The Future of Audio

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For Pandora, the audio revolution is business as usual. Claire Fanning, VP of Ad Innovation Strategy, shared some of her team’s research and insights to help advertisers and brands prepare to enter new audio landscapes.

With the amount of music and podcasts being listened to growing as fast as it is, Fanning believes that one of the answers when it comes to learning how to deal with audio is to start looking for moments in the environment that are also moments for consumers and brands. But audio is prompting more questions than answers, particularly why people are participating in the movement, according to Fanning.

“Music sets the tone,” Fanning said, “You have an opportunity to connect with audiences and raise their emotions, and we have a huge responsibility with that.”

The range of listening activity among consumers is so wide that outside-the-box thinking is necessary to have a future in audio, according to Fanning.

“Not one size fits all,” Fanning said, “when it comes to audio ads, you might be doing it wrong.”

Compared to more common types of media, audio advertisements can have an a more lasting effect on their audience, according to Fanning. Pandora’s preliminary research showed 18% of conversions from audio messages coming from the last three weeks of the experiment, which was after the campaign wrapped up. The team was even forced to re-evaluate some of their findings because conversions were coming in after the planned research period had ended.

On top of their findings regarding durability, Pandora’s research found that increasing the frequency of the audio messages from just 1.3 per week to 2.7 per week almost doubled the conversion rate. In their ongoing research, the team has been continuing to test the limits of how high they can raise the frequency, and have not yet reached the point of diminishing returns, according to Fanning.

To utilize some of the insights coming from their research, Pandora is looking into opportunities in the growing fields of smart speakers and voice control, which fanning believes to be the new touch.

“Voice is the most natural behavior we have, my son is 20 months old and using his voice everyday,” Fanning said, “We are looking to enable our platform so that if you want to use your voice you can.”

The team demonstrated some sample audio advertisements being tested in their lab in which the message will prompt a question about whether they want more information about the product, and the user is able to use their voice to answer.

And Pandora isn’t the only one who is beginning to capitalize on the audio revolution. For the first time, through tactics like sequential and personalized ads, audio can tell a story over a period of time, according to Fanning, who said they’re seeing brands start to have a lot of fun using these new methods.

But new opportunities come with new challenges, one of which is how to deal with the ever-increasing library of podcasts being listened to. In the future, we may see Pandora revitalize the music genome project that categorized listeners tastes and preferences by starting to do the same for podcasts.

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