The Audio Megatrend

The world – including, finally, South African broadcasters – is turning to audio, opening a wealth of opportunities for innovative advertisers.

Audio is the fasted growing medium in the world, and the pandemic supercharged this audio evolution. Media choices and experiences continue to become increasingly personalised – think podcasts, vodcasts, smart-speaker enabled playlists.

The ‘radio ecosystem’ especially – digital audio, on demand – experienced something like a Covid-19 catapult, offering listeners a space where they could interact or listen to whoever they wish.

This has provided radio stations so many more ways to provide content, engage and leverage the personal connection with their listeners. It has also attracted a much younger audience to the FM space. Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio, for example, have a streaming audience that is at least 20% younger than their terrestrial audience.

Podcasting has been slow (in South Africa) on the uptake in comparison to other markets, but this is set for real growth as radio broadcasters get behind it in earnest. This is due to multiple reasons: they have the influencers/personalities; expertise in developing content for the platform; the megaphone to promote said content to mass or niche audiences, and access to first party data to know exactly which topics which subsets of their audience are interested in.

The audio space will also continue to evolve as it retains its core strengths: entertainment, news, reach, frequency, connection to audiences, music, favourite personalities and useful, interesting information.

Digital audio allows regional radio to reach national and global listeners; each listener has access to a more personalised listening experience, content discovery is seamless, social engagement is part of the journey, and an FM experience becomes highly targetable and trackable. Audio can now be visual with companion ads – is the next videos of the songs that you hear on air, with products integrated into the visuals?

Ad fulfilment in the digital audio space is already possible through Adswizz technology like ‘Shake Me’. With easier customer journeys comes the ability to surprise and delight more successfully, and to keep enhancing more meaningful connections in future.

As brand safety, community trust, relevance and brand impact grow in importance over big KPI data points like reach and impressions, an audio strategy is more important than ever for advertisers.

Big data and predictive analytics

Radio stations who invest in internal technology that supports big data, along with application programming interfaces (APIS), will save time and resources in cleaning data, as automation tools and machine learning will streamline this step. The scrutiny of big data through algorithms and predictive analytics will also fast-track the revelation of patterns, trends and associations in audience behaviour, with minimal human intervention.

Investing in technology such as automation and self-service systems is critical for delivering on-demand insights and solutions. A data management platform (DMP) – that collects, organises and activates audience data from various online, offline, and mobile sources – can be used to build detailed consumer profiles that drive targeted advertising and bespoke campaigns. Station access to the DMP enables a DIY approach in providing immediate insights about their audiences.

With deep knowledge comes deep responsibility to create and share relevant content in a relatable way, in real time, and on demand, as our audiences prefer to engage with it as part of their lives.

Workplace transformation

Future industry success depends on more than just technology: user interaction – for both clients and employees – are a key a part of the transformation journey.

Automated workflows, centralised reporting and ongoing skills development – including enhanced technical literacy – are the starting point for Mediamark’s digital transformation journey. The overarching approach to technology as a tool, rather than a goal in itself, has served Mediamark well. As market needs continue to evolve, and businesses are required to do more with less, digital transformation will remain a key driver for brands who want to remain relevant to clients and attract growth-driven talent.

Results, not numbers

In stressed economic times, advertisers tend to favour audience-driven open exchange purchases over targeted campaigns on specific platforms that prioritise brand association and contextual relevance. Big tech platforms like Google and Facebook thrive, while publishers struggle with reduced revenues as budgets are diluted across multiple platforms instead of focused on dedicated ones.

Smart advertisers will see the value of differentiation though, and publishers must distinguish themselves from the competition by communicating the unique value of their platforms and the audiences they reach, and provide effective solutions, exceptional service, and results that deliver on advertisers’ KPIs. Dealing with real people that are invested in delivering the required KPIs will trend this year – those that deliver will survive; those that don’t, will become obsolete.

Fast forward trends

Technology has enabled deep knowledge of audience interests and habits well beyond the cookie, enabling more meaningful connections between brands and audiences. A move to permission-based brand conversations via opt-ins enables trust and increases relevance.

Brand purpose and authenticity continue to gain prominence as audiences make more conscious choices.

By Charlie Wannell – Mediamark Head of Marketing