Audio advertising is perhaps one of the oldest forms of marketing, from street corner announcements to radio jingles. In this digital world, audio ads are, not surprisingly, poised at another change with voice-controlled ads, fast gaining ground as the next big thing in OTT advertising.
The concept itself has been kicking around for more than half a decade now with companies like Jet Blue and Toys R Us in the US first testing the format. In India, audio music streaming platforms are now attempting to break through, creating more acceptance for what is still a novel concept.
The digital audio market in India is poised at an inflection point with 15 audio music streaming platforms, 150 million subscribers, and estimated revenue of Rs. 270 crores. With the average Indian consumer spending 21.5 hours in a week listening to music, as against the global average of 17.8 hours/week, audio OTT offers a substantial market to content providers. It has already provided a substantial fillip to the music industry. As it gains a stronger foothold, it is time to further monetize it with voice-controlled ads.
How it Works
Voice-controlled ads fall under the umbrella of programmatic advertising, which has long been the mainstay of online advertising. It uses technology to sell, buy, and insert ads in audio OTT platforms. The platform could be streaming any audio content, including podcasts, audiobooks, or music. This is an advertising medium where the technology has finally caught up with the concept. Like online programmatic advertising, booking a slot is automated. As the concept finds more takers, the bidding for advertising slots will follow a pre-set algorithm.
Voice-controlled ads use AI technology to bring in the missing element of interaction in traditional audio ads and provide better results to digital marketers. With these ads, users can not only listen to the ad but can also interact with the ad by the use of voice commands.
These ads are delivered to users during the ad break between songs or podcast episodes. At the end of the ad, the user is asked to respond to the ad with their voice command. We use AI to understand the intent of the users from their voice command and take the necessary action. Advertisers have the choice of either engaging users further, playing follow-up audio, or triggering a call of action, such as visiting the advertiser site or placing a direct order.
Advertisers can run 2 types of voice ads - 1. Single Dialogue ads 2. Conversational voice ads. These ads can run as a pre-roll, post-roll, or mid-roll. With conversational voice ads, one can have multiple backs and forth conversations with users and use those inputs to show the appropriate page to the user.
Why it Works
Like all programmatic advertising, it could be seen as a natural progression. Video OTT gained ground when traditional TV ads showed signs of a slump. In the case of audio OTT, it could be the much-needed monetization that audio OTTs have been looking for in terms of advertising revenues. Monetizing audio content through advertising allows the platform an alternative to paid subscriptions. It could be a win-win proposition as advertisers can access the 270 million-plus audience of audio OTT platforms. It also offers a highly targeted advertising reach where viewer interests and demographics can often be assessed through their listening preferences. Audio OTT has other advantages. It is interactive and unlike online ads, these cannot be ‘clicked off’. While the listener has an option to follow through, the initial messaging still counts when it comes to airtime for a brand.
With traditional audio ads, advertisers have been struggling to quantify the “ROI” of these ads since they can’t be clicked. Voice ads solve this problem without disturbing user experience and ensuring that advertisers get what they want. In the past few months, we ran voice ads for multiple brands including Swiggy, Domino's Pizza, etc got great interaction rates.
Since these ads provide a measurable metric of “engagement” with the ad, advertisers are charged on the basis of Cost per engagement rather than cost per spot. This ensures that advertisers pay only when the user engages with the ad.
These may still be nascent days in audio OTT advertising, but the excitement around its latest development indicates a promising future. Part of this is the ever-evolving nature of advertising. A recent study by Adobe revealed that 38% of listeners found audio ads less intrusive than traditional ads, including print, TV, online, and social media. In addition, 39% found them to be more engaging. In other words, audio OTT ads are seen as both less intrusive and more engaging.
With the technology finally catching up, we have an opportunity to make audio OTT advertising more personalized and effective. As smartphones and voice AIs like Google Home and Alexa get more penetration, this is perhaps the inflection point in the industry. For audio OTTs, voice-controlled ads may prove to be that technology that finally provides a breakthrough with more effective reach and measurable metrics.