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WHY THE AUTO INDUSTRY IS TURNING TO DIGITAL AUDIO ADS

Auto industry marketing

We explore why automotive brands are using podcast and digital audio ads in their marketing, and example of brands doing it well.

Marketing Brew recently found ad spend is in decline, but digital audio ad spend is up! Why? Brand and agency use of audio is peaking because it gets incredibly positive listener engagement, trust and conversion rates. Good campaign ROI is even making very visual industries increase audio spend – like the automotive sector. 

Major car brands are increasingly using podcasts and audio to shift customers’ perceptions and build loyalty. Essential at a time when economic slumps, supply chain issues, and government mandates are squeezing the sector.

Let’s look at the digital audio marketplace in respect to car buyers, the merits of audio branding, and great examples of car makers using digital audio.

Car sales man vs digital audio advertising
Audio does it better!

AUTOMOTIVE DIGITAL AUDIO LISTENER NUMBERS

The popularity of digital audio is growing – and not slowing! It’s thriving in all parts of the world.

SOURCE: Statista. Updated June 2022

Besides the increasing volume of listeners, what makes audio interesting for automotive is the demographics of these listeners.

Edison research shows in the US the majority of regular podcast listeners fall into these categories:

  • Have full-time jobs
  • Millennials
  • Have an income of 100k and above
  • Have a college degree or advanced degree.

The US is the largest consumer of digital audio which is why most studies focus on this region. However, it’s still a good indicator of the global market – proven by other regional studies finding similar results.

  • Our own 2022 digital audio research in Saudi Arabia found the largest percentage of podcast listeners were in management roles (35%) and millennials (44%).
  • Ofcom’s 2022 UK Podcast Survey discovered podcast listeners skewed the ABC1 demographic.
  • The 2020 Chinese Podcasting Listeners and Consumption Survey found the majority of listeners come from top-tier cities (Beijing, Shanghai…) and are highly educated (86% hold a bachelor’s degree or more).

What do these statistics indicate to car manufacturers? Digital audio mainly consists of people that have the power to make significant purchasing decisions, like buying a car, and are interested in products that will make their daily lives easier.


In fact, the listener profiles are so aligned to car buying, there’s data that shows podcast-listening car shoppers are more likely to take action when hearing a podcast ad than podcast listeners in general. This data comes from the 2021 Nielsen research which shows, 50% of internet vehicle shoppers went to a website after hearing a podcast ad, which is 5% higher than the average podcast listener taking action.

SOURCE: Nielsen Scarborough Podcast Listener Buying Power, Rel 2, 2019.

This research also suggests a huge opportunity for hybrid vehicle marketing. It states overall 4.1% of US adults own or lease a hybrid vehicle. For podcast listeners this number jumps to 5.8%, making them around 39% more likely to be hybrid drivers.


THE POWER OF AUDIO BRANDING

Digital audio is part of audio branding efforts. Audio branding has become top of mind for leading automotive marketers and agencies because of its ability to trigger interest, intrigue, or memories.

I bet we can all close our eyes and conjure the sound of a revving fast car, or the hmmm of an electric engine, or the squeak of leather seats. Compared to a visual ad showing a shiny new car (which let’s face it, can be fairly indistinct), the sound is much more emotive and thought-provoking. It is more meaningful.

Audio branding is a strategy of using sound (be it effects, voice, music, etc) to define and strengthen a product, service or brand. Historically advertising has been more concerned about what we can see. But that’s not enough for companies to stand out. Our scrolling habits and short attention span makes visuals less effective. Audio cuts through this, giving brands priceless engagement and recall.

The 2020 Spotify For Brands report states “audio ads are memorable and motivational – they drive 24% higher recall than display ads, and are twice as likely to life purchase intent.”

The sound of a car cements itself in our brain more firmly and faster than the same car delivered through visuals. Adding digital audio to automotive advertising brings another dimension to the car experience, producing layers of emotional response that imagery cannot replicate.


EXAMPLES OF AUTOMOTIVE BRANDS USING DIGITAL AUDIO

Now we know why automotive brands are using digital audio in their marketing plans, so let’s look at how and who is doing it well.

Today we see most leading car brands engaging with digital audio in some form. Data from Nielsen found that the Comedy podcast genre is the best for engaging with potential car buyers because it had about 5 million (or 47% of) podcast-listening auto shoppers tuning in. Comedy is followed by News (43%), Society and Culture (35%), and Business (30%).

Case study one : Volvo

Volvo’s 2022 campaign, used hosts of popular shows within these top genres, such as Freakonomics and Ologies, to read ads that focused on the brand’s attributes such as safety, electrification, and sustainability. The campaign reported an incredible recall response, outperforming Nielsen’s unaided and aided recall norms. Additionally, a post-campaign review went on to find the top four ad descriptors were “natural,” “believable,” “interesting” and “authentic,”. Host read ads are part of an influencer strategy, which we dive into in our “How to use podcast influencers” article.

Case study two: Chrysler

Chrysler is another example of a car brand using a host to amplify the trust and interest of an ad, using an unscripted sponsorship approach. Dax Shepard, the host of Armchair Expert, delivers adlib ads on his show that fits seamlessly into the content. The partnership works because Dax drives a Chrysler and is an authentic true fan of the brand. This perfect match increases listener trust in what he is saying.

Case study three: Honda

In 2021, Honda’s audio ad was served programmatically, using humor and the universally understood car horn to promote the features of its electric car. The creative is instantly understandable, fun, and pulls the listener in. Listen to the Honda ad

Case study four: SUV

Finally a big campaign we launched in 2021 for a leading SUV company in the Middle East. The campaign included a branded podcast show and programmatic ads. Our brief was to create an audio campaign that delivers brand uplift, high recall, and positive intention among Arab National males aged 35-44 years, living in KSA and the UAE. To bring the vehicle to life we lead with the sponsorship of a local podcast, AlSilah الصلة, making the vehicle an organic feature within the show’s narrative. The podcast ranked #1 in fiction for both the UAE and KSA, #7 in all charts for the UAE, and #15 in all charts for KSA. The show also gained a 4.8-star rating from listeners. We further support the campaign with a 17-second programmatic ad in the local dialect that aired for 8 weeks in 2021. The results:

  • 66% of all those who heard the podcast could recall the brand sponsor.
  • 71% of target audience listeners recalled the car model advertised.
  • 82% of those who recalled the ad within the target audience had positive intent to take action.
  • Positive impact on the brand, with listeners describing the company as authentic and innovative.

Read more about this SUV car campaign


THE BOTTOM LINE

We’ve read in this article how and why car manufacturers are moving on from the visual first (and sometimes only) strategy to a more holistic approach that integrates other, more powerful, human senses. Sound reaches us where images cannot. A podcast or soundtrack weaves its way into our daily life to become an essential part of it. When car manufacturers use digital audio effectively it inspires emotion, aspiration, and purchase intent and tells the story of the brand. This makes it a vital consideration for any car company not currently using digital audio in their plans.