Subway Signs On To Shorter Pandora Audio Ads To Capture Micro-Moments

"We think there may be an effective blend of shorter and longer length audio ads that can help with message breakthrough and alleviate potential creative fatigue," Pandora says.

Pandora is taking a cue from shorter video ads currently being offered by YouTube, Facebook, Fox Networks, with a similar version for audio ads in order to help better capture mobile consumers on-the-go and drive sharper creative.

Following tests of the shorter format that showed lifts in ad recall with pest control service Orkin and jobs site ZipRecruiter, Subway is planning to use the Pandora 10- and 30-second audio ads in the next few weeks.

In a test with Nielsen Entertainment to understand audio ad effectiveness between broadcast radio and digital radio, Pandora says it was the ad length findings that caught the music streaming platform’s attention.

The test indicated that shorter audio ads (8 seconds in length) prompted high recall with younger demos, specifically 13-24 year olds. Although the study wasn’t 100 percent conclusive, it made Pandora pause and consider how it might apply these findings on its platform.

“We think there may be an effective blend of shorter and longer length audio ads that can help with message breakthrough and alleviate potential creative fatigue,” a Pandora spokesperson tells GeoMarketing.

“For example: leading with a punchy, 10-second message to capture attention, then following up in the next ad break with a 30-second ad once interest is piqued to convey the full message, or articulate a particular call-to-action, may help drive desired outcomes,” the Pandora rep adds.

Pandora is going to conduct more tests to verify its early findings over the coming months. Among the specific findings Pandora is looking to prove:

  • 10-second and 30-second audio ads both successfully drive ad recall:
  • We’re currently seeing double digits lifts in ad recall amongst both 10s and 30s.
  • While 10s are showing promise (especially with younger demos - see next bullet), so far, we are still seeing higher ad recall driven by 30-second ads, which tells Pandora  that 30s are still a crucial format for audio.
  • Shorter ad formats seem to resonate better amongst younger demos:
  • Ad recall rates for shorter audio ads have been highest amongst the 25 – 34 demo, whereas older demos responded better to longer formats.
  • Shorter audio ads do not necessarily equal less time spent for brands:
  • In one test, we found that a 10s ad actually drove higher time spent with the advertiser’s landing page than the 30s audio ad.

“It’s still very early days, but our theory based on initial testing is that there will be instances where 10-second audio ads are optimal, and others where 15 or 30-second ads are more compelling and effective,” Pandora says. “Certain demos may be more receptive to brief audio spots where others might prefer to hear messaging within the parameters of traditional ad lengths. The message an advertiser is trying to convey should also be taken into consideration. A complex message may require more time to communicate and break through. There could be an ideal combination of lengths within a campaign flight as well.”

The Audio Renaissance

Pandora’s exploration of shorter ad formats comes as Roger Lynch prepares to take on the role of CEO and president on Sept. 19.

Lynch most recently served as the founding CEO of DISH Network’s Sling TV, where he led the creation, launch, and growth of Sling TV to become the leading live over-the-top streaming video service in the U.S., as Wells Fargo analyst Peter Stabler noted in a recent investors note.

“While Mr. Lynch brings significant experience in leading consumer subscription services (and no apparent experience running an ad-supported business) to Pandora, we expect Pandora to maintain its renewed focus on ad-supported products,” Stabler wrote.

The Wells Fargo analyst praised the doubling down on ad support as a sound strategy to balance out its premium subscription option.

Among the recent signs of how Pandora has been continuing to enhance its ad offerings, Pandora recently signed on with Foursquare to tell help show marketers like Subway and Mohegan Sun clearer foot traffic metrics by its streaming music listeners.

“Over the years, we’ve worked with a variety of location analytic vendors, but we are excited to partner directly with Foursquare for their unique first-party location data which leverages both passive (GPS signals, WiFi, cellular data, Bluetooth, etc.) and explicit check-in data (direct user check-ins on FoursquareCity Guide and Foursquare Swarm apps) to double-verify an actual check-in has occurred, Keri Degroote, VP of Research and Analytics at Pandora, told GeoMarketing at the time.

By refining its ad formats from a creative standpoint, Pandora aims to capitalize on the growing importance of audio in general given its existing connections to voice-activated platforms like Amazon’s Alexa.

As J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherian stated at last month’s Cannes Lions event, speaking and listening is the oldest means of conversation; the human mind is inherently designed for this type of interaction — far more than the artificial motion of swiping at a smartphone.

So, what can marketers do to engage with this natural behavior through consumers’ connected devices and smartphones?

Pandora’s proof of whether it has the answer to that question should come quickly.

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.