Ubaid Zargar

Is audio advertising audible?

Here’s why advertisers are yet to fully tap into the audio OTT market of 100 million monthly users. 

When you think of digital advertising, what comes to mind is either a sponsored post on your social media feed, an ad preceding a YouTube video, or maybe even a brand integration with your favourite influencer. But a vertical that is overlooked, according to industry reports, is audio advertising. 

Audio OTT market in India stands at an estimated size of $695 million. As per FICCI-EY report from last year, the sector is projected to cross $2.5 billion by 2030.

Is audio advertising audible?

GroupM’s recent report reveals that there are more than 150 million monthly active voice technology users in India. This includes over 100 million audio streamers, 40 million-plus podcast listeners and more than 10 million connected devices users. 

These numbers are an indication of a growing and conscious cohort of audio OTT consumers. As per the report, the online audio users in the country are more affluent than those who don’t stream audio, with connected audio users being the most premium of the group. 

So, the market is quite ripe for the taking, but where are the marketers?

According to the report, about 90% of digital marketers are aware of audio advertising, but only 40% have actually used it.

Manish Nagar, agency relationship head of audio series platform Pocket FM, points out that the reluctance of advertisers to invest in audio, may be stemming from the inability of the industry to move away from the traditional approach of creating jingles. 

Manish Nagar
Manish Nagar

He says, “In India, the advertisers have a variety of audio platforms to choose from, including music, audio series, etc. However, when it comes to audio or voice ads, the traditional approach of creating a jingle or spot is no longer effective.” 

“It's worth noting that audio isn't just limited to music, as audio series have also gained a sizable user base, with high listener engagement. While certain categories, such as FMCG, tend to rely heavily on video advertising, an increase in audio adoption within these categories may encourage more advertisers to shift their focus on audio.” 

The current digital landscape is dominated by visuals and texts, with more and more brands entering the scene with their own visual content. Away from visual or video advertising, Nagar highlights some of the innovative ways brands can approach the audio audience.

“Audio is personal, and listeners choose content tailored to their preferences, unlike TV. This makes ads in audio formats more attention-grabbing.”

“For instance, Pocket FM has developed innovative ways to help the brands stand out, including narrator mentions and product placements within story narratives. By incorporating a brand message into a narrator's voice, it sounds more seamless and convincing to listeners.” 

“Additionally, Pocket FM creates 3D audio creatives that take users on an immersive experience of the brand's offering. These innovative approaches have proven to be highly effective for advertising on audio platforms.”

According to Priyam Dadia, head of media, Schbang, compounding visual content with audio ads, could yield better results for brands over the long run. 

Priyam Dadia
Priyam Dadia

“The interesting part is, you can also do visual content along with voice ads that have proven to be more effective.”

“On an average, we see a 30-40% audience overlap among the most used music apps in the country. If targeted well, brands can reach out to the same audiences on multiple platforms that, in turn, increases brand recall and consideration over a period of time. Now, we also have tools to negate overlapping across apps by only targeting unique IDs.”

Commenting on the slow pace of audio adoption amongst advertisers, Dadia opines that it’s only a matter of time before the marketers flood the gates. 

“We saw a huge shift from regular self-serve platforms, then moving to OTT, because ‘video’ was big. It was the need of the hour to market your products and slowly we’re seeing a shift in that as well.” 

“It's a matter of time that a new format is adopted and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. Studies suggest that audio ads prove to be 25% more effective than videos, because it's easier for the brain to process. While you may not remember the logo/brand colours, it's very difficult to forget an iconic tune.”

While video-led digital campaigns have taken off for brands, the integration of audio verticals into the efforts could have its perks too. Ahmed Aftab Naqvi, global CEO & co-founder, GoZoop Group, points out that audio can help brands reach out to their audiences in a more passive and harmless way. 

Ahmed Aftab Naqvi
Ahmed Aftab Naqvi

“As users attempt to curtail their screen time, audio offers a more passive and harmless way to consume the same content. We have observed that digital audio often performs efficiently with the millennial and Gen Z users, as they will quickly spread the word about a product or service online, unlike older generations. This has allowed brands from the lifestyle, entertainment and consumer-tech space to leverage the potential of this medium.”

Speaking on the advantages of audio ads, Naqvi adds, “One benefit of audio ads, is their ability to be targeted and scaled in a granular fashion. This helps in avoiding wasting money on listeners who aren’t relevant to your product. Second, compared to audio-video formats, the production efforts for audio ads are lower, making them a much more cost-efficient option to include in your media mix.”

Sreeraman Thiagarajan, co-founder and CEO of voice technology company, Agrahyah Technologies, reckons that marketers are still in the experimenting phase of audio advertising. He says, “Brands are willing to try audio ads out, but the participation is still in its early stages.”

Sreeraman Thiagarajan
Sreeraman Thiagarajan

While brands may want to up their audio ads, Thiagarajan expounds on the emerging infrastructure that enables optimised voice solutions for marketers. “With Alexa or Google assistant, there is an entire developer ecosystem that allows any third party to build voice solutions. This wasn’t previously possible.”

Voice-activated products such as smart speakers or virtual assistants have changed the way consumers interact with technologies. This, according to Thiagarajan, has unlocked another dimension of voice-led advertising for brands. “With how things are evolving, people have brought these devices into their homes. This has unlocked a huge marketplace for brands and advertisers. Brands can now put up an entire portal of their information on these platforms, which is obviously built by voice agency.”

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