Audacy Insights: Digital Audio Measurement Goes Wide and Deep

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As digital audio muscles for ad dollars, brands want to see the numbers. Specifically, detailed measurement and attribution that show the effectiveness of audio ad campaigns. The good news: publishers have a rapidly expanding toolbox of measurement to prove they're worth it.

Thanks to its engaged audiences and diverse content, digital audio (including podcasting) is attracting more brand interest than ever. Ad spending soared 8% last year to $4.9 billion, compared to 2020 levels, according to research from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Now, publishers and third-party data providers have more measurement, analytics and reporting capabilities than ever to spur future growth.

"A lot has changed over the last 12 months. This space is moving really, really fast," said Ken Lagana, Executive Vice President of Digital Sales at Audacy. In the latest installment of the company's monthly Audacy Insights Series webinar, Lagana dished on the latest in audience measurement with experts from Nielsen, Claritas, Audacy and Veritonic.

"Measurement isn't really a question anymore," said Jay Green, Audacy's Vice President of Podcast Tech and Strategy. "Now it's about: 'What else you can do?'"

The answer is, "more than ever." Take Veritonic, which measures audio creative. Instead of launching spots and waiting for consumers' reactions, brands can test a campaign before it runs by using Veritonic's platform.

Veritonic analyzes how listeners respond to the voice talent, including male or female voices and accents, as well as background music or sound design. It also can evaluate the script. The results can save money and open up fresh perspectives, said Veritonic's Vice President of Client Success Amanda DiMarco. "There is so much to be learned from a 'know before you go' approach," she said. "Being able to test your creative ahead of time is incredibly important. Do you have the right script points? Are you using the right music?"

She advises brands to drill down into what resonates with their target audience. With consumer packaged goods ads, for example, many listeners respond better to women. In the auto sector, DiMarco noted many auto ads are voiced by men, so listeners might respond well to a female voice for a change. "Anyone can use creative testing to make informed decisions," she noted.

Podcasting is attracting a lot of attention within digital audio. Publishers have been banging that drum for years, and now more brands are responding. New sophisticated measurement options "allow for podcasting to sit next to all the other tactics that fit into a media strategy or a media plan," Lagana said.

But newer clients want even more measurement and information. Where podcasting used to be filled with direct response advertisers, now more established and emerging brands are dipping their toes in, noted Arica McKinnon, Vice President of Solutions Consulting for Nielsen. And they have questions.

"They really want to understand how they can build brand awareness and promote their brand image," McKinnon said. "We know people are downloading; we know who the target audience is; but are they engaged? Is that ad moving the needle?"

By studying brand lift and recall, McKinnon said Nielsen can quantify consumer awareness and purchase intent. In another important step, Nielsen has assembled enough data on podcast listening to establish industry standards. That provides clients with general information on podcasting and allows Nielsen to offer comparisons across verticals, as well as custom reporting for individual publishers.

In a recent report for Audacy, Nielsen tested brand recall from podcast spots. When asked if they could recall ads they heard in a podcast, 53% of Audacy podcast listeners said they could, outpacing Nielsen norms of 48%, Nielsen reported.

Similarly, Claritas is expanding its podcast measurement capabilities, including measuring ad exposure at the household level. It recently delivered a joint study with Audacy for a consumer packaged goods brand to attribute podcast and digital audio buys to sales lift at physical locations and e-commerce.

To size up their investment, clients also can commission custom studies. In a recent study for a blue-chip skincare company, data measurement firm Claritas analyzed sales lift from an ad campaign on streaming audio and podcasting. It traced the customer journey from ad exposure to purchase using purchase data history and showed a steady sales lift and a 5% increase in switcher success. The study also showed that 19% of sales came from a single competitor.

The results indicate the power of digital audio and podcasting, said Omer Jilani, Vice President of Sales for Claritas.

"The relationship between media and listener in the podcast ecosystem is unlike any other channel," Jilani explained. "When you combine that stickiness in the listener experience with the opportunities to measure, where some big brands have become accustomed, it is a perfect storm. The space I'm most excited about is audio."

When it comes to podcast advertising styles, tried-and-true host-read ads are still advertisers' first choice. After all, listeners are engaged with their favorite hosts and trust them to recommend products and services. However, as podcasting's audience grows, Green said brands are exploring new creative and seeking to scale up their buys.

To help its advertisers reach consumers across digital audio and podcasts, Audacy recently launched its Audacy Digital Audience Network, a one-stop marketplace for all its audio products.

McKinnon explained that Nielsen now tests shows with both host-read ads and inserted ads. Both perform well. "Hosts do such a good job now that you don't know if it is baked in or dynamically inserted," she said.

The variety of audio opportunities is now so wide, and the research on audio campaign results is so deep, that advertisers have a lot of options, Green said. "We can be a one-off solution or a perfect synergistic solution for you for whatever your total media buy and spend might be, because now we can measure all of these capabilities," he concluded.

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