Listen up! Here’s what we learnt at Audio Week

Posted on Wednesday 08 September 2021 | IAB UK

We pull together the key takeouts from our third Specialism Week of 2021 - and this time it’s all about audio

With reports showing that listener rates and advertisers’ investment in digital audio have both surged during the pandemic, we brought together IAB UK members for a week-long exploration of the key trends and opportunities for advertisers in this space. Spanning research, creative advice, and a closer look at what lies ahead, here is what we learnt: 


1. The digital audio day has changed 

Findings from our Real Living 2021 research show that the digital audio day has changed since we originally conducted Real Living in 2015. Back then, there were distinct peaks and dips in listening rates throughout the day, while in 2021 listening is far more consistent - only really dropping off between midnight and 6am. With many people no longer commuting at pre-pandemic levels, Targetspot’s Adam Pattison pointed out that this change in the audio day “opens up the possibility for increased use of programmatic placement within podcasting”, as people are more often streaming content live rather than downloading content ahead of a journey. 


2. Podcasting’s popularity isn’t slowing down

Podcasting’s popularity as an effective and unique advertising channel is only intensifying, according to Goodstuff’s Sam Austin. She said that the agency has seen “a massive rise in demand for podcast-only briefs… [which is] the way that people are engaging and listening to them”. While, a few years ago, brands’ emphasis was on creating their own podcasts, Austin says that they now want to “align with established podcasts [and] leverage that relationship”. 


3. The in-game audio opportunity is growing

Across the week, the growth of in-game audio ads was a consistent theme. Audiomob’s Will Freeman and Luke Taplin-McCallum highlighted the intrinsic relationship between audio and gaming and the opportunities for brands in a special edition of The IAB UK podcast. Meanwhile, Odeeo’s Amit Monheit said there has been “an explosion of brands that are interested in connecting with a mobile gamer audience”. He predicts the rise of short-form audio ads as brands diversify from the traditional 30-second radio spot, backed up by research showing that memorability is achieved via audio within 3-5 seconds. 


4. The pandemic has changed how we view brands 

According to Global’s Carla Madden, who drew on results from the company’s audience insight tracker, two in five of us are considering the brands we choose more carefully as a result of the pandemic. This is part of a wider lifestyle shift as people re-evaluate what matters to them and the values of the brands they are buying. Digital audio advertising is well placed to thrive in this context as people feel a close affinity to the content they are listening to - particularly with podcasting - which can positively impact how ads are received in the space. 


5. Digital audio is shaping cultural trends 

Both Millennials and Gen Z are using digital audio platforms to curate cultural conversations, express themselves and build communities, explained Spotify’s Darren Thompson. Brands have the opportunity to tap into these audiences if they take an authentic approach - targeting content and playlists created by Gen Zs and Millennials themselves - tapping into key cultural moments, aligning with authentic podcast personalities and supporting under-represented artists. Similarly, AudioPlus’ Esther Mason focused on SoundCloud and what she described as “an audience of discovery”. She said that there is a big opportunity for innovator brands to align with and make an impact by reaching out to those distinct audiences that are shaping the way forward in digital audio. 


6. Automation x audio = results 

Discussing the rise of conversational targeting, Acast’s Josh Woodhouse said that the company’s new keyword targeting tool allows for hyper-relevant conversational targeting within podcasts at an episodic level. Meanwhile, AdsWizz’s Pierre Naggar also highlighted the rise of audio automation, referencing a campaign with Corona that saw the beer brand deliver location-targeted news style surf reports to people listening to content within a 15km radius of certain beaches in New Zealand. The ads drew on automation technology and were delivered with 6,400 different variables, driving a 2% increase in Corona’s relevancy scores. 


7. Keep it personal 

Our Real Living research shows that 50% of people wish brands could understand their mood so that they can integrate better with their chosen audio content, while 46% say that when an ad matches their mood it feels more personal. Expanding on this theme, dynamic personalisation formed a key part of a panel discussion between NumberEight, Octave, AdTonos and A Million Ads. As A Million Ads’ Sam Crowther said, “there are deep psychological reasons that we as humans prefer relevant ads” and dynamic personalisation delivers benefits for the whole ecosystem - consumers and advertisers alike. 


8. Interactivity is increasingly important  

“For the first time in history, we can have that interaction”, AdTonos’ Michal Marcinik said when discussing the rise of interactive audio. In his view, there is “nothing more native than voice commerce”, allowing people to make orders or accept offers via smart speakers in real time. With smart speakers and voice assistants now an established part of media plans, as discussed by Say It Now’s Maria Cadbury, interactive audio is set to become increasingly dominant. Red Apple Creative’s Kath Moroney gave us a great example of this as part of an immersive guide of engaging audio ads - Lucky Charms’ campaign to encourage families to embark on a treasure hunt. 


9. Strong partnerships sit at the heart of great content 

For the past 10 years, Wickes has run a partnership with Bauer Media’s Absolute Radio - and more recently KISS - which “goes beyond sponsorship and promotion”. Trust and communication are central to this, with Wickes’ Shelley Allison valuing the fact that the brand can harness Bauer’s insight into the mood of the nation and how Absolute/KISS listeners are feeling. This formed the basis of Wickes’ sponsorship of Absolute Radio’s ‘Good Deeds Register’, which ran during the pandemic to celebrate the good deeds of listeners and reward them with a Wickes gift card to improve their homes in lockdown. Digital channels formed a key part of this, bringing human stories to Absolute’s social channels and amplifying the audio content. 


10. Data, data, data 

Data is central to creating a successful audio campaign, allowing brands to understand the listeners they are trying to reach and harness targeting tools to achieve relevance. NumberEight’s Abhishek Sen stressed the importance of contextual data, saying that it allows brands to “cut through the noise and deliver something relevant for the moment… marrying personalisation and relevance”. Veritonic’s Amanda DiMarco also highlighted the central role of data when discussing how HFSS advertisers can create a positive impact via digital audio in light of the online ad ban (which audio is exempt from). Her advice for brands venturing into the audio space is to test and learn from what the data says. From sonic branding to sound effects to length of creative, “lean on data to know before you go”. 


Audio Week is sponsored by Spotify. Log in to catch up on all of the sessions mentioned above here

Written by



Related content

woman with headphones

Listening Britain: 33.2m listening to online audio weekly

Learn more
James Chandler

Advertisers, ignore geriatric gamers and it's game over

Learn more
Abstract background

Real Living 2021: The key findings

Learn more

CTV Week: 5 things we learnt

Learn more

Rediscover the joy of digital advertising

Champion connections instead of clicks. Capture audiences' imaginations, not just their attention. Boldly move to your own beat instead of letting tech set the pace. It’s time to rediscover the joy of digital.