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how to create an audio ad

How to Create a Programmatic Audio Ad

Audio content is in a moment of exciting growth. In 2021, 72% of Americans (218.4M) were listening to digital audio monthly, and that number is expected to grow. As the adoption of audio content increases, the opportunity for running audio ads is growing, too. And that’s where programmatic audio comes in. 

Programmatic audio allows you to run audio ad campaigns through your demand-side platform (DSP). With audio, you can reach audiences while they listen to music, podcasts, streamed radio, or other forms of audio content. This ad format has many growing benefits. For example, audio ads have impressive engagement rates. According to Nielsen Media Lab, they have a 24% higher recall rate than traditional display ads. Pretty impressive!

To get started running programmatic audio campaigns, you’ll need to understand how audio ads differ from other channels, such as native, display, video and connected TV (CTV). The main difference? You guessed it—the medium. With audio, your ads reach your audience through sound rather than through visual cues. Your audio ads will quite literally speak to your audience.

We wanted to learn about the process of creating an audio ad and implementing a programmatic audio campaign, so we caught up with Alesia Commisso, Digital Marketing Manager at StackAdapt. Read on to learn the basics of creating your first audio campaign!

What should you consider before you create your first audio ad campaign?

Before diving into your first audio campaign, it’s important to understand where this channel fits within your entire digital campaign strategy, and the best way to incorporate it into the customer journey. My campaigns usually consist of display banners, native, and video. Now I’m incorporating audio, which opens a greater opportunity to capture my audience in different mindsets throughout their day. 

You’ll also want to think about how you will deliver your campaign. I find that DSPs are great for programmatic campaigns because they offer multi-channel solutions and precise targeting, which makes it easy to align with other campaigns as well. This makes the programmatic platform I’m using a one-stop shop!

Can you share with us your process for planning an audio campaign? 

When beginning to brainstorm for any campaign, I start by clearly outlining what I want to say to customers and then, how I want to say it. Once I’ve established these two points, I build a demographic profile and think about where this audience may be consuming content. With most programmatic platforms, targeting capabilities are endless. Aside from the basics like geotargeting and demographic targeting, I try to narrow in on custom segments, 3rd-party segments, lookalike audiences and sophisticated retargeting and exclusion tactics.

Once I’ve nailed down the targeting, general messaging and call-to-action (CTA), it’s time to lay out the language I’ll be using to speak to my target demo across each channel. To do this, I make a creative messaging copy document. In it, I draft the copy I’ll use for each channel. Simply repurposing assets across different channels and placements just doesn’t cut it anymore. The messaging should be tweaked to speak to the audience you’ll find on each individual channel. 

Audio ads are unique because they don’t rely on visual cues or graphics to convey a message. My strategy is to tie in elements of the copy from my more visual ads, like display banners. By doing this I can ensure that my campaign goals and branding are uncompromised across the campaigns I run.  

Are there different types of audio ads?

There are various types of audio ads, but they share one thing in common: They are characterized by a voiceover which delivers your message to your target audience. Linear audio ads are commercial ads that are placed pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll. 

There are 2 types of units: pre-produced and native. Pre-produced are exactly that, they are produced in advance by the advertiser and then distributed. When turning on a Spotify playlist, you might hear a pre-produced commercial audio ad before the music begins playing. Or, you might hear an audio ad while listening to internet radio. Native audio ads are typically found in podcasts, and they are scripted ads that are read by the show’s hosts. 

What are the steps to make an audio ad?

An audio ad is made up of a few components. All of them revolve around the most important aspect of your audio ad: its message. From the script itself to the voice actor used for the voiceover and background sound, every detail of an audio ad contributes to communicating a message to the listener. These are the main steps I follow to create an ad.

  1. Write the Audio Ad Script

The script should be simple, with a clear message that includes a value proposition and one defined call to action (CTA). Audio ads are usually either 15 or 30 seconds long. For a 15 second ad, aim for a script length of 40 words. For 30 second ads, aim for 55-75 words. 

I also always keep in mind that the brand name should be repeated 2-3 times throughout the ad. When writing an ad script, remember that the best audio ads tell a story that keeps the listener engaged and makes the ad memorable.

  1. Cast for the Voice Over

Once a script is finalized, it’s time to find a voice actor. I always aim to find a voice that is on brand and relatable (or appealing) to my target audience. For audio ads, a friendly, conversational tone is key. You’re not looking for the theatrical types of voices often heard in radio ads—that’s because with programmatic audio advertising you’re reaching people when they’re already actively listening. 

  1. Record and Mix

Once I have the script and a voice actor, it’s time to record. The script delivery should be slow-paced, with a consistent tone and tempo. Don’t rush it—but make sure you stay within the ad length of 15 or 30 seconds. When the final edit is being mixed, consider the transitions in and out of the ad because they shouldn’t feel jarring to the listener. 

I use minimal background music, so it doesn’t distract, and add subtle effects and environmental sounds to create imagery in the listener’s mind. When the ad is mixed, it’s exported in the format OGG, MP3, MP4, WAV, FLAC, or AAC. Make sure the file is 500MB or smaller (the smaller the better!). 

I have a couple favourite resources that I use to help in creating audio ads. 

  • I read through audio ad examples and sample scripts to help guide drafting my voiceover scripts
  • I use voices.com to find and hire the right voice actor for my ads. 
  • I find stock music through Adobe to include in the ads.
how to create an audio ad

It’s time to run the campaign! What capabilities should media buyers be looking for in a DSP when running audio? 

I don’t run direct publisher deals or isolate my media buys—a majority of my ad spend goes toward programmatic and search. When budget or targeting calls for it, I supplement with social as well. I focus my prospecting efforts on the top and middle of the funnel, and programmatic is my main volume driver.

Closing on the sale or conversion typically comes from a programmatic retargeting tactic or search, for hand raisers. Spending most of your digital budget in programmatic allows you to target appropriately, and ensure that frequency can be capped at a campaign level versus at a channel level, where you can’t guarantee a lack of audience overlap.

Most DSPs offer similar targeting at a basic level—but not all platforms provide you with robust and customized targeting at an audience level. A DSP that has 1st- and 3rd-party targeting options, custom audience capabilities, and offers an alternative to behavioural targeting, like contextual targeting, is what I use most, and I’m glad the DSP I use, StackAdapt, offers them all. 

What metrics do you focus on tracking for reporting on your audio campaigns?

When you’re spending a bulk of your marketing budget within programmatic, media metrics are key to gauging performance. They enable you to tell the full story of how your marketing efforts drove business results. And, media metrics will tell you what is currently driving business results and how to double-down on that tactic in real-time. 

It’s not helpful to understand ROAS after I’ve spent half of my budget on a channel or targeting tactic that underperformed or didn’t add to the bigger picture. So I know I’m in good hands since my DSP allows me to pivot immediately.

Although audio reporting is not as measurable as other digital channels, it is far more detailed than terrestrial radio. Within StackAdapt, I’m able to see the cost per completed listen, the audio completion rate as well the absolute completes, quartile completions (to help understand if and when users dropped off) and more. 

I am less concerned with those metrics since users are really unlikely to close a music streaming app just because an ad came up—the same way people don’t turn off their TVs when they see a commercial. What I’m most interested in is the attribution in the buying journey. Using a DSP that can provide you with a brand lift study, or connect your campaign with a leading attribution partner like comScore or Upwave can give you a sense of how your one channel contributed to the entire customer journey.

Do you have any other tips that first-timers should know?

Scale can be tricky—it’s best to start broad and slowly narrow in on your audience, whether that’s from a geo perspective, or demo. If you’re setting up a specific deal, try not to include demo targeting—the right DSP partner will guide you so you can target the content your audience is consuming without having to get too specific about their attributes as customers.

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