Listen up! Why digital audio is set to experience a creative revolution
A view from Jo McCrostie

Listen up! Why digital audio is set to experience a creative revolution

Jo McCrostie, Global's creative director, says we're just at the start of an audio revolution and she has examples to prove it.


Ever noticed that everyone around you is always listening to something? And I’m not just talking about commuters with their headphones in. People are always listening. Whether that’s to another person, the radio or inconspicuous background noise, sound is one sense that we simply can’t switch off.

The hearing organs start forming when a foetus is just three weeks old. At around 25 weeks, a foetus uses sound to create new memory circuits with meaningful associations. At 36 weeks a foetus can can tell the difference between different moods based on what it hears. From the womb until the moment we die we are inescapably surrounded by sound.

Strange then that with digital, the audio strategy falls to the back of advertisers’ priorities, especially when you think that nearly 22 million people spend around 11 hours every week listening to connected audio. Sound clearly plays a central role in our lives. And it should, so why not in marketing too?

The truth is that marketers are so dependent on visual branding that audio tends to come later in the priority list. No one can deny the power of a visually impactful ad to capture your attention, but sound has a unique strength. A listener doesn’t have to actively engage with the content for the messaging to come through. Even background noise is picked up and processed by the brain.

So sound is important. But can brands really be as creative with sound as they can with visual advertising? The answer is yes.

3D audio

At Global, we have our own resident sound head called Fritz (A Neumann KU 100 Dummy head microphone). Fritz travels all over the world recording a variety of situations and experiences; he has found himself in the middle of crime scenes in Birmingham, at the centre of pool parties in Crete, and he has even performed with comedians on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Fritz records sounds exactly how we hear them, allowing listeners to experience a situation as if they were actually there. Distance, sound and volume are all factors that are constantly changing in reality, and Fritz allows us to replicate these factors to give the listener a realistic three-dimensional aural experience.

The effect of 3D is so immersive that the listener is actually "dropped" right within the acoustic setting. They can hear and sense all the elements and action around them. Because they can’t actually see anything, the brain creates associated images which are more personal and relevant to each listener. If you ask a person to imagine a beautiful landscape or epic car chase, they never dislike the image they see in their head. We like the sound of things better than we like the look of things.

Dynamic and personalised audio

But creativity in audio extends beyond the way it’s made.

When it comes to digital audio, we certainly have come a long way since the invention of the radio. Dynamic audio allows marketers to target consumers on the move in real time.

DAX (our programmatic audio platform) is a natural bedfellow for other media channels adding reach, relevance and engagement to a campaign.

Imagine walking past a billboard for a soft drink brand that you see everyday; the image initially grabs your attention but then starts to fade into the background over time. Imagine now walking past the billboard and then listening to an audio ad by the same brand, which elicits memories of a refreshing drink on a summer day.

Digital audio technology is so advanced that we’re not only able to target consumers based on their location, but also based on their interests. We now have the ability to target specific demographics aurally, allowing marketers to ensure that their messaging is being fed to the people that are most likely to engage with it. Moreover, dynamic audio can be produced using a creative template which can be personalised to individual listeners in real time. Camelot used this to great effect when they wanted to thank residents from different cities for buying a lottery ticket that helped contribute to the improvement of their local areas. This was an impactful way for Camelot to give listeners a personalised message on a large scale.

We’re entering a golden age of audio where 3D and dynamic audio offer opportunities to create truly extraordinary content. As the digital audio industry continues to boom, we expect to see more brands using digital audio advertising to continue to drive brand engagement.

Listen yourself (Headphones required)

Crimestoppers audio:  Global worked with Crimestoppers to create an exhilarating 3D audio ad which placed the listener at the centre of a crime scene. The ad was produced to showcase the speed at which a crime scene can escalate and how contacting Crimestoppers can help avoid gun violence.

Harper Collins audio: Global dramatised an extract from the Harper Collins title A Royal Vow of Convenience (author Sharon Kendrick's 100th novel for the publisher) to create an intimate and surprising experience that puts the listener at the heart of the action. It was released on Heart in November 2016.