Here are some audio trends to listen for in 2020.
2019 was the digital audio ecosystem’s best year yet. It was a year of unprecedented growth in all aspects - users, content diversification, technological innovations, and brand interest in the medium. We saw widespread acceptance of digital audio as the next big “must-buy” in the marketer’s media mix; it is now too big an opportunity for brands to overlook.
Investing in this medium opens up various avenues for brands to showcase their personality, anchor themselves to a platform that draws millions of millennials, and tell their story more creatively than ever before in the format that works best for them - display, audio, video, or content association. Here are some of the key expectations from 2020 defined by the trends we witnessed in the past year.
1. Vernacular Is the Name of the Game
In 2018, some of the industry’s most powerful voices bet big on vernacular. They were proven right in 2019, with vernacular content topping popularity charts across media.
With the new year rolling in, we expect to see the trifecta of content creators, consumers and brands align themselves more to the vernacular space, which is only projected to grow in 2020. Consumers want more regional content, and creators feed this demand. Naturally, it provides a lucrative opportunity for brands to be a part of the space and engage with their audience.
2. Increased interest in moment-based listening
When it comes to mood-based consumption, audio has a clear advantage over other media. Listeners launch an audio streaming app to complement what they’re feeling in the moment - evening chill, festival celebrations, partying, and more. They choose digital audio during specific moments in their lives, and brands are betting big on the power of associating with these moments.
3. The incredible future of podcasts
When podcasts were first released in the Indian market, it marked the beginning of the next big wave in digital audio entertainment. Since then, there has been a significant rise in podcast adoption, with India poised as the third-largest podcast market in the world. It offers brands an opportunity to get truly creative with the format, going beyond the traditional ad placements and weaving the story within the podcast (or even creating custom ones).
Podcasts will always be a more niche content form when compared to music, drawing intense and intimate engagement. Thanks to a growing audience and diversifying listener habits, more brands are seeing a way to reach their desired target audience at scale now. In 2020, the global model of podcast monetisation will find its place in India. It won’t be just marquee shows with A-list talent that grab advertisers’ attention; brands will also see value in associating with content genres (and multiple podcasts that fall under that genre) for a more widespread reach.
4. The evolving meaning of sonic branding
In the not-so-distant past, sonic identity was seen as just another term for brand jingles. Today, however, voice-enabled technology has changed the way consumers interact with brands in the digital audio space. Agencies like BrandMusiq are helping advertisers develop their signature sounds across multiple consumer touchpoints with a “universal soundscape.” As a result, the idea of sonic branding has grown to include everything from the brand's anthem, to its unique sound on platforms like Alexa or Google Home, to its podcasting or playlisting strategy on digital audio streaming platforms.
Brands have begun to understand that strategic playlisting is not a one-off exercise, but a long-term strategy that creates continuous engagement and turns customers from curious users to brand ambassadors. While sonic branding is a concept as old as the radio, it has seen a creative re-emergence in this voice-first era. In a world where the user’s day is dominated by multiple sonic touchpoints, more and more brands will start building their audio identity.
5. Interactive audio ads: ushering a new era of customer engagement
At a time when users have become comfortable interacting with digital assistants on their phones and smart speakers, voice-enabled advertising takes consumer engagement to the next level. New voice ads will allow for more interaction, where users can ask for more product information or respond to the call-to-action. They will also give brands a more concrete idea of how many people have been listening to and taking action on their ads.
In 2019, global marketers like Unilever began to experiment with voice-enabled advertising. While India's digital audio market faces complexities related to language and accents, major stakeholders have been working towards overcoming some of these challenges. In 2020, we see the Indian digital audio market making huge strides in the direction of voice-enabled advertising, offering new creative outlets for marketers.
6 - Digital Audio and ROI
There is no denying the power of digital audio - both for consumers and for advertising partners. It holds advantages over video in that there is no competition for 'hearability' and the advertiser has the listener’s full attention. It is a medium that creates an emotional connect and also provokes the user to take the next step in the purchase cycle. For instance, a recent Adobe study showed that one in three listeners look up a product after listening to the audio ad. Global ad giants like Google are taking an interest in digital audio as a medium, a testament to the tremendous growth and opportunity it has to offer.
While there is enough evidence to prove that digital audio works, there are still challenges related to measuring ROI in this space. The industry as a whole - publishers, brand partners, adtech providers, and measurement agencies - has come together to answer this question better and in the coming year, we will take bigger steps in the direction of creating audio-focused attribution and measurement to prove the ROI of this medium.
Digital audio is today where video was six years ago. It is an environment that consumers love to return to, and brands simply can’t afford to ignore it. In the coming year, audio is all set to grow as a bigger opportunity for brands, with advertisers already looking to push the envelope.
Vinodh Bhat is the co-founder, president and chief strategy officer at JioSaavn.