For the most part, audio is seen as a driver of loyalty and, by proxy, a monetization tool. In an environment where content offers flexible ad formats and delivery across a variety of devices, listeners are a particularly sticky audience.
So, finding and reaching them in a different way means being able to tap into the dollars that are currently flowing through programmatic channels in audio. On top of that, there’s the option to sell into these audio experiences directly, which is where audio AI ads excel.
In a way, they are reinventing advertising due to their ability to not only drive interest but greatly simplify the advertising process. Here’s what audio AI ads bring to the table:
1. A new native experience
One of the biggest advantages of audio AI ads is the native element due to the seamless transition between the ad and content. Both the ad copy and content in question (news article, blog post, etc.) is created and narrated by the same AI voice, resulting in no discernible difference in the audio quality. As such, the ad is a legitimate part of the listening experience.
Here’s an example of an audio AI ad at a pre-roll spot.
Hearing an ad read in the same voice as the content leaves a mark on the listener, which is why the native podcast ads read by the host are such a big hit. A third of over-the-air listeners take action after hearing a host's recommendation either as an ad or part of their show.
Even though AI-voiced ads don’t deliver in the same way, fundamentally, the principle here is the same. More importantly, the feeling reproduced is quite similar. Audio is often touted as the most immersive media there is, as listeners routinely exhibit deep engagement and affinity toward the medium. Hence, this deep listening perception can do wonders for brand perception and influence the listener’s sentiment toward the advertised brand.
The bottom line is that listeners both understand and accept the value exchange of in-stream advertising when it supports the content.
2. Highly scalable and cost-efficient
Effective as they are, host-read ads are not easily scalable. With more devices and touchpoints for listening available, there is a big opportunity to be where the listeners are all the time. This is where the inherent scalable nature of the underlying AI tech comes into play.
To really occupy the media world, ads need to be easily and readily implemented, which is what audio AI tech delivers. It’s a more affordable way of producing ads as there are no additional costs to production. Every copy can easily be turned into audio, then natively integrated into content. You don’t have to worry or rely on the usual cost equation of the copy’s length, the narrator’s speech rate, and every other element that factors into the recording experience.
It’s faster too, as the technology eliminates the need for cumbersome post-production. Generally speaking, audio content is far easier and more efficient to change as it doesn’t take much to modify a brand’s messaging so it’s not tone-deaf and in line with the current climate. Compared to video, it simply can’t offer the same fast turnaround to a creative - nor can most other digital media formats, for that matter.
With AI in the mix, there is an option to quickly and cheaply change an entire sentence or just a few words within AI-generated content, either by deleting or rewriting certain parts. At any moment, the ad can be tweaked to fully relate to the listenership whenever and wherever.
This is not taking into account the possibility to fine-tune almost every aspect of the listening experience, from the smallest details like the pronunciation of specific words or phrases to different voices for different paragraphs, different speech patterns for each voice, multi-language support, and a bunch of other stuff.
All of this effectively solves the limited scale of traditionally recorded ads, both in terms of volume and creative flexibility.
3. Easy integration for a brand of any size
The ability to effortlessly optimize for a variety of scenarios is an understated aspect of audio advertising, one that rises to prominence with audio AI solutions. Digital audio represents a one-size-fits-all advertising opportunity where brands of all shapes and sizes don’t have to worry about how their messaging will translate to different devices and platforms, native or not.
In an ever-evolving space that is digital audio, leveraging the same AI voice for ads and content provides an incredible integration for brands to be presented in a non-invasive and highly receptive manner. The tech is affordable, accessible, and allows plenty of customization to tailor messaging and deliver it in a way audiences will embrace and enjoy.
In other words, the potential to reach new audiences and increase ROI is there - it’s up to brands to fulfill it.
Bonus: ad blocking is even harder
To be honest, the audio world never really had to bother with issues plaguing display advertising. Audio content is mostly linear and as far from overwhelming as you can imagine, which makes it less skippable.
There are AI-powered tools that use machine learning, voice recognition, and acoustic fingerprinting to identify advertising formats. The underlying principle is the same as with Shazaam, SoundHound, and other music recognition apps, only it's for spotting ads. Mainly, the focus is on specific characteristics of audio like changes in acoustic compression, certain kinds of content such as speech playing over jingles and sounds, and anything similar that is created to catch the listener’s attention.
However, due to the native audio AI element in the ad, an AI-powered tool can hardly discern what is an advertisement and what is the actual content. As a result, it's difficult to develop an ad-blocking tool that will be as effective as its display-oriented version.
Also, listeners don’t mind hearing an ad in general, especially if it’s contextually relevant. Hence, you could argue that there’s no real need for the implementation of an audio-based ad-blocking tool because it’s not nearly at the same level of a user-perceived nuisance compared to its visual counterpart.
Why this should be a big deal
As an ad-supported medium, audio is currently under-monetized. There is a huge gap between time spent with audio and its ad spend. In the US, audio captures 31% of U.S. media consumption but just 9% of ad spend. In Europe and EMEA, the situation is even worse as audio captures just 4% of spend allocation.
So, this underutilization is a global thing, especially puzzling since more marketers are becoming aware of opportunities in digital audio. Mind you, these are opportunities strictly driven by consumer behavior, such as that 53% of smart speaker owners say they would respond to a smart speaker ad, while 48% said they respond better to these ads compared to hearing an ad in another place and would likely consider the brand in question. Furthermore, smart speaker ads trigger a 25% increase in overall brain activity when compared to branding in standard audio ads, thus helping build stronger and more meaningful associations.
Smart speaker advertising is just one example of a portable, personalized stream of information designed for an audience who is already there - listening. Audio AI ads can be directly integrated with other audio AI content and automatically promoted through various digital distribution points such as streaming platforms and voice assistants - basically a shouting distance away.
Add to all of this the fact that, at least in the United States, there is a very positive sentiment toward advertising. A recent survey showed that most Americans support advertising-based funding to ensure news is free and accessible to everyone. Three in 10 say it is “always” reasonable for news organizations to make money through advertising on their channels, print editions, and websites, with an additional 62% saying it “depends” for whatever reason.
I fully expect to see audio advertising in the mix, regardless of the audio content’s format and packaging with other digital products - independently, as a product extension, or some sort of bundle featuring short-form articles, podcasts, and audiobooks.
The next frontier in audio advertising
Hence, audio ads are becoming a more important part of the media strategy as they allow the evolution of marketing and advertising strategies in a natural way. They offer a unique ability to reach a highly targetable and mobile audience in a brand-safe environment and fill otherwise untouchable voids in the user’s buying journey - places where screens are simply not an option.
Audio AI ads simply take that up a notch. Thanks to advancements in voice technology, it doesn’t take much to create smooth, natural-sounding speech with proper rhythm and intonation, and further customize it. The advances in neural networks mean speech synthesis can also generate different speaking styles for different use cases, just like we humans do based on context.
When you throw in constantly evolving adtech in the mix, all these variations allow advertisers to personalize the audio creative for each listener and deliver the right message to the right listener at the right time - without breaking the bank.
If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to experiment and figure out what works, then double down on it. I see no other way to understand the channel’s full potential.