Pandora's Definitive Guide to Audio Mixes Up the Perfect Cocktail

By SXM Media InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Pandora's Definitive Guide to Audio Mixes Up the Perfect Cocktail

What's the recipe for maximum ad effectiveness and consumer engagement? Hint: Digital audio is a key ingredient. In the last year, as the pandemic disrupted lifestyles and schedules, digital audio has emerged stronger than ever. Liberated from the confines of commutes and office life, consumers have the freedom to tune in whenever and wherever. With streaming music, spoken word and podcasts listening at record levels, audio publishers are pushing into new territory with expanded content and the latest in advertising tech advances.

"In today's increasingly audio-centric world, brands can effectively and efficiently find their most valuable audiences within an ad-supported streaming audio environment like ours," said Liz Lacey, vice president of sales marketing for Pandora.

In its 2021 Definitive Guide to Audio, Pandora delivers key insights and trends on audio for marketers. This second edition, aptly titled "The Innovation Boom," identifies three ways brands can benefit from digital audio's capabilities: efficiency, effectiveness and engagement.

In a systemic shift, digital audio now accounts for 55% of all time spent with audio, surpassing AM/FM radio listening for the first time, per Edison's Share of Ear Study. About two-thirds of users stream digital audio on mobile devices, and audio is expanding its access points. A recent eMarketer forecast estimates that, between 2019 and 2023, audio usage will grow 31% on smart speakers, 21% on wearables and 14% connected TV.

"Using digital audio is an effective channel to reach audiences that aren't consuming traditional media to achieve incremental reach and deliver their key audiences in those screen-free moments," Lacey noted.

With opportunities to target by context, moods and moments, coupled with unrivaled precision and targeting, audio publishers like Pandora assert they're now a must-buy.

Audio Delivers Massive Audiences with Ease

Across media, Lacey said marketers want to engage as many users as possible with the easiest buying experience. In response, Pandora created a new service for brands to plan, produce, manage and measure audio across Pandora and sister Sirius XM Holdings' - owned companies Stitcher, SiriusXM, SoundCloud and NBC Universal News, with a single-point marketplace. Combined, those platforms reach nearly 8 in 10 online audio brands, creating scale and efficiency.

"They now have access to an audience of over 150 million listeners across a multi-publisher platform, every form of audio content, and millions of artists, hosts and influencers across all devices -- all through one simple buy," Lacey noted.

Achieving Maximum Benefits

At a time when consumers have more media choices than ever, brands need to understand where and how to find them. Digital audio, Lacey said, can effectively locate the best audiences and direct the most appropriate ads to them.

"The reality is your consumer today is a moving target. And the first step to engage your audience more efficiently and effectively is taking notice of how consumers are increasingly adopting more connected devices to their everyday lives," Lacey said.

With data from its logged-in users, Pandora can dig into troves of data on behaviors, demographics, activities and even moods. Its dynamic audio solutions can allow brands to be nimble, and tailor messages to location, weather and even the time of day. Audio messaging can quickly be updated or changed and doesn't come with the hefty creative costs associated with video ads.

Engagement Is the Name of the Game

To stay ahead, Pandora and others are experimenting with the latest ad tech and creative formats. For instance, to break traditional conventions, Pandora is tinkering with the length of audio ads. The company is also actively developing interactive voice ads, where listeners can engage with the brand and take action by speaking to their smart speakers, voice assistants and even voice-activated remotes.

Early efforts are yielding promising results. Pandora reports that "say-through" rates, where users respond with voice actions, are up to 10× higher than their click-through rate counterparts and users had a 27% higher purchase intent over audio ad benchmarks for those who engage. The company plans to make interactive voice ads available to all of its brand partners later this year.

By offering highly targeted ads and engaging ad formats, Pandora notes that both advertisers and audiences win out. When users feel ads are more personalized to them and less disruptive, consumers are more accepting and responsive. In fact, 73% of users said they're more likely to engage with a contextually relevant ad.

Content Remains King

Of course, for all media, the consumer experience begins and ends with great content. Along with their popular music content, Pandora, SiriusXM and Stitcher are each aggressively expanding podcasts, including in sports, comedy, entertainment and news. The pandemic has accelerated podcast listening, and Lacey said advertisers are clamoring to get involved. Marketers are particularly interested in working with podcast hosts and producers to integrate their brands into podcast content and host-read ads. In response, Pandora is expanding ways brands can collaborate with its podcast creators and talent.

"We have an amazing slate of unique programming and sponsorship opportunities featuring SiriusXM, Pandora and Stitcher talent, as well as our exclusive relationships with sports, news, comedy and talk brands," Lacey said.

It's just another way digital audio publishers like Pandora can stay ahead of the curve.

As the Definitive Guide to Audio concluded: "The ingredients for that perfect engagement cocktail are data, personalization and scale, and that's exactly what we're serving up."

Want to read the 2021 Definite Guide to Audio - The Innovation Boom, Volume 2?
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