the Veritonic Predictive Algorithm. Upload any audio asset or set of assets, and within seconds the platform will give you a prediction for how a General Population audience will score it. If you’re just looking for a quick read, or to settle a bet, you’re done. But if you need results from a specific audience — auto intenders, say, 18-34 year-old females in the Midwest — you can promote the tracks to a full test, with human Marketing Response Data.

How Does It Work?

Veritonic's Predictive Algorithm for Audio Creative Testing

First, the platform identifies what kind of asset is it: an audio ad, a voiceover track, and so on.
This ensures that predictions for voices are always based on voice data, while predictions for audio ads are based on audio ad data.

Then it uses sophisticated Machine Listening technology to compare the audio file to similar assets that the platform has collected data on in the past. The evaluation looks at the characteristics of the audio file, including the sound frequencies in the file, volume, and more, all using cutting-edge digital signal processing approaches. The algorithm then looks at the historical scores for specific attributes.

Lastly, the platform returns these attribute scores, along with an overall score, in a Baseline Report: the same easy-to-read report style that tests with human Marketing Response Data are presented in, along with the ability to then create a test if necessary.

Where Do I Find It?

The predictive algorithm is now built into the standard test-building process. This means that to create a Baseline Report, simply click on the “New Report” button in the left-hand nav. Follow the directions to upload tracks and you’re on your way.

Veritonic Predictive Baseline Reporting for Audio Creative

What If I Want Different Attributes?

To maximize the training data set behind the Machine Listening algorithms, we’ve limited this initial release to the most common attributes our clients have used to test assets. Over time, as we refine the algorithms and grow the database we expect the set of attributes available in Baseline Reports to grow.

What If I Need A Specific Audience?

As with the set of initial attributes, we’ve limited the predictions to a General Population (GenPop) audience to maximize the system’s accuracy. If you need a specific audience, you can quickly promote it to a full test.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

You’re all set! This functionality is live in all Veritonic client accounts. If you have further questions or feedback, please contact your account manager or the client success team. We’d love to hear from you!

New to Veritonic? Get Started with Baseline Reports

Fill out the form below to get started using Baseline Reports for audio effectiveness analytics.

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Audience Insights Branding

What’s That Sound?
Comparisons of Consumer Electronics, Media & Gaming Audio Logos

Veritonic Comparisons of Consumer Electronics, Media & Gaming Audio LogosWe live in a connected world, and consumer appetite for entertainment content across devices is driving many of the technical advancements we enjoy today. I’m old enough to remember adjusting the rabbit ears on the family black and white TV. Not long ago I watched an NFL Playoff game on my phone while in line for a bus tour of the Kennedy Space Center, and the advancement of the technology still amazes me. The Kennedy Space Center was pretty impressive too.

It was the Space Age after all, that spawned the Information Age and all the communications technology and connectivity that puts instant access to media, gaming and communications at our fingertips. In this article we look at the Audio signatures of the Consumer Electronics and Media brands of the Veritonic Audio Logo Index. That group is made up of Intel, T-Mobile, AT&T, LG, Netflix, HBO, XBox, and Playstation (Listen below). I’ve grouped these together because they overlap in providing service, technology or content to screen-based devices. They also happen to share a common approach to audio branding.

Unlike the audio branding of other sectors, notably insurance companies, these eight audio logos use no spoken words or mention of their brand, with the lone exception of Playstation.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Despite the lack of verbal cues, Intel and T-Mobile are two of the best performing audio logos in the Index: Intel tied for 1st overall with Nationwide & Farmers Insurance, while T-Mobile finished in a 3rd place tie with McDonalds. That’s some impressive company! Intel & T-Mobile have nowhere near the longevity of Nationwide or Farmers Insurance, but they have clearly found their way into consumers collective consciousness.

Melody vs Sound Effects?

What’s driving the success of Intel and T-Mobile, and the relative underperformance of the others?

The audio logos of these 8 brands clearly fall into two categories:

  1. Those that are musical or use melodic tones (Intel, LG, AT&T and T-Mobile), and
  2. Those that can best be best described as utilizing sound effects (Netflix, HBO, XBox, and Playstation)

Comparing the emotional engagement, likeability and recall rates of musical audio logos vs. sound effect logos, the musical logos of Intel, LG, AT&T and T-Mobile consistently outperform HBO, Netflix, Playstation and XBox. In fact, in almost every way we slice the data – gender, age, income and geography – the 4 musical audio logos outperform the 4 sound effects.

Results across US General Population
Results Across US General Population

Consumer Affinity Driving Results? Nope.

Veritonic Comparisons of Consumer Electronics, Media & Gaming Audio LogosYou might expect the broad and deep consumer affinity for services like Netflix & HBO would positively affect their overall audio logo rankings, particularly against brands with lesser known audio logos like LG and AT&T. But Netflix maintains a solid hold on last place among this group and a ranking of 20th out of the 25 audio logos in the broader index.

Game over? Not quite, because Netflix & HBO produce the two highest scores for Excited (shown above) not just in this set, but in the entire Audio Logo Index. There are lots of ways to win with audio branding, and an Entertainment brand triggering excitement, even without recognition is certainly one of them.

Industry & Brand Association – Right Church, Wrong Pew

The Audio Logo Index data for industry and brand identification reveals some interesting but not unexpected associations. Our findings indicate that people generally make an accurate association between the logo sound they hear and the industry it comes from, but not a specific brand.

Comparisons of Consumer Electronics, Media & Gaming Audio LogosIn this case, the Consumer Electronics & Media and Entertainment Industries were accurately chosen from a list of 19 possible categories more than 50% of the time. Five of these eight brands had industry association rates of 50% or higher. T-Mobile had the highest industry recognition rate with 59%, LG lowest with 37%. The other two brands with Industry association below 50%: HBO 49% and Netflix 46%.

This is the power and beauty of sound. It creates a mood or emotion very subtly but effectively. Watch a televangelist broadcast, and you’ll notice that the music and singing is constant throughout and outpaces the time spent preaching by 100 to 1. It’s a sing-a-long concert that relies on a full band and multiple vocalists to inspire the congregation and keep emotions stirred up. It doesn’t matter which pew its experienced from, only that the feelings and emotions are associated with church.

Your industry is your church, and music and sound can be a key to opening the wallets of the congregation. Don’t ignore it. When the congregation is singing your brand anthem you’ve made a permanent emotional connection that you can’t put a price on.

Consumer Electronics, Media & Gaming Audio Logos



Advertising Audience Insights

Key Takeaways from the Westwood One Sports Sound Awards

In its fifth annual Sports Sound Awards, Westwood One used Veritonic to test the audio effectiveness of advertisers in their Super Bowl Broadcast to determine purchase intent and the feelings and emotions associated with the ad.

Here’s what Veritonic client WWO found:

  • “Clothing, quick service restaurants, and auto aftermarket were the most likeable”
  • “Quick service restaurants, home improvement, and auto aftermarket scored high in trustworthiness”
  • “Great audio creative causes purchase desire”
  • “Millennials respond positively to great ads”
  • “Responses to ads differ between males and females while highest ranked categories were similar”
  • “Westwood One is the authority on effective creative”

Visit Westwood One’s Blog to read the full analysis.

Audience Insights Branding

Total Recall: Veritonic’s Groundbreaking 2016 Audio Logo Index

How Veritonic’s Report On Audio Logos Was The Best Kept Secret In Branding Last Year

In 2016, Veritonic introduced the groundbreaking Audio Logo Index, an innovative study that investigated the marketing impact of the world’s top audio logos and jingles, an often overlooked facet of branding campaigns. For the first time, marketers could analyze the effectiveness of a company’s sonic branding by studying 25 well-known brands, including Nationwide, AT&T, and BMW. Check out the 2016 Audio Logo Index here.

Using Veritonic’s patent-pending technology and methodology, the influential report provided a new way of evaluating audio logos: Marketers could now examine these audio logos using objective, comprehensive, and authoritative measurements.

The Audio Logo Index also revealed how important sonic branding is to savvy marketers, who are taking advantage of audio to brand their companies, their products and even their experiences. The Audio Logo Index provided those marketers, brands and agencies with a new level of understanding by measuring how their sounds (or prospective sounds) stacked up.

It’s why Lara O’Reilly wrote, in her Business Insider story on the Index: “For some brands, an audio logo is just as important as a visual one.

How The Index Was Produced

Producing the Veritonic Audio Logo IndexTo produce the report on the Audio Index, Veritonic’s panel of experts identified 25 top audio logos from brands active within the US. The audio logos included Intel, McDonald’s, BMW and Duracell, representing a broad variety of industries: Tech, Financial Services, CPG, QSR, Automotive, and more.

Veritonic’s platform was used to identify a census-representative panel of over 2000 respondents, and to collect marketing response and engagement data from them.

Powerful Insights

Published at the beginning of November in 2016, the resulting research contained some powerful insights for marketers thinking about how their brands can leverage audio:

  • The Sound of Spending: In many markets, there was a clear correlation between marketing spend and how well an audio logo performs.
  • How We Hear Failure: However, there was a wide variation in performance by sector. Some sectors known for big spending simply failed to break through with consumers, and one of the biggest advertisers, automotive, fared the worst.
  • Long Live The King: Newer audio logos generally underperformed. (It will be intriguing to see if they close the gap in 2017?)

Will these trends continue in 2017?

The Power of Audio

Veritonic and the Power of AudioOther forces are at work that will increase the importance of audio to marketers. For example, the rise of streaming is changing the game for big advertisers. Consumers are abandoning traditional media formats, like broadcast TV, for on-demand media formats, like streaming music and over-the-top video sites like Netflix.

And the trends outlined by our partner, Pandora, will continue. For instance, “voice is the new touch.” Collectively, these changes are driving new formats for ads and will force brands to develop new strategies for reaching consumers.

Preview of 2017

The 2017 version of the index will be even more powerful than last year’s groundbreaking version.

Most notably, we’re including a UK index for the first time ever. It will share some global audio logos (Intel, McDonalds, etc.) with the US, but will also have a unique set of iconic British audio logos.

Second, we’ve updated the set of audio logos being indexed. Many remain the same, giving us a great baseline year-over-year. However, we’ve added more brands and sectors based on the trends we’ve been observing in the marketplace.

Will we see the same trends? Results will be live the week following Thanksgiving. Please subscribe to be alerted, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Audience Insights Branding

Do You Know What an Audio Logo Is?

Marketers and consumers alike recognize the importance of visual logos. Now, it’s time for them to hear the power of audio logos.

If you asked most people what a logo is, they’d most likely mention examples that quickly come to mind, such as McDonald’s golden arches, Apple’s bitten apple, or BMW’s quartered circle. Their responses would probably be instantaneous, since these iconic logos are hardwired into our collective subconscious at this point, which speaks to the success of those marketing efforts.

Intel Audio Logo
Intel Audio Logo

Yet, ask those same people what an audio logo is and they’ll probably have more trouble providing examples. Part of this is awareness. They don’t know what an audio logo is. But most would have no problem humming the chimes of Intel’s iconic audio logo (“Bong…bong bong bong bong!”) or other audio logos they’ve heard over the years. And it’s this recall of a pattern of notes, which has an almost Pavlovian quality to it in our culture, that marketing and branding executives find powerful and provocative.

“Audio has always been a powerful component in ad and marketing campaigns,” says Veritonic’s Scott Simonelli. “However, as audio technology expands into new areas that are already being consumed by listeners, including streaming music services, online video, and even VR platforms, audio will be profoundly important for marketers and brand executives, who will want analytics and metrics to measure if those audio clips are indeed resonating with target audiences.”

“An Audio logo Is To The Ear What A Visual Logo Is To The Eye”

“An Audio logo is to the ear what a visual logo is to the eye,” explains Steve Keller, CEO and chief strategist at leading audio branding consultancy iV Audio Branding. Audio branding expert John “Scrapper” Sneider, Executive Producer and Managing Partner, Storefront Music, defines audio logos as “a sound or combination of notes… that brands a product or company.”

Music StudioIn the UK, Laura Grzeszczak, project manager for Massive Music, says, “An audio logo represents the essence of the brand within sound.” For Charles Gadsdon, head of creative development also at Massive Music, an audio logo has an expansive quality to it. “I think what’s important to note is the difference between a jingle and an audio logo. A jingle is a melodic piece. But an audio logo is something that might have a more sound-design quality to it. Or it might have what’s called ‘onomatopoeic sound’. For example, the way Twitter uses the word ‘tweet’ and also uses whistling audio in their mobile app to indicate you’ve sent a tweet, which sounds like a bird tweeting.”

Why do they matter? Call them jingles, mnenomics, or sonic branding, these short progressions of sounds, notes or chords are one of the most powerful weapons in the marketer’s arsenal.

The Best Marketers In The World Use Audio

Our brains are always processing sound, which is why research has shown time and time again the deep connections between music and brain. Thus it’s no surprise that some of the best marketers in the world take advantage of this to promote their brands.

Key Findings from the Veritonic Audio Logo Index
Results from the 2016 Veritonic Audio Logo Index

To measure the effectiveness of these marketing tools, Veritonic created the ground-breaking Audio Logo Index. The 2016 version of the Audio Logo Index put 25 top-performing audio logos in the United States through Veritonic’s Audio Effectiveness Platform, to quantitatively measure the emotional resonance, engagement and recall of these brand assets. After processing by Veritonic’s Machine Listening Algorithms, over 7000 panelists evaluated the audio logos inside of a custom online environment.

The selected Audio Logos covered a variety of sectors: Telecommunications (Telco), Technology, Quick-Serve Restaurants (QSR), Financial Services, Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG), Automotive, and a catch-all “Other”. This enabled the platform to create both individual scores as well as industry-wide benchmarks.

The 2017 version of the Audio Logo Index will be even more exciting: for the first time ever, it will include a UK-specific set of audio logos!

Additionally, this year’s set of audio logos was curated by panels of experts in both countries. In the US, participants were:

In the UK, roundtable participants were:

  • John Hale, Senior Creative Copywriter, Global
  • Clare Bowen, Head of Creative Development, Radiocentre
  • Keelan Doyle, Creative Producer, Massive Music
  • Laura Grzeszczak, Client Services and Project Manager, Massive Music
  • Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director, Thinkbox

Results will be live the week following Thanksgiving. Please subscribe to be alerted, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Advertising Audience Insights Branding

Pandora’s Definitive Guide to Audio

Veritonic’s own Scott Simonelli recently spoke at Pandora’s “Turn It Up” event in Chicago. The conference, Pandora’s thought leadership event, highlighted the Power Of Audio. Scott’s presentation reinforced the key tenets of how to make effective audio ads. Steve Keller of iV Audio Branding demonstrated how sound and psychology interact with each other. And speakers from Pandora highlighted key trends in the audio advertising market.

Download Pandora’s 2017 Definitive Guide to Audio, and learn:

  • How streaming is changing the face of radio
  • About apps and the impact of podcasting
  • Why voice is the new touch

Download Now

Audience Insights Branding

Defying Dissonance: How Music Creates Harmony Within the Cacophony of the Brain

Enjoy this article? Grab the infographic!

We are all familiar with the power of music: a song blasts through your ear buds and shoots adrenaline through your body, sending a jolt down your spine, willing your legs to keep running. Or maybe you play a soothing Mozart track to relax after work. There is no denying that music has immense power over our bodies and minds.

How are these invisible and intangible sound waves able to have such a powerful impact on us? The power of music lies in the way that it affects our brains.

To maximize the effectiveness of audio, let’s understand the myriad structures and pathways involved in our brain’s response to music.

Where It All Begins

Pathway of Sound through the ear

Sound waves hit the ear’s tympanic membrane and are converted to vibrations. These vibrations produce pressure waves inside the ear. The pressure waves get funneled through the inner ear to the cochlea, a hollow chamber of bone that focuses the pressure waves onto a thin membrane called the Organ of Corti. Tiny hair cells sit on the membrane, and the pressure waves cause these hair cells to release neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters in turn send electrical impulses along the cochlear nerve to the auditory cortex.

Giving Sound Meaning: The Auditory Cortices

Areas of the brain that respond to sound

The auditory cortex is the gateway of the listening process. It’s responsible for the processing of these basic audio impulses into meaningful insights for the brain. Neurons in the core of the cortex respond to different types of frequencies, pitches and volumes, while cells in the outer regions process intricate factors such as melody and beat.

The auditory cortex also helps to associate sound with memory. The superior temporal gyrus, associated with memory retrieval, surrounds the auditory cortex and is tightly connected with it. This symbiosis leads to our ability to hold songs and other audio in our working memory.

Two pathways crucial to speech and language functioning are located adjacent to the primary auditory cortex:

Wernicke’s area regulates an individual’s ability to process speech that we hear. Located in the superior temporal gyrus of the temporal lobe, the region is responsible for comprehension of language.

Power of Music in Advertising with Veritonic

Broca’s area is separately located in the posterior (rear) of the inferior frontal gyrus. At the crossroads of sound organization and speaking regulation, Broca’s area is the well-known site of language production and is responsible for an individual’s movements required to speak.

These signals then get processed by the prefrontal Cortex, the “decision maker” of the brain. The prefrontal cortex takes actions like evaluating the factual words of an ad, and deciding to act on an ad’s message.

Once all these sounds — still in the form of electrical impulses flowing along neurons — are processed into brain language, they are contextualized and start igniting a concrete psychophysical response.

While all sound passes through the auditory cortices, some structures are only involved in specific functions.

Selective Attention and Memory

Areas of the brain that interpret sound

The Cerebellum

At the back of the skull is the cerebellum, important for motor functions and for its lesser-praised sensory input duties. Depending on the sound’s pleasantness, the cerebellum can intensify certain neural responses, which we experience as ‘selective attention’. The cerebellum also enables the brain to predict possible incoming audio signals, based on patterns and past sensations.

Sound familiarity is any advertiser’s golden ticket when it comes to ad recognition. This makes the cerebellum, and its ability to selectively amplify pleasant audio, critical to marketers.


The powerhouse of memory, the hippocampus receives fully processed sound inputs primed for retention and links them with other responses of the listener. This solidifies the connection between sound and emotion. This is why hippocampal neurons fire when we hear music that we know: as much as we are listening to it, we are remembering how it made us feel!

Emotional Response

Remember that ‘chills-down-the-spine’ feeling we talked about? We can thank the mesolimbic pathway (also known as the reward pathway) for that. The pathway starts with the nuclear accumbens, whose neural network between the hippocampus helps the listener to internalize Pavlovian stimulus-reward relationships. It does this by synthesizing the “happiness” neurotransmitter dopamine.

Emotional Response of Music in Advertising

Unsurprisingly, the NA is thought to be the heart of reward in the brain. This influences drive and goal-directed motor behaviors such as desire for a product, and, via the classical conditioning process, activates during passive listening of ad audio.

The dopamine synthesized in the NA binds with receptors in the striatum. These receptors get activated when we eat good food, enjoy sex, or listen to pleasurable music. Notably, the striatum’s dorsal side is the destination of another circuit, the motivation-inducing glutamatergic pathway, which triggers goal-directed behavior and action responses.

For ads, the amount of dopamine reaching the striatum controls desire to seek out rewards and pursue goals, a crucial checkpoint enabling a listener to purchase a product.

As the destination of the two neurotransmitter pathways — one inducing happiness and the other sparking motivation — the striatum’s regulation of cognition and reward perception is a vital function in transforming a listener into consumer.


Another vital structure for emotional response to music is the amygdala. The amygdala functions like the striatum in that it receives impulses from the auditory cortex and determines the emotional reaction to sounds. The difference, however, is that amygdala activity and striatum activity are thought to be inverse. Activity in the amygdala decreases dramatically when listeners engage with pleasant music and “chills” intensity, When striatum activity is at its highest. As a result, the amygdala is associated with fear and other negative emotions.

Advertisers should seek to inhibit amygdala activity overall, minimizing inhibition and risk-aversion, promoting a more positive emotional response that help make a brand image last in positive light.


The final region regulating emotional response in the brain is the hypothalamus. Upon hearing certain music types, the hypothalamus will increase secretions of adrenaline and oxytocin throughout the brain. Adrenaline controls the “fight or flight” response, while oxytocin is sometimes called “the love hormone,” the catalyst of feelings like empathy.

Starting Like Cacophony, Ending in Euphony

Music has phenomenal impact on our brains. While it may seem like a part of everyday living, once it enters our brains, audio is processed in our brains by fantastically complex pathways and structures to create speech and music. These elicit a vast spectrum of emotional reactions. Understanding these pathways can help marketers use audio more effectively.

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How the brain turns sound into emotion and meaning - Veritonic