Confessions of an Advertising Student: Audio’s Future

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I went to a talk on audio at Advertising Week Europe. Specifically about podcast advertising. If you ask me that’s where it’s at. Seriously. The panel was made up of Steve Ackerman, Chris Denson, Chris Skinner and Susie Warhurst. They made some really great points. It’s such a unique way to catch your audience because it’s not aggressive or invasive. Listeners trust their hosts, they’re relaxed, and they’re actively listening. Not passively. They’ve got an hour or so of dedicated time and you’re allowed to be a part of it. Weirdly intimate when you think about it. 

Susie shared some pretty cool data with us all. It was conducted by IPSOS and confirms the above. Podcasts are totally in right now: 

  • 23% of British people have listened to a podcast in the last month
  • 20% of podcast listeners are first-time listeners within the last six months
  • Two-thirds of listeners are between 16-34

 That last one really interests me because there’s a perception of listeners as elders. Not true. There’s huge growth in podcast listeners, something I’ve noticed in my own personal life.

We’re all falling back in love with stories without pictures

Whereas friends used to recommend TV shows or ask if you’ve seen the latest Netflix series, now they’ll tell me about the podcasts they’re listening to. As a person that loves books, I think it’s genuinely exciting that we’re all falling back in love with stories without pictures.

There was a lot of talk of bravery. Which was interesting. I’m currently in a student world where we don’t have to think about rules or advertising standards or clients. None of the examples they played seemed particularly daring to me, which gave me an insight into the future of agency life.

As students, we get used to thinking that the idea is everything. In reality, there’s a whole life after the idea – you’ve got to fight for it! Protect it! If clients are brave enough to trust in slightly more ‘out there’ podcast scripts, they’re rewarded by a loyal host and a genuine quality to their ad. Seems like a good deal to me. We heard examples from Adam Buxton and the fact that he has been able to put his own spin on his ads comes across instantly. Apparently, his ads are so successful now that people have started asking him to release them in their own right.  

One of my favourite parts of the talk was hearing how three separate podcasts had done advertising for the same brand; Harry’s Razors. It was an important lesson in tone of voice. It showed me there were lots of right ways of saying the same thing, you’ve just got to find the voice that fits with the person delivering the message.

The panel discussed how listeners increasingly want to see. That’s why they’ve started doing live readings. But I can’t help but think that it’s the equivalent of a magician showing you how the trick is done. Once you’ve seen behind the curtain, an essential part of the wonder is gone because well, there’s nothing left to wonder. I obsessively listened to Beautiful Anonymous and one day I looked up the host Chris Gethin. His voice is everything. He wasn’t how I imagined him and the magic was gone after that. So maybe we shouldn’t always give our audiences what they want.

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