The Power of Audio

Your guide to moments-based marketing for a mobile-first world.

From music and podcasts to the everyday and overheard, sound surrounds us. Learn how to plug audio into your marketing mix with these consumer insights, expert takes and creative tips.

Chapter 1

The Moment: Audio is...

Champagne popping. A baby’s heartbeat. That time you heard Dark Side of the Moon and *blew* *your* *freaking* *mind.*

Our lives are shaped by what we hear—and each one of us has a unique soundtrack. Ever since streaming gave us instant, on-demand access to all the world’s music and podcasts, it’s become easier than ever to personalize that soundtrack.

What is it about audio that has the whole world pressing play? What does it mean for marketers? And where will trends like voice activation, connected devices and personalization take audio next?

To find out, we asked industry experts who think about audio all day long—from neurologists and artists, to marketers and content creators—and spent time with consumers from all walks of life. Over the coming weeks, we’ll share the insights we learned. Sign up to stay tuned.

Audio is everywhere.

In your pocket, on the move.

Have you seen Stranger Things? Checked out your Discover Weekly playlist? If you said yes, you’re far from alone. Nearly half the online population now streams entertainment content weekly, whether it’s TV shows, movies or music.1

At this point, few would dispute that streaming is mainstream. But there’s an interesting detail in the data: 60% of music streamers are listening on mobile, compared to 40% of TV and movie streamers.2 Why is the growth of mobile and audio so closely linked? Unlike eye time, ear time is limitless. Fully 79% of audio consumption takes place while people are engaged in activities where visual media cannot reach them.3

The result? Music streaming is more prevalent than TV or movie streaming in almost every moment of the day—whether it’s commuting, where music is 5 times more likely to be streamed than TV or movie content, working out (3.5 times more likely) or focusing (3 times more likely).4

“It can be a hectic place here in New York, so when I’m on the subway I can set the tone for myself with music,” says Greg, a 25-year-old brand strategist. “I can still see my surroundings, but music gives it a calmer setting than the normal hustle and bustle of the city.”

“Audio can go wherever you are going,” says Karen Pearson, CEO of audio production company Folded Wing. “It is part of your life. You don’t have to stop and watch it.”

What’s next for brands?

Streaming opens up an entirely new set of addressable moments for marketers. The music streaming ad revenue opportunity is worth $1.5 billion today, and it’s expected to reach at least $7 billion by 2030.5 Audio’s unique ability to flex to consumers’ need states makes it an especially powerful marketing tool. The mobile moments “at work” and “working out” alone have opened up $220M in ad revenue opportunity.6 Leverage audio to reach your audience when they’re most engaged, with messaging that matches their moment.

What we heard

"At the gym, I like to listen to hard rock, because it makes you pumped."

TIAGO, 33 - Brazil

English Teacher
Fitness Enthusiast
Self-Proclaimed “Geek”

Audio is intimate.

Let's get personal.

That feeling when you slip on a pair of headphones for a long flight? That’s the one. While visual media constantly competes for our attention, audio uniquely acts as a companion to everyday moments and enhances them.

Our deep connection to audio starts in the womb, where hearing is developed at six months in utero. Two key developments are deepening this already-intimate relationship. First, headphones have moved way past the trend phase to dominate the way we listen throughout the day—especially if you’re young. People in Generation Z (born between 1992 and 2000) are 54% more likely to stream on their headphones than the general population.7 Second, connected devices are eliminating the friction in our most personal listening environments, from the home to the car. By 2020, smart speakers are expected to reach 21 million households.8 By 2021, about 380 million cars on the road will be connected to the internet.9 Soon enough, on-demand, personalized audio will be available in every living room, and on every road trip.

As voice activation technology gets smarter, the way people interact with these connected devices and cue up content will feel increasingly like a conversation, with audio driving the exchange. “Accessing the internet with your voice…is just so simple,” says Joy Howard, CMO of Sonos. “And [it’s] so much less taxing than having to do it with your eyes and your fingers. I think voice will become the way that we access the internet in our homes increasingly.”

Nowhere is audio’s intimacy more evident than in podcasts, where a great host or storyteller can feel like an old friend. Lea Thau, host and producer of the podcast Strangers (Radiotopia and KCRW) and creator of The Moth Radio Hour and Podcast, says podcasts have already made audio more intimate than ever. “People actually listen…you are talking right inside someone’s head,” she explains, adding that it’s a different experience from radio, where people might tune in from the car just to listen to “whatever is on.”

What’s next for brands?

What’s good for consumers is good for marketers. The growth of headphones and connected devices will provide more opportunities to engage with music and spoken-word content, and in turn give marketers more ways to gain eartime. The possibilities to build intimate, 1:1 connections with consumers are endless, from native content to dynamic creative—all with 100% share of voice.

What we heard

"Music separates me from reality and I can focus."

YUMI, 39 - Japan

Punk Rock and Trance Lover
At-Home Cook

Audio is evocative.

Good or bad, happy or sad.

Last Valentine’s Day, one dedicated Spotify listener in Los Angeles listened to the “Forever Alone” playlist for four hours. Another played Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” 42 times. We’ll never know if they listened to feel better or worse. But we do know they listened to feel.

Studies show that people use music to regulate their moods and emotions more than for any other purpose. Thanks to streaming, it’s easier than ever to do this, whether you’re curating your own breakup anthems or listening to popular playlists like Mood Booster and Life Sucks (1.7 million and 486,000 followers, respectively).10

Because music stirs up such strong emotions, it also has the power to evoke vivid memories. When people flash back to their favorite memories just from hearing a simple chorus, it’s not magic—it’s science. “There is a really strong connection between music and experiences,” says cognitive neuroscientist Amy Belfi. “Music can take us back into a specific moment and cause us to feel all the emotions we were feeling then.”

#TBTs aside, this is quite different from the way we interact with social media, which acts as a filter for us to curate our best selves. Streaming audio, on the other hand, functions as a mirror. It’s the closest we get to a true reflection who we are, what we’re doing and how we’re feeling.

What’s next for brands?

Streaming audio will reveal profound insights about consumers. The ability to understand how people are feeling—not just what they’re doing—is a remarkable opportunity. Instead of relying on demographics and device IDs to approximate a target audience, marketers will soon have the possibility to achieve truly perceptive advertising—that is, connecting with consumers on a deeper level by understanding their state of mind.

What we heard

"As soon as I can hear that music, I can see my sister and Dad..."

ADELE, 31 - United Kingdom

Mother of Two
Design and Decor Aficionado
Meditation Enthusiast

Get - Chapter 1: The Moment

To download the study, please fill out the form below.

Sources for Chapter 1:

1, 2, 4, 6, 7 Spotify and GroupM, Streaming State of Mind (2016), surveyed population includes: US, DE, UK, FR, CA, AU, SE
3 IAB, A Digital Audio Buyer’s Guide (2015)
5 Goldman Sachs Group, Music in the Air (2016)
8 The Wall Street Journal, What’s Next for Tech and Media in 2017 (2016)
9 Business Insider, The Connected Car Report (2016)
10 Spotify playlist data


About The Power of Audio:

The Power of Audio explores the role of audio in consumers’ lives and its impact for brands and advertisers. Fourteen experts were interviewed and 46 consumers were tasked with creating audio diaries, (four were interviewed in depth in the US, UK, Brasil, & Japan) between September and November 2016. Custom panel-based research measuring the effectiveness of audio advertising was conducted in partnership with Nielsen Content Solutions, December 2016 through January 2017.

Chapter 2

The Impact: Messaging that works.

“Rolling out of bed, the first thing I do is unplug my phone from my charger, go straight to my speakers and plug in my aux cord. Music helps me pick up the pace, get a bit more lively and attack the day.”

That’s Greg, one of the many consumers we spoke to about how they listen to audio in Chapter 1 of our Power of Audio series. And he’s far from alone. Thanks to streaming and mobile devices, people are soundtracking their lives more than ever, with content that reflects who they are, what they’re doing and how they’re feeling in the moment—whether it’s workout time, bedtime or downtime.

When we explore the habits of millions of individual listeners and map them all out, what results is an incredible creative canvas. By leveraging data and insights about how people listen, you can now connect with audio messages that appeal to your audience’s state of mind.

How can you make audio work for you? In this chapter, we break down a few keys to tapping the creative opportunity.

Think story.

Keep your audience entertained with a memorable message.

What do the songs that linger, the podcasts we share and the jingles we remember forever have in common? They’re good stories. Whether the ingredients are melody or spoken word, they’re built to entertain, engage, and keep us listening from beginning to end.

The same is true for audio messages. “Don’t put on your advertising hat ever when you’re coming up with creative,” says Tony Mennuto, president of the audio agency Wordsworth & Booth. “Put on your show business hat. Think like a comedy show producer or a writer of a movie or a drama, because everybody wants to be engaged. Everybody wants to hear a story.”

Not surprisingly, some of the best examples of this can be found in podcasts. On Gimlet’s StartUp podcast, for instance, a recent ad for Virgin Atlantic (produced by Gimlet Creative) features the show’s host interviewing the airline’s global food and beverage manager, who tells a story about making a custom dish for a passenger and naming it after him: George’s Bagel. It’s a fun and engaging spot, and the Virgin Atlantic shout-out at the end ensures listeners will associate it with the brand.

Story-driven audio ads are proven to work. A comScore study found that ads within podcasts were the least intrusive when compared with all other types of digital ads. Many of those surveyed said they felt more “connected, intelligent and energized” after listening, and two-thirds said they acted on those ads, either by looking up the product or service or by making a purchase.1

The same principles can apply while consumers are listening to music. In an analysis of audio ads overall for Spotify, Nielsen found that listeners were more likely to enjoy audio ads than display ads across radio and streaming services. What’s more, audio ads are memorable and motivational—they drove 24% higher recall than display ads, and were twice as likely to lift purchase intent.2 Whether you’re connecting during a podcast or a playlist listening session, think about how your message can feel less like an interruption and more like a story, or how you might use sequential messaging to re-engage your audience over time.

For a more custom way to engage music listeners, annotated playlists can be a great vehicle for audio storytelling. When Fox wanted to promote its new TV show Star, the network used a branded playlist on Spotify to share the stories behind the show’s music, with commentary by the cast in between the songs. The Dutch brewery Grolsch took a similar approach with an eye towards its audience in Ontario, partnering with Canadian music journalist Alan Cross to narrate a guided history of indie music within a branded playlist. Cross’ narration drove high CTR, and audiences kept engaging with the playlist well after the end of paid media support.

Hear what works

"Everybody wants to be engaged, everybody wants to hear a story."

How Virgin Atlantic told their story on Gimlet's StartUp podcast.

Produced by Gimlet Creative

Think context.

Make sure your ads match the format and moment they’re in.

In Chapter 1, we explored how listening sessions are often intimate, evocative and guided by what people are doing and how they’re feeling. As any great storyteller knows, if you want your story to connect, you have to feel out the room. Bruce Springsteen’s stadium show is different from his setlist for a more exclusive gig; Chris Rock tells different jokes when he’s playing to an arena versus a comedy club. When it comes to digital audio, there’s a wealth of insight about how your audience listens to help you “feel out the room” more effectively than ever before, and even to personalize that story for the right listener at the right moment. In short, if content is king, context is god.

Case in point: Gatorade’s Amplify campaign, which focused on the workout moment to create a highly personal experience. Gatorade drove its audience to an interactive site built with Spotify’s API, where visitors could pick the length of their workout session and up to three genres to generate a personalized playlist timed to their workout or interval training. Gatorade also partnered with Steve Aoki and the Dim Mak All-Stars to create the “ultimate high-energy workout mix,” resulting in new original music created for the brand on Spotify.

In another instance, BACARDÍ® leveraged Spotify’s Branded Moments format to own the “Party” moment. The brand targeted party moments on Spotify and served relevant video creative to remind partiers that “he who controls the playlist, controls the universe”—and that, no surprise, BACARDÍ® goes well with parties.

In some cases, the context is the experience of listening itself. On the popular political podcast Pod Save America, when hosts Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor and Jon Lovett start talking about a new brand, it doesn’t sound like a traditional ad break—it sounds exactly like their usual conversations, just focused on a new app or clothing company they love. They’re tapping into the mindset of an audience that’s already tuned in to hear what they have to say.

Hear what works

"Audio is uniquely immersive, whether it's with headphones on the subway or in the park with a wireless speaker."

Greg Boyer, US Media & Entertainment Consulting Leader, PwC

Think music.

Leverage music effectively to win over your audience.

From Star Wars to Harry Potter, our biggest pop culture touchstones all feature an instantly recognizable piece of music. When you want to tell a memorable story, a great soundtrack is key. Similarly, music can be used in marketing to evoke emotion and even inspire action. Brands already know this well. In Ipsos’ global database of over 3,500 advertisements, about 89% use music in some way, whether it’s featured prominently or audible in the background.3 Ipsos also found that when used properly, music can make a real impact—ads with branded or popular music were more likely to positively impact purchase intent.

“Music stimulates us or calms us down,” says Rob Wood, CEO of Music Concierge. “That’s why we go to the gym and use stimulating music, or we go to a spa and we use relaxing music. It affects our bodies and our behavior. A lot of brands, by their very nature, are trying to influence your behavior [too].”

Using music effectively can be as simple as picking the perfect song for your message. In the biggest game of the year, many of the ads feature music front and center, whether it’s a big hit like Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” (Chrysler’s memorable 2011 spot) or an indie jam like Hundred Waters’ “Show Me Love” (Coca-Cola’s 2015 spot). This year, Lexus pumped up viewers to the sounds of Sia’s “Move Your Body,” as freestyle dancer Lil Buck showed off his moves around their newest model.

Using music effectively can also mean curating the perfect playlist that reflects the sound of your brand. Nike’s running playlists and BACARDÍ®’s party playlists are expertly curated representations of their respective brands. And for a non-branded source of inspiration, look no further than Barack Obama. The former President saw playlist curation as one way to build his brand, balancing classic song choices like Billie Holiday with more timely picks like Chance the Rapper.

Taking a more custom approach, Jack Daniel’s created a “Journey With Jack” Branded Playlist to celebrate its 150-year anniversary. The brand used annotated narration from the band Highly Suspect to take listeners on a journey through 150 years of music. With a cohesive message (and great music, from Frank Sinatra to Miguel) the campaign drove increased interest for the brand, outperforming benchmarks for other ads in their sector.

Hear what works

"Music and advertising have always gone hand in hand."

How Jack Daniel's used music to tell their story on Spotify.

Featuring the band Highly Suspect

Think sound.

Immerse listeners in your world.

From McDonald’s “ba-da-ba-ba-ba” melody to HBO’s signature fuzz at the start of a show, some brands use sound so well that it becomes as recognizable as their logo. While not every brand uses sonic branding in the literal sense, using sound to communicate your brand’s message is more important than ever, as audio makes its way into more moments of your audience’s day.

Research proves that telling your story through sound makes it easier to keep your audience hooked. One study found that using sound effects in an audio drama increases the level of mental imagery for listeners, and also makes them a more attentive audience.4 Another report from Radiocentre found that when audio ads are added to the marketing mix alongside videos, they can expand a brand’s network of mental associations—essentially, meaning more listeners associate that brand with more moments of their day.5

Consider the full sonic palette at your disposal—ambient noise, immersive effects, entertaining narration and catchy melody—to tell stories that people remember. On Spotify, wine company [yellow tail] used the pinging sound effect of a smartphone alarm to provide a “reminder” to listeners to enjoy their playlist. And thanks to boundary-pushing creativity, sonic ads are starting to pop up in unexpected places. Swedish pharmaceutical company Apotek Hjärtat developed a billboard that coughs on cue when it detects cigarette smoke on the streets of Stockholm.6

In fact, the future potential for experience-driven and immersive sonic advertising is huge. Tune in on February 28 for Chapter 3 of our series, where we explore how innovations like voice activation and augmented reality will having us living in surround sound. And start by exploring how you can use the power of audio to resonate with your audience, and give them a story they’ll remember.

Hear what works

"You have these visceral responses to different types of audio."

Amy Belfi, Cognitive Neuroscientist, NYU

Get - Chapter 2: The Impact

To download the study, please fill out the form below.

Sources for Chapter 2:

1 comScore and Wondery, Podcast Consumption on the Rise (2016)
2 Nielsen Media Lab study (2017), Information intent = top 1 box; purchase intent = top 2 box (5-point scale)
3 Ipsos, The Influence of Music in Advertising (2016)
4 The Atlantic, Inside the Podcast Brain: Why Do Audio Stories Captivate? (2015)
5 Radiocentre, Radio: The Brand Multiplier (2016)
6 PSFK, Anti-Smoking Billboard Reacts When Smokes Walk By (2017)


About the Power of Audio

The Power of Audio explores the role of audio in consumers’ lives and its impact for brands and advertisers. Fourteen experts were interviewed and 46 consumers were tasked with creating audio diaries, (four were interviewed in depth in the US, UK, Brasil, & Japan) between September and November 2016. Custom panel-based research measuring the effectiveness of audio advertising was conducted in partnership with Nielsen Content Solutions, December 2016 through January 2017. Nielsen’s study was conducted through an online panel with 4,000 respondents aged 15-54, entirely on mobile devices, using a pre/post exposure methodology. Each respondent was exposed to content in a mode dependent on which ad format they were allocated to. The survey covered 4 key topics: Content Engagement, Brand Perceptions, Brand Behaviors, and Ad Engagement.

Chapter 3

The Future

We experience every moment of every day through listening. Playlists, podcasts, stories and sounds fuel our emotions, shape our identities and keep us entertained. But what happens when those moments become fully seamless, or even screenless?

As voice interaction gets smarter, personalized content scales and immersive VR and AR experiences improve, listening will become the essential driving force behind our everyday interactions with technology. Here’s what to expect from the future of audio.

Smarter voice technology.

Sound will be the new screen—and your voice will be the remote control.

Alexa and Siri are household names, and they’re just the beginning. At CES in January, voice-enabled devices—TVs, set-top boxes, and even lamps and vacuums—were everywhere, and the Consumer Technology Association’s chief economist declared that voice interactions will replace the traditional computer interface. In some markets, voice-first devices like Amazon Echo (available in the US, UK and Germany) and Google Home (currently just in the US) are already making their way into more living rooms. Last year, 6.5 million of these devices were shipped, up significantly from 1.7 million the year prior. In 2017, those numbers will surge exponentially, as 24.5 million voice-first devices are expected to ship.1 Since people can speak up to four times faster they can type,2 it’s only natural that they’ll be quick to adopt voice technology as it improves.

While these home assistants let us cue up podcasts, weather updates and movie times, the biggest reason they appeal to people is music.3 Simply put, devices made to sync with headphones and speaker systems are great for DIY DJ’ing. With an easy command—“Play ‘Bad and Boujee’ by Migos,” or “Play the Mood Booster playlist”—we can curate our listening experience. As voice devices become more responsive to natural language patterns, listening will become even more frictionless and intimate. More conversational commands, like, “I need some music to cheer me up,” or, “What’s that song with Bon Iver and James Blake again?” will be enough to surface the right content.

Voice will direct the in-car experience, too. “We expect to see voice control of audio in the car as intuitive, responsive and accurate as it has become in the home,” says Jonathan Tarlton, auto lead at Spotify. Alexa will be integrated into Ford’s infotainment system later this year. By reducing the need to swipe and click, voice interactions will make driving safer and less distracting. Even little things will be more convenient. Once cars are synced across devices, it will be possible to start the engine or lock the doors from the couch.

“Our cultural understanding of listening and of sound will change,” says David Toop, professor and chair of audio culture and improvisation at the London College of Communication. “We’ll shift from being a visio-centric culture to one more focused on sound and hearing.”

What’s next for brands?

Since streaming helps brands understand people’s moods and moments, the voice assistants of the future will be able to intuitively interact with consumers in the right context. When serving up ads, they might be able to match the mood of the listener and adjust their tone accordingly. Even better, the listener might be able to talk back directly, making the experience of an audio ad more interactive. IBM has already started using this type of ad format with the Watson Ad program, giving listeners the chance to ask questions with their voice.

Hear what’s next

"In the future, you can talk to any device, tell it what you want to hear, and it’ll start playing."

Troy Carter, Global Head of Creator Services, Spotify

Deeper Personalization.

Context clues will be everywhere.

Streaming already gives us insight into who people are, what they’re doing and how they’re feeling in the moment. As audio innovation grows, that consumer understanding will enable deeper personalization than ever before.

The experts we spoke to talked about the potential of “dynamic audio,” or the ability to offer mood-based targeting and creative that can adapt to your real-time context. As devices become more connected, they’ll be able to serve up increasingly relevant content. On Spotify, for example, listeners are 100% logged in with a persistent ID across devices—and since they’re listening all day long, streaming provides deep intelligence about real-time context and emotional state.

“If I know that you’re listening to certain type of music, and I know you happen to be jogging at this time of the day, and I know your age and where you live, and then we have access to dynamic audio, I can change my message to you in a moment’s notice,” says Tony Mennuto, president of Wordsworth & Booth. Imagine an athletic beverage instantly reaching a jogger with a message that intuits how they’re feeling in that moment, perhaps even referencing the fact that they’re speeding up or slowing down.

New technology will also help brands re-engage with listeners after they’ve heard the initial message. You’ll be able to keep the conversation going with visual reminders or sequential messages that add on to your earlier story, rather than repeating it.

What’s Next for Brands?

This ability to adapt your message in real time will go hand-in-hand with the rise of programmatic audio. New programmatic offerings provide the ability to target listeners not just using demographic data, but also by incorporating playlist data and music taste. In the future, these categories will become more specific (think moods and interests), and the ability for truly intimate one-to-one messaging will rise. These programmatic offerings won’t just be limited to streaming services—podcast producers like NPR and Gimlet are already testing new technology for programmatic and dynamic audio opportunities to provide targeted messaging to listeners.4,5

Hear what’s next

"There’s a degree of customization in the creative that’s necessary to take advantage of the capabilities inside the programmatic ecosystem."

Tim Sims, VP of Inventory Partnerships, The Trade Desk

Stronger native opportunities.

Every niche topic will have a relevant audio experience.

With a deeper understanding of people who are tuned in throughout the day, brands will have more opportunities to align with the audio content that their audience is most passionate about. That could mean playlist curation, podcast sponsorship, or even producing original audio content themselves.

“Ten years ago, if you put a radio ad on top of a podcast, people wouldn’t want to listen,” says Karen Pearson, CEO of the UK-based, audio production company Folded Wing. “Now, people understand that to listen to the ‘Serial’ podcast they have to listen to what’s read at the top. Audiences are becoming more open to it…[and] advertisers and content producers are finding more imaginative ways of working in advertising.”

Sometimes, those imaginative ways include starting a podcast of their own. Companies like Slack, eBay and General Electric have all started their own podcasts to build their brand and get their message out to an audience that’s actively choosing to listen based on their niche interests. For Slack, that audience is people who are passionate about finding meaning in work, for GE, it’s people who love Sci-Fi, for eBay, it’s anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit. Some industry experts predict that branded podcasting will double in 2017, as more brands learn how to tell their story through audio.

What’s Next for Brands?

Along with the potential in the podcast space, music also provides endless opportunities to build a brand or communicate a message with original audio. To promote his Hilarity for Charity initiative, Seth Rogen launched a 40-track “Classic Soul” playlist of his favorite songs on Spotify, adding his thoughts and commentary throughout. To pump up a new generation of protesters and showcase the Hamilton Mixtape, Lin-Manuel Miranda put together a “Rise Up Eyes Up Wise Up” playlist of 17 fight songs. To keep their community engaged, Starbucks started an interactive “Top 10” playlist curated by listeners, who can impact the playlist by voting within the Starbucks app. These approaches help put brands in the heart of the storytelling, without intruding on good music or interrupting the flow.

Hear what’s next

"Should the format be confined to 15 and 30 seconds? Should it interrupt the listener experience as opposed to wrap around it?"

Jay Richman, VP of Product, Spotify

Richer Immersion.

Audio will mean more than just sound.

VR. AR. AI. 4K. 3D. Tomorrow’s technology means tomorrow’s audio will be more engaging than ever before. For marketers, that means your native opportunities will also be chances to build truly immersive experiences.

Earbuds will become more than just earbuds, as “hearables” are already in development. Bragi’s Dash earbuds, for instance, allow for physical movements to serve as commands—a head nod lets you pick up a phone call, and a shake lets you deny one. Also in the works: A smart earbud that can translate languages in real-time, and another that bills itself as the first AI personal trainer, intuitively guiding you through workouts.

As our headsets get smarter, immersive audio experiences like 3D audio will allow sounds and songs to literally surround us, and high-resolution audio formats will make those sounds clearer than ever. For artists, creators, and brands, this presents an entirely new canvas for storytelling. At a new theatrical show in New York called The Encounter, for instance, headphones equipped with 3D sound were left on every seat, and the storyteller on stage guided the audience through the Amazon jungle using binaural audio technology, which recreates sound the way human ears actually hear it in daily life.6 There’s already a concept in development called PodRift that aims at combining podcasts and the Oculus Rift to transport listeners “as avatars to virtual environments.” As technology improves, storytellers can use sounds to legitimately bring people inside their story. These tech developments will make the podcasts and albums of the future remarkably immersive and experiential.

It’s no surprise that the tech world has bet big on these virtual and augmented experiences: From 2015 to the beginning of 2016, investments in VR and AR companies grew a whopping 648%.7 The opportunity for audio to take these experiences to new places is limitless. Already, artists like Ray LaMontagne and Dawn Richard have crafted interactive VR videos that truly immerse the listener in the song. The band Massive Attack launched an app experience that augments your reality by creating new remixes based on your physical environment—movement visuals, time and location. Eventually, these experiences will let you stand front row at your favorite band’s concerts, and bring “visual albums” to a whole new level of immersion.

What does it mean for brands?

If earbuds are becoming more than just earbuds, and music is becoming more than just music, then ads can become more than just ads. Brands and marketers can utilize these new technologies to tell their story through an immersive combination of sight and sound. Retailers, for instance, could use AR technology to unlock exclusive audio content based on visits to their stores. Movies and TV shows could take listeners inside their world with soundtracks and sound effects serving as a uniquely modern trailer. The possibilities are endless.

Hear what’s next

"People want deeper immersion into the vision the creator has."

Joy Howard, CMO, Sonos

Get - Chapter 3: The Future

To download the study, please fill out the form below.

Sources for Chapter 3:

1,3 The 2017 Voice Report, VoiceLabs (2017)
2 “Amazon and Google fight crucial battle over voice recognition,” The Guardian (2016)
4“Podcasts Try Dynamic Ad Insertion,” AdExchanger (2016)
5 “Podcast Advertising Pokes Around In Programmatic,” AdExchanger (2016)
6 The Encounter review, The Guardian (2016)
7 Number of Deals and Amount Invested in VR/AR Companies Worldwide, eMarketer (2016)


About the Power of Audio
The Power of Audio explores the role of audio in consumers’ lives and its impact for brands and advertisers. Fourteen experts were interviewed and 46 consumers were tasked with creating audio diaries (four were interviewed in depth in the US, UK, Brasil, & Japan) between September and November 2016. Custom panel-based research measuring the effectiveness of audio advertising was conducted in partnership with Nielsen Content Solutions, December 2016 through January 2017. Nielsen’s study was conducted through an online panel with 4,000 respondents aged 15-54, entirely on mobile devices, using a pre/post exposure methodology. Each respondent was exposed to content in a mode dependent on which ad format they were allocated to. The survey covered 4 key topics: Content Engagement, Brand Perceptions, Brand Behaviors, and Ad Engagement.