The benefits of invisibility

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“Is your advertising invisible?” asks Paul Coxhill Managing Director of WARC in a recent blog which explores how fatigue with commercial messaging is causing customers to disengage with advertising. This is evidenced by the trend towards subscription VOD and the rise of ad blockers; and research revealing how only 12% of viewable ads are noticed and that 69% of US TV commercials receive no visual attention.

But all of these issues relate mainly to visible media. Audio advertising, however, is in rude health.

Commercial audio audiences in the UK are growing, buoyed by subscription on-demand music services mainly replacing listening to personal music collections and commercial radio performing strongly, winning audience from the BBC. Over the last four years commercial audio weekly reach has grown from 66% to 74% and listening hours are up by 23% (source: RAJAR MIDAS). How many other mature media markets can make similar claims?

From an advertising perspective, radio offers a regulated and safe environment which is deeply trusted by listeners, more so than any other medium (source: EBU Trust Barometer). Currently there are no ad blockers for audio.

Perhaps more importantly in an increasingly attention deficit world, audio’s invisibility could be the crucial factor that drives its success. Because it doesn’t require primary visual attention and plays out in real time, audio is unique in that it can be heard as intended when people are doing other things. Radiocentre’s new research study Hear and Now proves categorically that listeners are able to absorb the detail of radio ads when they are participating in other tasks or activities at the same time. 

This multi-tasking nature of audio offers other advantages. According to IPA Touchpoints, listeners are participating in other activities while listening on 9 out of 10 occasions, which provides advertisers with a multitude of opportunities to engage mass audiences at relevant moments. Hear and Now demonstrates how ads that directly relate to tasks or activities that listeners are participating in boosts effectiveness, turning average performers into star turns.

In fiction, a cloak of invisibility allows the protagonist to gain an advantage by accessing situations that they would otherwise be unable to penetrate. All things considered, perhaps more advertising would benefit from being invisible.

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