Voice Technology Is Changing the Future of Audio Advertising

Voice technology has been a hot topic for a while. Over the past couple of years, voice-enabled smart products have played an increasingly important role in our culture and in our day-to-day lives. Clicking, tapping and scrolling may be second nature to us. But talking is one of the most fundamental parts of being human, which is why advertisers are eager to incorporate voice into their strategies. And now that’s possible.

In 2019, Pandora launched Voice Mode functionality, allowing users to navigate their listening experience via their voices. And as Voice Mode rapidly grew in popularity, we quickly recognized the opportunity at-hand and applied the same technology to our audio advertising.

In June 2020, Pandora launched a closed beta test with our new voice ads—a first-to-market ad format of its kind. For six months, we worked with some of the biggest brands in the game: KFC, Xfinity, Unilever, The Home Depot, Acura and more, to measure everything from listener sentiment and audience insights to the true impact of verbal engagement—saying “yes.”

New metrics and audience insights

There’s a new metric to measure: a say-through rate (STR). STRs measure verbal engagement with voice ads—the voice equivalent of the clickthrough rate (CTR). This gives advertisers the ability to chat with their consumers and gain a real-time understanding of how engaging their content is. 

While the CTR is an available metric within most audio products on Pandora, it has never been a fully representative metric for engagement. This is why our beta results didn’t surprise us when engagement rates soared.

Initial studies showed:

  • Voice ads had up to 10-times higher STRs than CTRs
  • 27% higher purchase intent scores compared to audio ad benchmarks
  • 7.6 points higher ad recall over control

Once Pandora discovered how many listeners were engaging with voice ads, the next question was who was engaging? And surprisingly, though most new technology adapters skew younger, results showed that everyone was talking back.

While the most engaged group was Gen Xers (30% more likely), 28% of the voice-enabled audience is Xennials. And voice users are 43% and 36% more likely to be moms and dads, respectively, of small children.

The good news for advertisers is that the voice audience runs the gamut, meaning your audience is ready to engage.

Voice ad best practices

After testing with Pandora’s beta partners, here are the best ways to get a “yes” from your audience, no matter your objective:

Engagement awareness: Give instructions at the beginning and end of your ad to ensure consumers know it’s a voice ad. Because this is a new format, listeners likely need more education on how to use it. Best-performing ads literally stated: “This is an ad you can talk to.”

Call to action: Keep it simple and just ask for the yes. Leaving the CTA open-ended could lead to confusion and result in no answer at all.

Promotion: Teasing a special offer or promotion was more effective at driving verbal engagement than simply sharing product information.

Voice-over and sound design: The ad creative with a clear voice-over outperformed those with a lot of sound design. Unlike non-voice ads, listeners responded better to straightforward narration and could more easily understand what was expected of them.

Ad length: The invitation audio is the first part of the ad that captures a listener’s attention and asks them to engage. The duration of 10-15 seconds long is the sweet spot—less than that and consumers aren’t sure how to respond; more than that and attention begins to fade.

We no longer have to talk about voice advertising as some imminent hypothetical that will change the industry; it’s here. And the best part is that it’s already opening countless doors for advertisers and blowing benchmarks out of the water.