2024 is set to be the year of audio, according to Ampel’s Josh Butt

Josh Butt, Chief Audio Officer, Ampel

“2024 is the year of audio.”

By Josh Butt, Chief Audio Officer, Ampel

With the 100th anniversary of radio, and all the changes in the local and international audio markets, 2024 is the year of audio. If you listened to the numbers, 2023 was another bumper year in audio-ences – a continued rise in podcast listeners and revenue; YouTube’s entry into podcasting; DAB+ nearly doubled revenue and audience; spatial sound speakers hit the market; and a spike in connected cars all meant on-demand audio became more accessible than ever. 

Moreover, the massive increased volume of ads produced in audio advertising; audio creative continuing to be under-valued; tech improvements (for example, VAST tags) giving audio advertisers huge opportunities to be heard using basic dynamic creative, means audio should be an integral factor in your brands’ overall marketing strategy. 

But we should start with Podcasts as that’s where the power lies.

There is no denying the rise and rise of YouTube podcasts has begun. The increased commitment by podcasters to create video for their podcast means they’ve also created a huge amount of content that can be used across social platforms to promote their show. But you don’t need video of people talking to make videos, and if you’re driving or listening on your phone, videos are ineffective. Sixty per cent of the audience thinks a podcast is video and audio. 

A video version of your podcast will end up on YouTube – but for those making over one episodes a week you may be able to broadcast your show on a FAST channel – increasing reach and brand engagement, as well as improving the media value of any partnerships or sponsorships you do. 

Including your comms, marketing and social teams in your podcast strategy just became more important than ever. 

Which brings me to “What is a Podcast”? I’d argue we don’t really have a definition anymore. It was the narrated style, like serials – but then it became a chat… Is it the video style chat show? Over the years we’ve created a few styles: 

Chat Cast: People having a chat (often easily filmed – here’s an example); 
Sonic Reels: Short form audio episodes (think Linkedin posts / instagram reels for your ears – like, this how to content)
Story Cast: Using story-telling techniques and higher production values (think NPR shows like Planet Money or 99% Invisible; true crime style with music and sound FX (Criminal Domain, or even a Sonic Sitcom series like Brian & Roger).

2023’s big podcast format was quizzes and the podcasting landscape continues to move towards TV style formats. Audioences habitually choose what they listen to depending on what they’re doing (in the car), little wonder DAB+ radio stations are double the size. Growth of Listnr, iheart, Apple Music and Spotify audiences, as well as indie podcast networks like Daily Aus, Mamamia, Fear and Greed, What the Flux are picking up steam. Finding the right format (or one that sounds different) is the challenge for new podcasts in 2024. 

Collaboration and partnerships among indie agencies and platforms become essential for variety and innovation in content. So much is available on demand. But on the radio? Same old. There’s not only nothing different there… there’s been nothing different for years. Kyle and Jackie O getting ten more years couldn’t be a better example of how things aren’t going to change. 

See also: Kyle & Jackie O say yes to 10 more years with ARN, Jase & Lauren axed as K&J invade Melbourne

And let’s look at what else won’t change much… ads. 

If you have a decent radio ad playing often enough it will work eventually because you can’t turn off your ears. But that’s hardly going to win you an effectiveness award!

Podcasting ads, however, are incredible for effectiveness, often rating three times more effective than video ads (which do better than most other forms of ads). And because podcasting ads often play in shows that are sponsored with no ads, the ads are read by the host, they sound more authentic. We’re hearing more and more ads placed into podcasting through programmatic, which allows a media buyer greater targeting capabilities. And this is good news for brands because they are heard more often and as a result their ads have greater recall. So, if you want to do a wide-reaching audio campaign – running an ad across radio and podcasting will reap the best results. 

But there are other issues to consider… what if SCA as we know it disappears? If that happens, we can all say bye-bye to free podcast and radio ads. With the impending changes in the Australian radio soundscape, many advertisers may get caught out when needing fast audio production because radio ads are often produced very cheaply by the radio stations as part of the media deals.  

All that free production might come back to bite when ad production costs unexpectedly rise. So, the creatives should actually be getting more creative so the advertiser doesn’t have to make as many ads. I’d argue it’s time to think about making fewer, more creative ads that utilise sonic branding and dynamic creative tech to personalise the message and increase effectiveness as a result.

In the United States, there’s a saying, change your ad creative with your wardrobe (i.e. every new season). I agree. It keeps a campaign fresh, but it does limit you to two ads per quarter. Each ad works harder, but if the creative is good, you’ll get the benefit of it staying on longer, delighting the audience with something worth hearing, that becomes familiar which is great for brand awareness. Recognising the value of holidays and experiences in consumers’ lives should play a part in guiding marketing strategies.

And when thinking of audio creative… think sonically. That is – people won’t see the ad, so you can’t rely on the visual or the audio of the visual ad. You need to make the ad fit the audio environment. A sonic logo is an audio logo that works in sound only (like EA Sports or Pushkin’s) as opposed to Intel or Netflix which has a great sound, but neither says the name of the company. And yes, McDonalds has the ba-da-dah-da-da, but that only works because they’ve used it for 20 years and are one of the world’s most prolific advertisers. They have a sonic style guide that sits across their audio and video advertising and everything is connected. Most companies have different music/VO/SFX in different environments so they sound different across different media.

Let’s hope 2024 sounds a lot different to 2023. 

See also: Mediaweek’s A to Z of 2023: P is for Podcasts

Top Image: Josh Butt

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