Explosion in voice-activated technology is powering new golden era for audio
A view from Mark Barber

Explosion in voice-activated technology is powering new golden era for audio

Our relationship with content and brands is being transformed by voice-activated technology, Radiocentre's Mark Barber explains.

From novelty talking point beloved by early adopters to mainstream household technology, voice-activated devices, such as Amazon Echo, have quickly seized the imagination of the public in less than two years since launch.

Research from Radiocentre, unveiled at today’s "Tuning In: See Radio Differently" conference in London, revealed that by early 2018 penetration of such devices could reach 40%. That’s a more than a four-fold increase on their current levels.

With multiple uses – from finding out the weather forecast to searching answers for questions – such smart devices have found a place in the heart of all members of a household, regardless of age and gender.

But, the research reveals, that its primary use is to acquire greater access to audio entertainment, with radio-listening the dominant function.

As such devices reach a critical mass and become an essential part of the public’s daily routine the opportunities for advertisers to develop a deeper and more meaningful relationship with their users become apparent.

Our study revealed that over half of daily Echo users recall hearing advertising on their devices – with radio cited as the main and most natural source of exposure, compared to pre-roll ads.

With this in mind, advertisers need to develop new strategies that look beyond interruptive screen-based advertising and acknowledge the importance of audio branding as voice-activation enters the mainstream.

Radio advertisers have always known that music can be a powerful tool that can trigger a whole range of emotional responses that its screen and print-based rivals cannot.

In fact, it frequently is the bond that holds a whole campaign across multiple touchpoints together.

Previous research by Radiocentre has shown that the consistent use of brand music can be one of the most effective tools for advertisers, and its strategic use makes it more effective across a range of measures than those campaigns that use if tactically or not at all.

British Airways’ use of The Flower Duet and DHL’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough are probably the most famous examples of effective and impactful brand recognition.

But audio branding goes beyond just music. Voice consistency is also key if advertisers want to make the most of the impending voice-activated device revolution.

The importance of consistency is also key, whether that be creative idea, sonic brand identity or voice actor.

Dolmio has long understood this – the voices, as well as the music, on the radio ad make it instantly recognisable on radio and, by directly linking to other media, create the "virtual TV" effect – enabling listeners to instinctively remember images from the TV ad.

Other brand voices such as Aleksandr Orlov for Comparethemarket.com, Barry Scott for Cillit Bang and Kevin Bacon have also firmly established themselves in the public consciousness.

Listeners respond to familiarity – music, voices, constructs and straplines – used across time and across platform.

As audio-driven technology expands and continues to take an ever-growing important part in our lives, the need for distinctive audio branding has never been more important and with audio search looking like the next battlefield on the horizon (and screen-based media diminishing in importance), forward-thinking advertisers need to hone their approach to audio identity to gain a competitive advantage.

Mark Barber is planning director at Radiocentre