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Author: Alan Schanzer, SVP of Agency Partnerships, Pandora

How to Achieve True Brand Safety? Quality Audio Experiences

Posted April 19, 2017

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election and amid growing political and social unrest around the world, the global media landscape has become incrementally toxic. By his own admission, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg concedes that social media has become a magnet for misinformation and polarization.

Today, ad buyers everywhere are concerned that their messaging might be obfuscated or tainted by radioactive surroundings. Case in point? Google’s ad placements on “objectionable content” have led to an exodus of advertising dollars by the likes of AT&T and Verizon. As both a publisher and brand advertiser, Pandora understands the challenges of quality content and applauds the recent efforts to tackle the problem.

Of course, we’ve seen this story play out many times before: ads appear adjacent to problematic content, advertisers scramble to disassociate, and the industry is left to consider how to marry scale and quality. It’s a bit like the plot of Groundhog Day. Today, more advertisers are seeking to skirt inadvertent brand blowback in the turbulent waters of both real and fake media by redirecting some of their digital advertising dollars toward safer shores.

eMarketer projects that investment in digital audio advertising has doubled in just the last two years. The reasons for this trend are many, but chief among them is broadening awareness that audio can be both a safe and effective channel for risk-averse advertisers seeking social engagement.

So, what exactly makes audio a less anxiety-inducing experience for ad buyers? Above all else, digital audio provides quality, brand-safe opportunities for advertisers. In the always on-the-go, tuned into music and podcasts world we live in, advertisers have the power to break through and resonate in the brain with audio in ways visual marketing cannot. Take music streaming services for example. Listeners are curating their own personalized digital content experiences. Advertisers can deliver targeted audio messages natively woven into that music listening experience, never competing with the music content. For advertisers, they hold complete auditory attention with 100 percent share of voice in the moment, so no risk running adjacent to controversial content, clutter and clickbait.

But while this environment is highly controlled, it is by no means closed off. The power of modern technology combined with the power of audio, offers advertisers an extremely effective means to engage and connect with consumers. Today, with more than 150 million active streaming music listeners in the United States alone, audio ad spend is increasing at a fast clip. And the rate of this impressive growth could accelerate even further as new information about the impact of audio messaging and branding comes to light.

Freshly published neuroscience research illustrates that the quality of the environment in which advertising is consumed has a direct link to the ability for that advertising to have a break-through, positive effect.

In addition to finding key performance advantages of streaming audio ads versus terrestrial radio ads, the study confirms the power of personalized, emotive content to increase advertising effectiveness. It’s these moments that make consumers more receptive to brand messages. It’s bigger than just personalizing the script or creative, it’s the quality of the surrounding content that makes a difference and served in an environment that is personally relevant and taps into their emotions in the moment.

While Twitter, Facebook and others develop more controls to govern the types of content that can be shared in proximity to an ad, there’s no substitute for entrusting your brand to a high-quality, personal and emotive environment. The ‘theater of the mind’ is a powerful auditory experience where by layering in messages in a personalized environment, listeners have deeper engagement with the messages they hear. It’s also about understanding where you’re reaching a consumer or what the consumer is doing in that exact moment when you’re reaching them.

In the end, what it all boils down to is that there is no substitute for a quality advertising environment. And today, audio is rising above the fray to prove just as rewarding–but less risky–for advertisers than other digital media platforms.

Without question, social and user-generated media remains a vitally important component of any comprehensive advertising and branding strategy. But any suggestion that advertisers have only those channels to reliably and affordably reach vast, diverse, or niche audiences today more closely resembles fake news than functional advice.