Data and insights play a vital role in audio advertising –well beyond mere media planning and audience targeting. More and more, science is mixing with the art of creative to ensure the message is in synch for the different audience segments being reached.

“Internally, we’re tapping into data and investing in how to do more research that helps us have audio creative excellence and thought leadership,” says Jessica Hubbard, Global Ad Measurement Lead at Spotify.

That involves conducting research on all the ad assets the streamer produces for brands. For example, a brand lift study for a major tech company showed two of its key consumer segments were responding very differently to a campaign. The lesson learned for the brand was the importance of using different creative approaches. “They were speaking to everyone in the same way when what you really need to do is to build creative that’s specific for that message that’s important to that audience so you can ultimately change the consumer behavior,” Hubbard said during an Advertising Week event this week. Now the tech client uses different creative approaches and views audience segmentation differently.

The brand lift study cited by Spotify is another example of what’s old is new again. For decades, brands have been producing different creative tailored for individual radio formats.

The vital role of creative throughout the growing audio ad market was a recurring theme during the AW360 session, entitled “What A Complete Audio Strategy Looks Like For A Brand Today.”

“The creative matters a lot,” said Scott Simonelli, CEO and co-founder of Veritonic, which provides data and insights on audio marketing. “As much as you measure around it, if it’s not good creative, it’s not going to work,”

While research is often used to help build effective creative, it works best as guidance instead of the be-all, end-all, said Lauren McGuire, President of Made Music Studio, a global sonic studio that has done work for American Express, HBO, AT&T and other major brands. But how creative performs – sonic branding in particular – changes over time. “If you’re really consistent in your creative, the appeal of something continues to go up,” McGuire said. Her shop saw this dynamic play out during its work on the “HBO Presents” campaign, which has evolved over time as the WarnerMedia Studios network develops new content for new generations, from “The Sopranos” in the 2000s to “Girls” in the 2010s. Some creative will test extremely well when first introduced while others won’t because it’s meant to be disruptive, she explained. It comes down to what the brand is aiming for.

“Fantastic scores on pre and post are great but sometimes we’re like, ‘No, let’s disrupt this, let’s put out something that gets people’s attention,” McGuire said. Unlike advertising, sonic branding scores can change over time as they take their place in the culture of the brand.

How Audio Fits In

But even before talking about evolving audio from a creative standpoint, the first discussion with many brands is how does audio fit in for clients who are still dipping their toes into the space. For many brands, audio is still something new. “We’re trying to paint a picture of how audio fits into the bigger portfolio,” said Hubbard. “How does audio complement what you have in a non-audio space? How does the storytelling work from an audio lens so that it can reinforce what’s already happening?”

Beyond figuring out audio’s place in their overall brand strategy, marketers are also realizing that investing in sonic branding is a long-haul play that takes years to fully reap rewards from. But with consistency and saturation, it can be the gift that keeps on giving. For example, Intel and McDonalds have sonic identities that have been in the market for roughly 20 years. “We just now have enough brands that have done this successfully so that others can say, ‘OK I get it. It really takes an investment in the creative and it’s not just at a campaign level, its developing something that I know I can approach with longevity. It continues to evolve and change,” said McGuire. “And while those conversations with brands were really hard to have a few years ago, the growth of data in the form of brand lift studies that demonstrate the power of sonic logos have changed those conversations.”