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Why sound will matter even more in 2021

Listen to this article:

Now let the music keep our spirits high

Jackson Browne, 1974

I won’t linger on the typical refrain about what a crazy year 2020 was. But it is part of my job to reflect on where our market fit into all that craziness and to think about how what we learned this year could move our industry forward in a fruitful way for everyone.

From a sheer business standpoint, audio, arguably more than any other channel or format (and with expectations obviously adjusted for the pandemic), thrived in 2020. Driven by podcasting and voice, perpetually anchored by radio, and constantly innovating technologically, sound proved its power everywhere. Think of some of the highlights:

  • Spotify continues to double down on podcastingpurchasing Megaphone for $235 million.
  • Agencies express similar enthusiasm, with, for example, Omnicom committing (relatively) big dollars upfront to Spotify podcasts.
  • SiriusXM makes sure it’s solidly in the game, buying Stitcher. 
  • The Insurance sector massively boosts its network radio spend, with, for example, Progressive devoting 44% more budget than in the year prior.
  • Different kinds of market players enhance their audio capabilities, as, for example, Shutterstock buys AI music platform Amper.

We count ourselves among those proof points as well, as we received new investment from forward-thinking VCs who understand both the power of audio and that meaningful data underpins all of the above. 

Maybe, more importantly, sound continually proved its ability to move people and comfort them through troubled times. 

A favorite song’s power to pull you through needs no quantifiable support — we’ve all called on it, no doubt more this year than ever before. But when we think more about the above Jackson Browne lyric, we understand that “music” can be about more than song alone. Voice, for example, as we all know, has tremendous power to drive emotion. In its purest form, that can come from hearing from an old friend. The business application is, of course, less significant in the grand scheme of things but powerful in its own context. And the marketing world is getting better at leveraging that power both effectively and responsibly. 

Rishad Tobaccowala, whom I interviewed last week for The Sonic Truth podcast (episode to air just after the new year), dropped more wisdom on the subject in one conversation than I think I’ve ever heard. We’ll save most of it for the episode, but one tidbit: building on the adage “music takes you where you want to go,” he added, “voice takes you to whom you want to go.” Nothing connects with and moves people like the right voice.

Taking it closer to the business application, Rishad continued: “People talk about the need to personalize at scale…voice allows you to scale intimacy.” There were plenty of signs this year that companies got it. Take Amazon, for example, which started enabling brands to create custom voices on Alexa. Why? Because they know that brands could, as described in Business Insider, “…experiment with voice emotion, resonance, and personability — data which in turn could develop Alexa’s abilities to engage with consumers.”

Related, looking more broadly at tone, I think about our own Audio Logo Index, which came out in May. In a special supplement to this year’s book, we looked at how certain brands — Liberty Mutual, State Farm, Home Depot, and others — demonstrated how much they understood this power. While their classic audio signatures were as omnipresent as ever through the year, when it came to advertising during the pandemic, they knew that tempering things — altering those legendary audio brands, softening voices, and more — would strike that right tone with consumers. The data supported the strategy: all of those modified ads were among the highest-scoring on the Veritonic platform. 

2020 reemphasized how the right sound makes a huge difference to people. 2021, which is happily already shaping up to be a way better year (think vaccines), is when that realization turns more to activation. We know the amazing potential of audio to move people, and the table has been (and continues to be) set to make that happen. Whether it comes from brands jumping more firmly into voice commerce or investing more deeply in audio marketing, we are, as always, ready to play our part by ensuring that every decision, grounded in data, comes with total confidence that they’re moving people the right way.

Click Here to See and hear the 10 Brands That Got Audio Right in 2020.

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Advertising Audience Insights

10 Brands That Got Audio Right in 2020

Picture this: it’s 2015, consumer spending is up almost 5% from last year, the job market is doing great, and with the rise of the gig economy, everyone is taking Ubers to their side hustles to finance their way to see Hamilton (…with the original cast.) Oh yeah, and the words “Baby Shark” mean NOTHING. As a brand marketer, the world is your oyster. Your campaigns could be humorous, serious, audacious, whatever your heart desires. 

Remember that? Good times.

The pandemic of 2020 rocked and changed the lives of nearly every person on earth. And being that a marketer’s job is to reach and engage those people, I’d say the task marketers were faced with this year has been harder than anything the industry has faced to date. 

How do you console, support, not offend, and ultimately sell to an entire world in crisis? It’s not easy. That’s why we’re calling out the brands that did it right this year on our 2020 Top Audio Advertisers List. 

Let’s start with podcasts. 

The investment in podcasts by platforms and brands alike has been monumental in 2020. From Spotify’s acquisition of Megaphone, to Omnicom spending $20M on the medium this year, podcasting has had a better 2020 than a lot of us.

Listen below to a couple ads that make it clear why some of our winners deserve their seats on top: 

Honey

How many brand mentions in an ad is too much? How do you feel about, oh I don’t know,  FIFTEEN? It seems to work for Honey, considering it has the highest overall recall of any of the brands on our list. Take a listen to one of Honey’s ads this year, detected and scored by the Veritonic platform. You can’t miss its unique style that helps make Honey ads so memorable:

Just a warning in case there are any kids in the room! There is some explicit language in this ad.

Salesforce

B2B really stepped it up in podcast advertising this year, with eMarketer estimating a nearly 23% increase in spend from 2019.1 The spend appears to be paying off for Salesforce, as their ads win for purchase intent:

Each & Every

Am I the only health nut that wants a Molecular and Developmental Biologist as the founder of my deodorant brand? Apparently not. Because Each & Every made our list. The authenticity of their brand message and voice helps them rank extremely high:

Now onto radio.

O’Reilly Auto Parts

While pretty standard in content for an auto parts brand, O’Reilly ads include sonic branding at both the start and the end of their ads. Only about 12% of ads include sonic branding, even though sonic brands are shown to improve brand recall, especially when they contain a brand mention. So, even though this ad doesn’t score very high for uniqueness, its inclusion of sonic branding across the ad is definitely something to emulate. 

Varo

Did you know that about 20% of ads use only female voice, while 50% use only male voice? And to add insult to injury, did you know female voices have been proven to be more trustworthy than male voices?2

Now that we have that depressing statistic out of the way, take a listen to this Varo ad. Varo is one of very few brands that give female voices the wide majority of airplay. Hopefully in 2021 scientific evidence will prevail and we’ll see many more brands jump on the female-voice bandwagon. 

And last but not least, Audio Branding:

Every year Veritonic releases its Audio Logo Index, which analyzes consumer response to audio signatures. This year, an additional analysis was done for brands that changed their sonic identities to be more appropriate and mindful of our current reality. 

Download the guide to read our findings and to see if your brand made the list. 

2020 has had its flaws, but in many ways marketers rose to the occasion. Even if it gets a bit redundant at times, it’s still nice to hear brands sharing the ways they are lending their support during a year like this.

Note from the author: 

The data and rankings included in this post were collected from the Veritonic platform, specifically Veritonic Competitive Intelligence. The platform analyzed over 10,000 radio and podcast ads that ran in 2020, which was then ranked by Veritonic Brand Score – a rating standard for audio creative which incorporates the overall emotional resonance, memorability (recall), purchase intent, and engagement of ads in a brand’s catalog. To learn more about Competitive Intelligence and how it can help you develop a winning audio strategy, contact us at info@veritonic.com.

1 eMarketer
2 NPR

Categories
Audience Insights

For Voices That Sway the Electorate, Listen to the Data

Veritonic Audio Intelligence Guides Political Ads In Texas

What’s your most top-of-mind product these days? Disinfectant wipes? Laundry detergent? A mattress that helps you sleep better? Many don’t necessarily think of political candidates as products, but if you do, they’re surely right up there, especially with election day only a few weeks away. 

As with any product that brands are trying to sell (whether generally or to capitalize on a particular, critical moment), political campaigns turn to advertising to make an impact. If they’re out to make those ads as effective as possible — and they’re savvy — here’s what else candidates and their proponents know:

  • Sound matters a lot. With audio’s repeatedly-proven ability to create emotional response, stick in your head, and drive action, political campaigns work hard to put the right voices in their ads. We examined this previously in the first episode of The Sonic Truth podcast.
  • Leveraging data yields the smartest choices. Election season brings a deluge of ads, many of which obviously start to sound similar. While it’s hard to know which are most effective to the naked ear, data proves that some work better than others. To not use that kind of insight is simply irresponsible campaigning that could cost a candidate an election. 

The People, a PAC that’s dedicated to supporting progressive candidates for state legislatures though highly-effective and cost-efficient ad campaigns, gets all of the above. Founded by media luminaries who understand not only storytelling but the best ways to ensure that people hear those stories, the organization ensures that data drives their decision making.

With that, as they were choosing creative options for ad campaigns for the Texas state legislature, they leveraged the Veritonic platform to quantify the effectiveness of several different voiceovers. The goal was to find and run the ads that would sound most “familiar,” engage people, and drive the most action.

Analyzing each ad with Machine Listening and Learning (MLAL™) — which correlates each spot’s inherent audio qualities with thousands like it in the Veritonic platform to make a prediction — the system determined that the ads voiced by “Jules” would perform the best. The People PAC selected that voice to represent the campaign — here’s one spot that used it.

The winning voice had the highest overall score (Veritonic Audio Score)*, which was well above the benchmark for “government and organizations.” It also scored highest for key qualities they were looking for, driving a particularly wide spread for engagement.

Yael Melamede, an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker who’s a founder and creative producer for The People PAC, said: 

We had a number of great voice auditions to choose from but I wanted an impartial/unbiased perspective on them. It was great to have some data around who was likely to be most effective in order to guide our final choice.

Ads are, of course, only one factor that helps determine the success or failure of the political “product” — the candidate. But when there’s so much at stake in the outcome, it’s hard to argue that every decision that goes into that campaign shouldn’t be based on evidence of what works the best.

* Veritonic Audio Score is a composite of recall, engagement, intent and emotional attribute scores.