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Native Audio Ads Explained for Marketers

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Audio advertising makes it possible to reach out across the airwaves and forge lasting connections. This feat may not seem quite as impressive as it did one-hundred years ago, but it’s nonetheless a staple of branded outreach, and native audio ads are essential to capitalizing on the trend.

Native audio ads are audio ads that sound and feel like the surrounding media environment. While they should still be distinguishable from other non-commercial content, they’re far less jarring because they fit in seamlessly.

Should you use native audio ads to make an impact on your radio-, podcast-, or streaming media-listening audience? The question might not be as straightforward as it seems, particularly if you haven’t found a good content creation partner.

What Are Native Ads?

You may have noticed a trend in the evolution of digital commercial content over the past few years. More ads are designed to look, feel, and otherwise resemble the content they appear in — no matter what kind of media it may be.

These ads, known as native advertising, raise some interesting questions. For instance, some publishers might reject the idea of running ads that look like their regular programming because they don’t want to confuse viewers. Most, however, work around such problems by requiring native ads to display characteristic elements that explain their nature. With visual marketing, these notifiers often take the form of little blurbs letting viewers know that the content is a “promoted story,” “suggested post,” or “sponsored” item. Audio ads can include similar language if they seem like they might be unclear.

Another common question involves the legal aspect. Could a lawyer or consumer rights advocate claim that you scammed someone by being unclear about the nature of your marketing? Once again, disclaimers and honest intentions come to the rescue by drawing well-defined boundaries. 

Native ads aren’t precisely new. They’ve been around for years in magazines and other print media. The difference in the Digital Era is that now, they can do a lot more. From helping you deliver personalized marketing content to ensuring that you stand out from an overwhelming sea of ads, native advertising is on the rise with good reason.

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What Is Native Audio Advertising?

Native visual advertising replicates the look of the media that contains it. For instance, your graphic designer could mimic a page’s layout or fonts. They might even use background images and other aesthetic elements provided by a target newspaper or magazine. Many native ads also try to copy the formats that readers might expect to encounter in a news post or article.

Obvious Marketing Content

Native audio ads apply similar ideas in the audible department. One of the main ways they accomplish this is by having content producers read their prewritten ad scripts. If you’ve ever listened to a popular podcast, for example, then you’ve probably heard your preferred host discussing their sponsors’ products. By getting these trusted voices to wax poetic about branded materials, marketers hope to build on audiences’ faith.

These kinds of native ads are usually easily distinguished from the actual content. Since they tend to come at the end of programming blocks, you’re in little danger of making someone feel tricked. Buying beginning, middle, and end-of-show ad reads is also a good way to support podcasts, radio shows, and other content that aligns with your brand values.

Integrating Marketing Content With Existing Formatting

Other forms of native audio advertising can be more subtle than an outright ad read. Imagine that you created a fun card game for people to play at parties. You might send free copies of your product to a podcast that regularly aired playthroughs. By having them play the game and share their opinions, you could gain lots of publicity. What’s more, you might be able to do so at a minimal cost.

That being said, you shouldn’t expect someone to start playing your games or demonstrating your wares just because you gave them free samples. Radio, podcasting, and other forms of creative audio are businesses, and content creators’ are busy people. If you want to win some valuable airtime, then you’ll do the decent thing. Sweeten the deal with monetary compensation so that creators actually look your way.

Jumping Into Streaming Media

Native audio ads take a different form in some streaming audio content. For instance, on many music platforms, the whole idea is for users to listen to the music they like without the DJ as an intermediary. This means there’s nobody to read your ad copy, so you have to take another approach. On Pandora, this might involve curating a “Sponsored Listening” playlist. With this feature, listeners get an hour of uninterrupted streaming music for every one of your 15-second commercials they sit through. The cool thing about this is that your visual ad content also stays on-screen during the stream. Why compete for attention if you don’t have to?

Native audio ads aren’t just for streaming audio. As companies like Facebook and Twitter ramp up their marketing game even more than they already have, brands can reap the rewards — provided that they have high-quality content to work with. Recording a native audio voiceover to go with a mid-stream video is an effective way to leave a mark.

Are Native Audio Ads Ethical?

The morality of advertising has long been a topic of debate. On the one hand, you’re not likely to make much money if you don’t market to people. On the other hand, people deserve a break from the constant flood of commercial content they’re exposed to. It also goes without saying that nobody ought to suffer being misled.

Although this can seem like a confusing quandary, your intentions are what matter the most. If your ads deliberately try to take advantage of listeners, viewers, or other audiences, then reevaluate your game plan. You don’t need to fool people to get business, and doing so inevitably invites public backlash. If you’re struggling to decide what feels right for your brand, then just remember to consider how you’d prefer to have others treat you.

Another important issue revolves around where you ought to place your native ads. Once again, however, common sense rules the day. By learning about what kind of audience your target podcast, streaming platform, or radio show caters to, you can get a firmer idea of whether your ads will be appropriate there. Doing this kind of research is highly advisable even without the ethical underpinnings since some audiences won’t be interested in your brand anyway.

Finally, remember that you don’t have to venture into uncharted moral territory here. Stick to the practices established by major news sites and social media platforms by following the content publisher’s disclosure rules. Make sure your native audio ads include all of the legal blurbs and boilerplate language required to distinguish themselves from nonbranded content, and you’ll generally be fine.

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How Will People View My Brand If It Uses Native Audio Ads?

One of the most interesting aspects of native ads is how prolific they are. In the realm of video, native content spending dramatically outpaced other forms of marketing expenditures from 2017 to 2019. The same went for display ads, where native outreach represented a healthy majority of all spending. On social media, native advertising accounted for well over 95 percent of marketing.

This isn’t to say that other formats are dying out. It’s still essential to have a comprehensive game plan that includes in-stream ads and cross-channel marketing. When it comes to audience reception, however, the message is pretty clear that consumers feel less opposed than they would with more traditional formats. For instance, one assessment found that consumers viewed native ads twice as much as editorial content and that these ads boosted purchase intent by almost 20 percent.

Platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest exemplify this concept as few others do. While you might enjoy browsing through your feeds, it’s hard to argue that these sites are anything but advertising. Nearly everything that users see is some form of branded promotion. Nonetheless, few Insta-lovers get as violently angry about in-feed marketing as they would with banner ads.

What’s the big secret? Native advertising is less intrusive than most alternatives. When deployed correctly, these marketing tidbits don’t force users to stop listening to their favorite content just to sit through an annoying commercial. With the proper branding elements, such as programmatic music and mood-appropriate content, they provide a more seamless overall experience.

Also, remember that native ads typically occupy natural programming gaps. Podcasters and radio hosts need breaks after hours of talking, and prerecording your ads gives them something to play while they do other things. Sure, most probably edit their voiceovers into the final product instead of doing a single marathon take, but the effect is the same — they talk to their listeners on behalf of your brand.

Why Should I Use Native Audio Ads?

Native ads aren’t necessarily right for every situation, but in the modern media landscape, they’re hard to avoid. For instance, in 2016, GE produced an entire podcast that was just one big native ad. Of course, the fact that it was entertaining enough to win a Webby Award probably improved its reception, but immersing your brand in a particular type of media is worthwhile in itself.

Native advertising also caters to programmatic ad serving practices where automated ad networks target specific users based on their browsing histories. Those Amazon ads that follow you across the web after you spend a while browsing are prime examples. With native audio ads, you can make the most of a few recorded segments. This tactic is a smart way to avoid listener fatigue and keep things fresh.

Native audio ads make it possible to reach consumers in as-yet-unexplored venues. They can help you strike up a more intimate conversation without crossing people’s personal-space boundaries. Native advertisements also keep people from feeling worn out by your marketing. With the right voice artists and content creation partners, it’s simple to foster natural dialogue and sustained engagement.

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