Audio industry must ‘take ownership’ if it wants to stay on the media plan

Audio industry must ‘take ownership’ if it wants to stay on the media plan
(fromleft) Bertozzi, Williams, Digby, Lee and Bareham
The Future of Audio and Entertainment 2024

Audio needs to do more to educate agencies and advertisers about its effectiveness and innovation, according to industry figures speaking at The Future of Audio and Entertainment 2024.

Marco Bertozzi, co-founder of TheZoo.London and previously an executive at Spotify, hosted a panel that highlighted how innovations in audio over the past eight years — with the arrival of streaming players, podcasts and a proliferation of digital audio — had seemingly not ushered in growth in adspend, which remains “reasonably tepid”.

The latest IPA Bellwether Report found declines in marketers upping budgets in main media advertising, and within that audio experienced a net balance of -4.5%. Meanwhile, the most recent Advertising Association/Warc figures show that radio spend was down 3.3% year on year in 2023, with online audio down 7.1%.

‘Unconscious bias’

Flora Williams, head of planning at Manning Gottlieb OMD, said audio was being treated as “a bit of an afterthought” in planning.

Speaking from a multimedia planner perspective, she said “audio is not getting time or thought it deserves”.

One reason was that agency planners tend to be young and London-centric, and their media consumption (for instance, they consume social media five times more than radio) has led to some “unconscious bias” when it comes to adding audio to the plan.

Howard Bareham, co-founder of Trisonic, agreed that he’d seen “a lot of ‘sample of one’ planning” and that arguments about audio’s relative merits and position on the media plan go back 20 years that he had been in the industry.

He said perceptions about the medium have been “passed down from one planner to another to another”, so there needs to be “a concerted effort” by sales points and agencies to “re-evaluate” what they are doing.

For James Digby, head of agency sales at Octave, the digital audio joint venture between Bauer Media Audio and News UK, the company’s “biggest challenge” is looking at “how underfunded and underinvested” radio is compared with other digital channels like display.

“Octave was not set up to take money from Peter to pay Paul, but to grow the digital audio industry through taking other channels’ budgets,” he added.

Effectiveness against other players

Digby stated that there is “always a challenge to prove audio’s effectiveness”.

Digital audio was now at a stage where there are measurement tools to show it is “performing really, really well” and “stack up against” other big digital players, especially using econometrics, he said.

Indeed, Bareham exclaimed: “The perception that audio is no good because it has no measurement is bonkers.”

He added that some performance-led brands say radio and audio “are not working for them because it cannot be measured” and that radio “historically has had a challenge with proving its effectiveness” because of how it is listened to and engaged with when doing other things.

Importantly, Bareham explained, a planner or advertiser needs to “be sympathetic” to how each audio channel is consumed by the audience and be aware that the research metrics being used may not be suitable for all media.

More collaboration

For Gemma Lee, partner at Amplifi UK, the audio industry is “not unified enough” compared with other media.

She said: “I think that they need to do it better together to keep it on the plan and make sure that it’s front of mind across the board. Even from an AV planning perspective, because TV is so expensive and there’s so much that goes into it, there’s so much focus on it and radio’s this add-on — and digital audio in that as well. And then it’ll be the first to come off a plan and the last to go on.”

“Saliency” was also the main challenge for Williams, giving the example of retail media “growing hugely” but being a much more complex marketplace.

Furthermore, the audio industry doesn’t “do enough” to show how media channels can work together to “complement each other”, Lee added: “Radiocentre do loads of stuff about how it complements online and how it complements TV, but you never see enough being done collectively as an industry to really showcase that — so do a study with the TV and audio company at the same time to prove how effective it was and get people talking more.”

Cutting edge

Another element was a lack of “excitement”, with Williams telling the audience about getting taken to radio stations as a graduate to get excited about the medium — something that agencies do not seem to do any more.

Moreover, since planners wanted to be seen to be doing something “really innovative and sexy”, Lee suggested, if they went into a pitch with radio or audio, it’s not seen as being at the “cutting edge of technology” or “data-driven”.

Digby countered that audio was in fact “a hotbed of innovation” and, from an audio perspective, there was a “wealth of data” available for campaigns, digital audio and even gauge effectiveness copy using real-time information.

Meanwhile, Williams saw podcasts as “the route for excitement” at the agency and easier to sell to clients, but stressed: “There is so much more that audio offers.”

Lee added that it was important to “take a bit of ownership” and “stop making it too easy for audio to be the last on the plan”. For example, by getting clients to watch live podcasts and interact with linear radio.

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.

Media Jobs