By Tammy Greenberg
It has been proven time and again that innovation drives growth. In fact, according to Kantar BrandZ, brands that continue to innovate in difficult times and beyond grow seven times faster than competitors.
The same is true for media brands. As the media landscape continues to be disrupted, audio is innovating and providing new channels for growth, new listeners to connect with, and new creators that deliver exceptional, must-consume content. No wonder its forecast for growth is solid.
As radio innovates, the medium remains true to its core attributes. "The Evolution of Radio," a white paper recently published by Say It Now in partnership with RAB, states that radio has traditionally been most dominant as an in-car medium — and indeed still is. Now, through increased engagement with home-based smart speakers, online audio, and an ever-growing number of podcasts, listeners have rapidly gained the ability to continue those audio interactions seamlessly in a truly personalized way from one setting to another.
Audio paves the way for marketers to deepen engagement with these audiences through many of its newer advertising formats and content integration opportunities.
Reliance on audio alone without a visual is one of the most prevalent reasons that brands have not leveraged the power of radio. The plethora of brands that use the medium and tell their stories well, achieve greater engagement with audiences.
With the rise of digital audio (i.e., broadcast streaming, radio station websites, podcasts), technology that lets brands include a visual component with their audio is growing in popularity. One provider, Quu Inc., enables visual and text-based programming that syncs with the audio message to appear on vehicle dashboards. According to an early 2019 study commissioned by Westwood One for a major retailer that executed a national radio advertising campaign using a visual synced to its radio ads, radio commercials paired with in-car dash visuals can significantly enhance commercial impact. Data from the study, which surveyed 474 adult listeners, reveals that the combination of the in-dash visual and the AM/FM radio ad grows advertising recall and purchase intent.
The Beasley Media Group has used Quu technology to conduct visually supplemented audio campaigns for several brands, including Black Entertainment Television (BET), Kentucky-based car wash company Thoroughbred Express Auto Wash, and a Michigan-based law firm. The ad for BET, which ran in early 2022, flashed the message "Don't miss the BET Awards on June 23rd at 8pm" on radios' digital display; ads for the car wash reinforced a unique keyword listeners could text to receive a free cleaning; and ads for the law firm included the firm's vanity phone number. Each one contributed to an uptick in engagement or conversions, according to the Beasley Media Group.
As Inside Radio reports, the Edison Research "Share of Ear" survey shows AM/FM radio has the No. 1 share of ad-supported audio time on smart speakers among people 13 years old and older. And, given that a significant amount of listening to radio takes place in the vehicle and automotive manufacturers are integrating smart speakers into the dash, listening via this platform will continue to grow.
Ad tech companies including Instreamatic and Say It Now have developed software to enable conversational and actionable audio advertising through smart speakers using artificial intelligence. With Say It Now's proprietary technology, for example, the smart speaker device hears the radio broadcast wherever listening occurs (i.e., digital or broadcast) and invites continued conversation. In a recent campaign for Pizza Hut in the U.K., Say It Now helped the brand deliver special offers using actionable radio ads, which encourage users to interact with a smart speaker. According to Charlie Cadbury, CEO of Say It Now, 46 percent of listeners who heard the ad and spoke to their Alexa device engaged in a dialogue that led to receiving a discount code on their phone.
Actionable audio ads allow marketers the opportunity to get close to their consumer base, collect invaluable data, and personalize the experience for the listener.
The creation of digital and virtual experiences, including esports partnerships and integrations, symposiums, and entertainment, was turbocharged when people found themselves unable to leave their homes during the COVID-19 lockdown measures.
In 2022, iHeartMedia announced its expansion into the metaverse with immersive music and gaming integration experiences. iHeartLand in the Roblox platform is designed as a metaverse destination where fans can interact with artists and creators while learning how to build their own music empire through competition and collaboration with the major names in music, podcasting, and entertainment. Brands are beginning to find their way to the space as well. In collaboration with iHeartMedia, State Farm celebrated its 100th anniversary by stepping into iHeartLand.
As Alyson Griffin, VP of marketing at State Farm notes in an October 2022 interview with Chief Marketer, the opportunity with iHeartLand in the metaverse is an important one for the brand. "I jumped in really fast because we can replicate what we do naturally in the real world," she said. "We show up with stadium sponsorships, for example, naming rights and gaming. We've been in gaming for over a decade and we are a big sponsor of audio, with iHeartMedia as an example. It felt like the right next steps … showing up where our potential and future customers will be in interesting new ways — but that are authentic to how they think about us in the real world."
As consumer behavior evolves and brands strive to remain relevant and drive growth, the medium they choose will be as important an ingredient to their success as the message. The radio industry's focus on innovation to serve listeners is a recipe for growth — for both the medium and the brands that use it.