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Audio industry calls for better audience measurement. But where to start?

Audio industry calls for better audience measurement. But where to start?

Our Future of Audio Europe event revealed a strong desire from audio professionals to improve measurement. But, as The Media Leader discovered, views on how to do this vary widely.

Improving how audiences are measured was voted the top priority by audio industry professionals at The Future of Audio Europe 2023.

And yet opinions differ on how to deliver that. The need for holistic measurement across audio channels, rather than separate radio, podcast and digital audio was highlighted by several speakers throughout the day. And yet others urged for simply better measurement on digital audio, particularly podcasts.

In a session on “How are today’s buyers really thinking about audio?”, Wendy Moores, head of marketing at Direct Line Group, told delegates marketers should be thinking about how to get “a better understanding of campaign measurement as a whole rather than individual parts”.

Speaking to The Media Leader following the event, Sam Austin, head of audio at Goodstuff Communications, said: “If I could wave a magic wand and have any audio measurement tool, I would want one that covered all audio touchpoints in the same respect that Barb has moved to include non-linear TV.”

She added: “Equally I would love for the development of a system whereby we can isolate the audio impact on a campaign for a client. It can be really difficult to identify audio’s impact when there can by such high levels of research misattribution to channels like TV.”

The industry also needs a tool that can identify “how well” audio is performing for clients, according to Gemma Lee, partner for AV delivery at Dentsu.

However, she adds, this tool must be “one that understands that audio is consumed differently in that the impact might not be instant due to the nature of how audio is consumed.”

‘Be careful what you wish for’

One of the contributing factors to the fragmented audio measurement picture is down to how it is consumed differently, and how digital audio channels seem “more amenable” to short-term attribution measurement than linear broadcast.

Jason Brownlee, founder of Colourtext, told The Media Leader that audio will always have a problem with short-term attribution metrics as around half of the audience is doing ‘something else’ while listening to the radio.

“When did you last swerve your car off the road and into a lay-by to search online for something you just heard about in a radio or podcast ad?” Brownlee asks. “This absolutely doesn’t mean that audio doesn’t generate ad response… [but] responses to audio ads are harder to measure. Rather than being clustered within a classic short-term direct response peak that’s dead easy to see in the attribution data, audio ad response is more likely to be thinly distributed over a longer period of time after ad exposure.”

Instead, Brownlee proposes a measurement regime that could show market response to an audio campaign in within an hour or a week of the spot airing, instead of 15-minute direct response window, where advertisers could integrate these into e-commerce platforms to gauge audio’s contribution towards short-term sales, and also predicted impact on future growth of competitive market share.

“I’m not convinced the primary challenge is to build a tool that shows audio can do short-term response like Facebook does (it doesn’t),” he adds. “Instead I think audio’s biggest strategic growth opportunity is to find a good way to capture, measure and put a value on the *delayed* response it actually does generate in real life.”

But Howard Bareham, founder of Trisonic, warns that the audio industry had to “be careful what you wish for” when it came to measurement, suggesting media agencies could be overwhelmed with the amount of audio data.

For example, will media agencies be able to cope with more frequent data supply for analysis of campaigns, such as mid-campaign monitoring analysis? He explains. “Audio buying is specialist, and, while they are still some specific audio/radio buying teams, it has in the main moved into AV units (or some who sit in digital teams) where it’s not the only media being bought — so can they cope with more audio data.”

For Bareham, the industry needs a tool for pre-campaign planning where planners could see the net effect on coverage and frequency of adding different audio channels to plans. The industry also needs a way to fuse radio impressions and digital audio together in a mid or post-campaign report, similar to how measurement company Adalyser does for TV, he adds.

However, echoing Lee and Brownlee, Bareham warns media agencies and advertisers needed to recognise that audio does not have the same direct-response model as TV and so it would be difficult to get information around attribution as this is not immediate.

That is why he said it would be best to measure pre and post campaign metrics like awareness, rather than attribution.

A global digital audio currency?

There are also calls for new digital audio and podcast platforms that could “participate within a joint industry currency (JIC)-style structure” that is independent and trusted by all stakeholders. 

“Digital audio is crying out for a currency that we can start to rely on,” according to Steve Dunlop, founder of AMA (the audio tech company recently rebranded from A Million Ads), speaking at Future of Audio Europe.

However, this solution is not risk-free. Global platforms like Spotify would have to deal with dozens of national JICs which “would probably be as much fun as it sounds”, Brownlee says wryly.

“Improvements to podcast and digital audio measurement will be a good way to promote ad growth on these platforms. But I’m not a big fan of proprietary platform measurement systems, simply because history tells us we shouldn’t trust anyone to mark their own homework accurately when there’s a lot of money on the table.”

The conference also heard from Peter Mackhé, from the Association of Swedish Advertisers, whose cross-media measurement solution has generated interest across the continent after launching last year.  

Mackhé is clear that aligning global platforms towards the same measurement solution is “80% political and 20% technical”.

He said in his session: “New digital media needs to align to create common standards for measurement. Currently, there’s different definitions.”

Michelle Sarpong, head of display, audio and OOH activation at independent media agency the7stars, says a tool that measures both brand metric uplift and attribution from digital audio and podcasts in campaigns would be her ask of the industry.

She told The Media Leader: “If we can demonstrate that paying a premium to target a specific audience provides uplift in sales, recall etc, it helps defeat the narrative that the premiums are not worth it.”

Adwanted UK are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine. To access our audio industry directory, visit audioscape.info and to find your new job in audio visit The Media Leader Jobs, a dedicated marketplace for media, advertising and adtech roles.
Nick Drew, CEO, Fuse Insights, on 15 Mar 2023
“I attended the Future of Audio event and the asi Audio (Measurement) Conference in November; and it was very useful to see both the agency and media buyer side and the nuts and bolts researcher side of the discussion, and the developments in audio measurement and what they enable. Robust audio measurement currently exists (RAJAR in the UK and similar JICS in other markets), with well-established methodologies and figures, and the methodological tools to relatively easily incorporate non-broadcast audio in their measurement streams. In short, it would be entirely possible to measure Spotify, DAX channels and podcasts alongside broadcast radio, in a single audio currency - not dissimilarly to how BARB has started to integrate Netflix into its measurement. And the digital platforms seem relatively open to that idea. The single biggest barrier to single-source audio measurement isn’t methodological, it’s ideological: radio stakeholders don’t want to measure non-radio content alongside radio content. They realise that radio could potentially be at a significant disadvantage when ad buyers are able to see individual stations measured side by side, apples to apples, against digital behemoths like Spotify. And since RAJAR is the radio stakeholders’ sandpit, they’ve decided not to allow other audio platforms in. So Spotify and other digital audio platforms happily sell on their own metrics, and radio sells on its currency, and media buyers are stuck in the middle trying to work out how to produce genuinely multi-format audio campaigns. What’s disingenuous is radio stakeholders then joining the lament about “what’s to be done about audio measurement” as if it has nothing to do with their own self-interested decisions around the current definitive audio currency.”

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