As people become more attached to their smartphones, podcasts and music streaming, it’s up to brands to find innovative ways to reach them online while they are listening and engaging in me time. Digital audio advertising can create a path that helps brands connect with new audiences.

The first audio advertisement aired in 1922 on WEAF radio in New York City. It was a commercial for a new apartment building development in the city and ran a total of 15 minutes. More than 100 years later, the internet and new technologies are creating an upsurge in demand for content to listen to and creating an important opportunity for brands.

It’s easy to understand why. Voice technology is everywhere. A study by National Public Radio and Edison shows 62 per cent of adults in the U.S. use voice assistants and 35 per cent own a smart speaker. These numbers are expected to grow alongside the rich supply of streaming platforms, mobile devices and content formats.

Today, people can listen to any type of audio they want, when they want and wherever they happen to be. And they want more audio content. For brands, meeting this demand by developing engaging, personalized digital audio advertising opens the door to new and bigger audiences.

Fast facts: Half of smart speaker owners have heard an ad on their smart speakers. Of these, 53 per cent say they are likely to respond to these ads. – Source: NPR/Edison Research The Smart Audio Report.

What is digital audio advertising?

Spotify defines digital audio advertising as “the process of inserting ads into digital audio content in order to reach listeners.” This content can take the form of podcasts, digital radio, music streaming and audio books. Its growth has paved the way for audio search engines and audio SEO, which are turning digital audio advertising into a critical tool for brands to reach potential customers in an emotional way that creates a sense of connection and drives engagement.

Benefits of digital audio advertising

  • Digital audio advertising can help you expand your reach.
  • Digital audio advertising leads to better brand recall and improved brand awareness.
  • Digital audio advertising has no distractions.
  • Digital audio advertising allows for precision targeting.
  • Digital audio advertising builds trust and credibility through personal endorsements. This is particularly true when users’ favourite radio show and podcast hosts and DJs read the ads and deliver personalized testimonials.

When to embrace digital audio advertising for your business

When you have a strong website in place

This is critical because once you start creating effective digital audio advertising campaigns, listeners will want to see what you have to offer. Make sure the site is user-centric, easy-to-navigate and features relevant information your target customers want and can use. If it’s an e-commerce site, it should have relevant product pages with high-quality product descriptions and images, user reviews and a streamlined checkout process. Link your digital audio ads to specific pages to increase impact.

When you want to expand your reach

People can access and enjoy digital audio just about anywhere thanks to smartphones, smart speakers and wireless headphones. This ability combined with the rise of podcasts and music streaming services, such as Spotify and Apple Music, is giving new life to digital audio advertising and helping brands reach audiences beyond their initial target. According to a 2023 study by Edison Research:

  • 70 per cent of Americans listen to online audio every week.
    • 58 per cent of people aged 12 and older in the U.S. own wireless headphones (up from 50 per cent in 2021).
    • 75 per cent of people in the U.S. aged 12 and older have listened to online audio in the last month and 87 per cent between the ages of 12 and 54 listened to online audio in the last month.
    • 53 per cent of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to a podcast in the last month and 38 per cent of people aged 18 and older have listened to a podcast in the car.

When you want to build brand awareness

The emotional connection people feel consuming ads while listening to music or podcasts makes your brand more memorable than when you post a picture on social media. Be creative and make the most of the fact that you are capturing people’s attention when they are consuming content they find meaningful. Another benefit: people can only listen to one ad at a time. Your message is the only message.

When you want to target specific users

Brands can target using demographics, interests, context, location and behavioural information to build audiences for each platform. Since it is a digital ad, targeting can be as specific as you want. By automating your digital audio ads, you can further enhance targeting, provide contextual, personalized messaging via dynamic creative optimization, gain data-driven insights, and improve effectiveness.

When you want to increase the impact of your ad spend

Coordinating digital audio ads with other channels and formats increases the number of times consumers receive a message, boosting engagement and improving the effectiveness of campaigns. You can also use digital audio ads to link users to a specific site or application.

Improved brand awareness, expanded reach, tight targeting, increased credibility and an emotional connection are among the critical benefits investing in audio digital advertising can bring. These are early days for digital audio advertising. Brands that are willing to experiment have an opportunity to gain competitive advantage and drive sales.