The world of audio has evolved quickly since 2004 when podcasts became a category and Pandora’s interactive radio service hit the scene just a year later. As more ways of consuming audio content have become available, we regularly get asked by marketing leaders and growth experts alike, “What is the best way to market through these channels, and how should I start testing them?”
First, when thinking about when to invest in audio vs other channels, we typically recommend fast growing tech companies to test into audio after they have established their measurable performance marketing channels. By spending their first marketing dollars maximizing SEM, Paid Social and other digital channels first, marketers can establish a highly measurable and reliable foundation for new customer/lead acquisition, before moving into audio or other broadcast media. We often recommend Audio as the first alternative channel to test since it is cheaper than TV for example, both in terms of media buying and creative, but can still generate larger scale awareness among new customer segments.
As former and current marketing operators ourselves (and as marketing executive recruiters), we’ve put together this short guide mapping out a marketer’s audio options, high-level channel differences and insights, and how best to execute your marketing through this channel as a whole — including the top agencies and executional options our clients rave about and some of which we have used ourselves.
Your 4 Main Audio Options
More than 680 million Podcasts are downloaded every month, and According to Buzzsprout, one in three Americans listens to a show regularly. Podcasts aren’t just popular, though. They are integrated into people’s lives, replacing music in the car or their favorite talk show host at night, and come in a wide variety of subjects and formats.
Advertising: Advertisers can take advantage of this ever growing, and diverse channel targeting their audiences by lifestyle, interest and more. Endorsement ads — 30- and 60-second sponsorships voiced by the podcast hosts — are the gold star of podcast advertising, with 52% of listeners saying they are likely to take recommendations from podcast hosts they like (source: Morning Consult). Programmatic models also exist using pre-recorded ads. While this approach to podcast advertising can be more cost effective for your brand, ads are not tailored to the shows where they are broadcast and inventory is typically low.
Audience: Podcasts audiences started out being younger and the early adopters, but are now essentially mainstream.
Over 34 million people subscribe to SiriusXM Satellite Radio, with over 165 channels available in your car, and over 300 channels online across news, sports, talk, comedy, entertainment, and music.
Advertising: Based on your target market and budget, you choose which channels you want to advertise on, however, Satellite radio can only be nationally targeted. Ad formats also include traditional 30 or 60 second radio spots, sponsorships, targeted brand spots, and programming shorts. Host-read sponsorships are available on Satellite, but they are not as popular because of their big price tags and tremendous lead times. There is also a $20K total, $5K/wk minimum.
Audience: Because users pay to listen, satellite radio listeners tend to be more affluent, and older, but specific demographic targeting can be done by focusing your ad campaign on certain channels. Most are listening on the road, but the SiriusXM mobile app is increasingly used by subscribers when out of their vehicles.
Over 100 million people are regular listeners to Pandora, Spotify, and other Streaming Radio channels. According to the RIAA’s 2020 year-end report, about 83% of all music consumption happened on a streaming service. While much user behavior takes place on ad-free subscription services, there are tons of commercial-supported, and sponsored placements available through these services.
Advertising: Most streaming providers like Pandora and Spotify offer free versions of their product where advertisers can choose between display ads and targeted in-stream spots. Because these services partner with big data companies they are able to provide sophisticated audio targeting options, including age and audience affinity targeting, even at the zip code level. Programmatic advertising for streaming makes it easy to advertise on multiple services from one place, instead of having to manage the nuances of each service’s platform for direct buys.
Audience: Streaming listeners tend to look a lot like the podcast audience, although are slightly older than podcast listeners, 56% are aged 21-44 with a median age of 41.
Traditional AM/FM radio is the original audio advertising channel, and it should still be in your wheelhouse as a marketer. According to Edison Research, 39% of all audio consumption in 2020 was via terrestrial radio. That is a huge chunk of the pie. And, because there are now so many Internet radio services like iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more, listeners are accessing these “local” stations on a global scale through smartphone apps and browser players.
Advertising: Ads on traditional radio stations take the form of traditional 30- and 60-second spots. However, because the inventory permeates each station’s runtime around the clock, there’s often last-minute unsold inventory and fill-in slots, which are a solid and popular way to test into this channel with minimal budgets. If you work directly with iHeart Radio or the other top radio networks on a premium buy/campaign, you can engage their talent (radio personalities) to do custom spots.
Audience: Because(terrestrial) radio has such a broad reach, audience demographics overall looks like the general population, but targeting can be done by specific radio stations and programs on those stations.
Additional Audio Insights
Audio is one of the fastest evolving advertising channels. As audio options mature and expand, so do advertising options, agencies, and tools. For example, while just “yesterday,” audio inventory was only sold direct and fragmented across types and providers, Google now offers audio inventory in their marketplace. Google’s inventory partners include AdsWizz, iHeart, Pandora, SoundCloud (global), Spotify, Triton Digital and TuneIn, among others advertisers have the ability to distinguish between music, radio and podcasts, and audio production tools and brand lift tracking are also included as Google clearly is making a play to become a leader in audio advertising, too.
A key to audio is testing into it. Typically, brands work with an audio agency of record that does all aspects of their advertising. However, the biggest agencies sometimes require a minimum investment in the hundreds of thousands. For most startups this is far out of their budget. Engaging an audio freelance expert can be a great alternative. In this model you will own the relationships with the publishers, you are only charged for time spent (for scalable programs this means their percentage of media becomes much lower over time vs. the 15% standard), and you will often get more senior talent managing your relationship end to end.
Our Top Agency recommendations:
- Oxford Road: One of the industry’s longest-standing audio marketing agencies, this option provides knowledge and expertise, with a traditional approach.
- AdResults: If you’re looking for actionable, direct response ads, then AdResults is a great option.
- Veritone: Veritone also specializes in direct response ads. With some of the biggest brands in the world on their rolodex, you’ll be in solid company.
Our Top Freelance recommendation:
- Right Side Up: Audio advertising expert freelancers acting as in-house consultants developing your strategy, creative and media plan and execution, without paying a percent of the media buy.
No matter how you choose to invest and execute audio for your brand, for most B2C companies and many B2B companies, it has become a critical channel to at least test. Our article on determining the best way to source resources and talent to manage new channels can also help you navigate execution. If you are looking for more resources on which marketing channels you should be adding to your arsenal, and how to do it, check out our other articles below or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to help.
RevelOne is a leading marketing advisory and recruiting firm. We do 300+ searches a year in Marketing and Go-to-Market roles from C-level on down for some of the most recognized names in tech. For custom org design, role scoping, and retained search, contact us.