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The power of audio in telling your brand's story


Advertising is one of the most powerful and widespread tools a brand can leverage — total U.S ad spend reached a staggering $151 billion in 2018, and it’s only going up. Since posters first plastered the streets of Europe during the early Renaissance period, the practice has undergone countless evolutions, and the newest is now upon us — audio.

Technologies showcasing the capabilities of our own voice are just now growing beyond their infancy, with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home series changing how we interface with the world. However, the power of the voice extends well beyond our own.

But hasn’t audio-based advertising been around for a while?

Yes, it has. For over 97 years to be exact. But what began as the radio advertising industry is now changing in ways we’ve never seen before.

Marketers are shifting to podcast advertising, as more and more people regularly download shows — in fact, nearly a quarter of Americans listen to podcasts every week. Possibly even more indicative of the shifting landscape, podcast advertising is expected to be a $1 billion market by 2021.

Podcasting has become so popular that there are now podcasting companies. Take Gimlet, for example, which describes itself as a “narrative podcasting company that aims to help listeners better understand the world and each other.” Gimlet’s podcasts are downloaded over twelve million times ... every month. It’s no wonder advertisers are chomping at the bit for ad space.

It’s almost a marketer’s utopia: Have a product that would interest entrepreneurs? Advertise on entrepreneurial podcasts. How about a history buff? You already know which podcasts you're targeting. Pittsburgh residents? Check out our (shameless plug) P100 Podcast.

However, podcasts aren’t the only audio medium that marketers should be excited about. While they are certainly the golden child of the late 2010s, I’d like to focus on a newer and lesser-known advertising option that comes from one of the major platforms hosting the podcasts — Spotify.

Spotify — The Basics

For those uninitiated, Spotify, the popular music and podcast streaming service, currently has 248 million users across 65 countries. Of that total, 113 million of those users are premium subscribers, meaning they pay a monthly fee to listen to music and podcasts advertisement-free among other benefits. That leaves 135 million listeners using Spotify’s free-tier services, which means they’ll be served up ads intermittently between tracks and/or podcast episodes.

Those 135 million free-tier users are who Spotify’s new ad studio lets marketers advertise to. Similar to social media ads, listeners can be targeted by demographics, behaviors, interests; the usual. Two immediate benefits that Spotify brings to the table is that these ads are largely non-skippable, and users don’t have to be looking at their screen to be advertised to.

However, Spotify adds another level of complexity unique to its service through its “fan base” and “real-time contexts” targeting options. Let me explain:

Fan base targeting

With its fan base targeting, Spotify allows brands to target fans of particular artists, making for some interesting use cases. Will you be a vendor at an upcoming concert or festival? Targeting fans in the surrounding area will ensure they’ve already heard your story by the time they spot your booth.

Real-time contexts

This is the option that’s truly a gem. Spotify’s real-time contexts targeting allows marketers to “target people in specific moments” depending on the themed playlist they’re currently listening to. Options include activities like cooking, gaming, holidays, focus and workout — what a dream. No matter your product or service, it’s imperative to capture your audience at the right time in the right place, and real-time contexts targeting is a promising and valuable option to do so.

New and exciting targeting options like these are one of the upsides of today’s big-data world. Although thought-provoking and even sometimes worrying, having the ability to reach your audience with relevant and timely ads is ultimately great for the industry and for consumers — especially when 47% of consumers are blocking ads online, with nearly half citing it’s due to them being irrelevant.

As the revel of touch screens fade and we begin our transition to an audio-activated society, marketers’ abilities to target audiences will accelerate at an unparalleled pace. Just as we saw with Facebook and Instagram ads, it may serve very well to get in ahead of the curve while prices are low and upside is high.

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