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  • Writer's pictureRon Jaworski

Advertising in the audio era: audio ad formats you should leverage

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

Being connected 24/7 (or at least, the better part of the day) has made it possible for brands and businesses to collect valuable bits and pieces of data at almost every consumer touchpoint and use it to reach out to audiences whenever and wherever they are.

While some haven’t yet leveraged the breadth of possibilities opened by constant connectivity, the fact remains:

audio advertising expands the concept by effectively circumventing the screen exhaustion and visual saturation.

In the past couple of years, digital audio advertising grew in importance thanks to its ability to target users with various audio ad formats that fit various contexts and situations – particularly in situations when looking at a screen is not an option. Arguably, there is a format for every use case which allows for a more personalized connection and greater impact.

Choosing the right ad experience

However, there are certain distinctions between different audio ads and the way they contextually fit in the audio stream, which is why we have formats such as:

Recorded audio ads

These are the most common ad formats in the digital audio world. As the title says, recorded audio ads contain a pre-recorded, commercially-oriented creative that is usually spoken in a conversational tone in order to create a smooth transition from the audio content to advertising. As such, they improve the chances of actually reaching the target audience.

As a general rule of thumb applicable to most audio ad formats, audio creatives for these ads come in a variety of durations but are usually heard in the 15- or 30-second versions as those comprise the bulk of the ad inventory.

Here’s a demo of how these ads blend into audio content (audio articles, in this instance), complete with multiple ad placements (before, during, or after the content).

Companion display ads

In addition to the audio spot, brands can also leverage clickable companion static banners that feature a brand’s logo and/or a CTA, for instance, displayed while the audio ad is playing. These make it possible to extend an advertising campaign and drive traffic to a specific URL.

While these are not audio ads by content, companion display ads technically belong to the audio category as they are paired with the audio ad track and displayed in the audio unit only while the ad content is playing. In most cases, no user action is necessary and the banner stays displayed after the audio ad ends so there’s more time for the listener to interact.

For example, Spotify’s companion banners are shown every half hour to users with a free account, staying on the screen after audio streaming ends to allow the listener to interact with the ad later. No action is necessary and the listening experience is not interrupted as the playback is resumed just like before the ad.

Native ads

Native audio ads are permanently integrated into the content with (typically) no set length. In a way, they are a legitimate part of the audio stream as their most frequent form is a sponsorship ad, read by the host/narrator of the content (which is almost always a podcast) and sometimes followed by a recorded/static ad or a sound bite. As there is a familiar voice behind them, listeners tend to be more accustomed to these ads as they trust the host, creating positive engagement.

Because they’re most often found in podcasts, you’ll frequently encounter the term ‘podcast ads’ but native audio advertising is developing beyond mere sponsorships. Companies like Gimlet are approaching podcast ads with the aim to make ad creatives matter to the audience, opting for intricate storytelling that feels natural and wrapped around a particular subject/surrounding content.

The episode below is as good an example as any of a sponsorship ad (and a shameless self-promotion!) you’ll hear (around the 1:44 mark):

Audio ad pods

This is a set of recorded ads in a sequence, a one-by-one set of two or more ads within the same content. You can think of them as one of those commercial breaks on radio or TV when multiple ad spots are played – the principle is the same.

Rewarded audio

Just like its video counterpart, rewarded audio ads are specific to mobile gaming whereas there is an incentive in exchange for listening to ad content. Usually a 5 to 15 seconds long in-game audio ad track offers in-game bonus (coins, extra lives, any form of closed content, and so on) to the user upon completion.

Voice-activated ads

Adding an interactive element, voice-activated ads aim to engage listeners in conversational commerce by allowing them to respond with a voice command to the ad’s call to action. In the beginning, a CTA would usually prompt listeners to visit a website while now they can also ask for additional information about an advertised product service, place a direct order or skip past the ad.

Opening the fourth-screen advertising in the form of voice-activated ads helps establish a more intimate connection between the advertiser and the listener. Particularly poised to reach the Gen Z and Millennials, we’ll be seeing more growth and adoption in this area as vendors try to provide listeners with more control.

Here’s how it works:

Innovations in the audio advertising space

Ad tech companies are constantly innovating in search of seamless user experience. Thanks to programmatic audio and its capacity to not only streamline buying and selling of digital audio advertising but also to produce granular targeting based on diverse data points, new formats are being created in search of advertising experiences that are targeted, engaging, and ultimately – effective.

For instance, Pandora has a Short-Form Audio format that comprises ads anywhere from 4 to 10 seconds long. These are envisioned to help advertisers come up with nonintrusive and engaging spots. AdsWizz has developed a patent-pending ShakeMe format where listeners are invited to shake or tap their phones in order to trigger an action while listening to an audio ad, whether it’s to download an app, go to a website, call someone, download a coupon, and invite a voice command.

We at Trinity Audio are working on a new product called Player X, whose main appeal is the ability to insert an ad into the player itself, allowing for a more immediate native integration in a premium placement. The ability to fully customize the player provides a more appealing sales proposition than the traditional companion banner.

Intelligent ad technology has widened the scope of targeting. Besides the standard data regarding demographics, user behavior, geolocation, and interests, you can now target audiences based on their location or weather conditions, for instance, or time-of-day or devices with the same IP address. All these custom variations serve to personalize the audio creative for each listener and deliver the right message to the right listener at the right time.

In terms of targeting, advertisers can also better track the response to their audio campaigns, making them equal (if not superior due to their screen independence) to other digital formats. In addition, some vendors allow you to add specific on-demand metrics to track audio ad ROI and the progress of those campaigns to the slightest detail.


The lack of dependence on a screen to get a message across is probably the greatest advantage of audio advertising. It allows everyone interested to extend their marketing and advertising strategies in the most natural and familiar way and fill the gap they have in the customer journey.

With constant improvement and innovations, this is an opportune time for brands, as well as publishers and content creators (due to the ability to attract more advertising dollars from brands looking to reach the listening population) to delve into the audio era and leverage the tech to engage (but also monetize) users from a new angle. The increasing level of customization makes it possible to tailor messaging and deliver it in a way audiences will embrace and enjoy.

One thing is for certain: with screen fatigue and visual oversaturation, the possibility to connect with an audience in an authentic, immersive, and contextually relevant way becomes all the more precious.

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