Despite the spike in consumption in digital audio, most brands still appear unwilling to invest in the medium. The reason: lack of definite ways to measure ROI and long-term results. According to a recent WARC report, globally only 16% advertisers plan to increase investment in audio this year.
Audio publishers, however, tell BestMediaInfo.com they are optimistic that evolving technical advancement in the space is expected to drive more interest from advertisers this year.
Amit Doshi, Founder and CEO, IVM Podcast, believes a lot of technical enhancements are being made in the audio business, which is making a lot of platforms ready on both the advertising and publishing sides.
“The spends will go up this year because more brands will definitely start experimenting in this space. I see larger brands getting involved. And with the kind of investments we are doing, I see a lot more money coming in this year,” he said.
Digital audio advertising in India primarily comes from two key categories: the free music model that music streaming platforms generates and the audio podcast inventory.
At present, there is an abundant supply of music streaming inventory vying for the digital audio advertising pie. Podcast inventory is limited but it’s a highly engaged bunch of audience that chooses to binge content offering in different genres.
JioSaavn witnessed a 40% increase in new advertisers on its platform last year with 120 brands coming on board right after India opened up from the lockdown between June and October 2020.
Virginia Sharma, Vice-President, Brand Solutions, JioSaavn, said they hope to see brands that doubled down during the pandemic this year as well. This includes categories such as media and entertainment, FMCG, handsets and gaming.
In addition, there will be a surge in advertisements from comeback categories such as automobiles, retail, and alcobev.
Nisha Narayanan, Director and COO, Red FM and Magic FM, the category is at a very nascent stage and expects it to grow. “There are e-commerce clients, start-ups that understand the digital ecosystem much better and are embarking on this journey,” she said.
“Audio advertising has always been a part of strategies for brands and will continue to be so,” said Sunil Kumaran, Country Head, Project, Marketing and Thwink Big, Big FM.
With the digitalisation of audio, he shared that a lot of fresh avenues have opened up which will definitely lead to the overall growth of the category and advertisers will continue to leverage the power of audio to engage with their consumers.
Digital audio was a constant companion for listeners across the country last year amid the pandemic and, according to Sharma, it continues to be so in 2021 as it provides a brand-safe passionate environment for advertisers looking to connect with their audience.
“Audio advertising has become more meaningful with precise audience targeting enabled with granular data cohorts, cross-platform user reach and attribution-based measurement models,” said Dimpy Yadav, Head Client Engagement, Xaxis India.
Audio partners with their regulated streaming and robust quality checks make it brand-safe and suitable for advertisers, she said, adding artificial intelligence is reinventing audio advertising by serving intelligent ads that can talk back to a user.
A great user experience boosts the efficiency of a media campaign and drives higher ROI for brands too. Such conversational audio ads enable a better re-targeting strategy by identifying the ‘less-interested or non-interested’ users and engaging them in a second dialogue with offer-led or an action-based landing page, leading to a higher ROI for a brand.
Another report, Programmatic Audio Playbook from Xaxis India, however, says that despite the high consumer adoption rate, only 71% advertisers commit less than 10% of their total ad investment to digital audio channels while 50% publishers and media owners currently have no revenue from digital audio advertising.
So, is audio advertising is stuck in a time warp?
Why brands are cautious about investing in audio
Digital audio caters to all factors that advertisers look for in a medium: reach, relevance, results.
According to Doshi, most digital platforms are immediate conversion mediums but audio is not, even though it connects on much deeper level. “One is not actively engaged with his/her device during the time of audio consumption and because of that it is not an immediate conversion business. Brands that invest here look at it for a long-term perspective. Audio will give you much better results than others but over a period of two-three years, which can be challenge for brands. A lot of stakeholders have quarterly KPIs to deliver.”
For a lot of brands, scale assumes a lot of importance. They want to make sure the activity they are doing reaches a certain number of people. And that is a challenge in podcasting, which is more of an influential medium.
Although Narayanan said there is an advocacy drive that is being undertaken by individual podcast players. “I think there needs to be a unified approach by the category and they should publish a few case studies for other brands to follow suit,” she said.
Sharma said brands are increasingly innovating with the medium and exploring the benefits it has to offer. To drive further adoption, there is a need to educate the market about how digital audio complements a brand’s media mix to build higher recall rather than replacing existing media options.
She said they need to understand that the performance measurement of audio as a format must be through relevant metrics such as ‘listen-through rate’, which accurately reflects the effectiveness of digital audio, instead of measuring it on metrics designed for other formats.
“Advertisers must tap the streaming insights available to create ear bud-friendly content for digital audio listeners, rather than repurposing content designed for display and video,” she said.
With audio ads becoming programmatically enabled, Yadav believes it is opening more media opportunities and attracting advertisers to invest in the system.
Publishers believe it is just a matter of time before it becomes a “must-buy” as part of a marketing mix for any campaign.