Pandora Pitches ‘Audio Context’: Why Your Ad Recall Is Higher When You’re Eating

"Creating a 'theater of the mind' can bring a brand’s advertisement to life before a listeners' eyes," says Pandora SVP Susan Panico.

As an internet radio platform, Pandora has a natural bias when it suggests that audio beats video when it comes to ad recall and driving purchase.

But a research project Pandora has with audience measurement firm Nielsen offers some stats from brands like fashion retailer Lane Bryant and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority that backs up the internet radio player’s point of view.

Pandora’s and Nielsen’s Contextual Relevance Study attempts to show the impact of an ad served in a context relevant to its message.

Consumers were served ads in two different formats as they completed four different activities such as folding laundry, eating, or driving. The results of the study show that ad recall is significantly higher among audio (74 percent) than TV (65 percent) in a contextually relevant environment.

Contextual audio was matched with ads thanks to Pandora’s personalized radio stations, which reflect listeners’ mindsets. According to Nielsen, audio ads saw +33 percent for purchase intent versus a television ad, supporting the idea that the consumer’s environment is almost as important as the content itself.

For example, among “aided recall,” relevant ads were 63 percent versus irrelevant ads at 55 percent for an audio ad delivered while the participant was shopping online.

Among the topline findings of the study:

  • While folding laundry, familiarity increase in relevant ads vs irrelevant ads increased 2x
  • While online shopping, there were notably higher relevant increases to familiarity and purchase intent
  • Eating food while listening to relevant audio ads generated notable increase in affinity and purchase intent
  • While virtual driving, respondents reported a higher recommendation score for relevant ads

We checked in with Susan Panico, SVP, Strategic Solutions at Pandora, about the details of the study and asked her to explain how audio tops video.

GeoMarketing: What is your sense of the power of audio vs. video? Is audio simply less distracting than a 30-second video spot?

Susan Panico: Out of all the senses, the human brain processes sound the fastest — 200,000 times faster than any other sense, to be exact. Once a sound, beat or rhythm is heard, your other senses are activated, your imagination is unleashed, and you’re automatically participating in the story. Creating a “theater of the mind” can bring a brand’s advertisement to life before a listeners’ eyes, instantly creating that emotional connection a brand is looking to make.

Is there any sense of audio ads ability to spur store visits?

We recently partnered with Lane Bryant to help them optimize and grow revenue streams. The partnership paid off — Lane Bryant boosted store traffic by 17 percent over its holiday period, surpassing the benchmarked 7 percent.

By precisely segmenting core shoppers with an organic service on which they’re already active, Lane Bryant was able to attract and build awareness during a highly cluttered shopping time frame.

Another example was with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). We partnered with them to help drive awareness to the city of Las Vegas. The 24/7 Vegas playlist  and cross platform audio messaging provided LVCVA with a first-to market measurement opportunity to prove that when Pandora plays, their message truly works. They saw a 6 percent lift in visitation to Las Vegas and $110M in incremental revenue for the city.

As Pandora has already heralded “voice and audio as the new touch” when it comes to the way consumers interact with their devices, how do you expect the dynamic around the importance of audio this report outlines to change? 

We’re passionate about personalization and want to make sure a listener’s ad experience is just as personalized as their music experience. When you take a contextual relevant experience (i.e., someone listening to Dinner Party Radio while cooking you might serve them an ad for a food delivery service like Blue Apron or a company like William Sonoma, etc.) and a personalized environment (Pandora plays music based on behaviors/preferences versus broadcast TV), there is an amplification effect where we see increases in purchase intent vs. the TV experience.

While marketers should be thinking about personalizing the audio ad experience for their consumers, it’s not just about when, and how long, but also how to best achieve the next level of personalization with what they serve, meaning the message itself. We recently went into beta with our Dynamic Audio which allows advertisers to serve ads tailored to each individual listener in real-time, based on their age, gender, where they live, etc., through our partnership with the UK based company A Million Ads.

Do you think that the idea of “relevancy” in advertising will become more important as a result of audio ads and the trends this report highlights?

Yes. For the consumer, Pandora plays throughout the day in people’s lives. We provide contextual relevant opportunities for advertisers to align with moments throughout the day. We offer activity targeting segments for working out, cooking, entertaining at home, focusing, studying, waking up and winding down.

In addition to this, we offer station sponsorships for brands that are looking to own 100 percent SOV of contextually relevant activities. For example, an advertiser looking to align with Workout Moments can own our Pop & Hip Hop Power Workout station; on the other hand, if a brand wants to reach listeners chilling out, our Relaxation Station is available for exclusive sponsorship as well.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.