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There are an estimated 464.7 million daily podcast listeners globally, and Spotify alone has an estimated 456 million users, with nearly 200 million of those being paid subscribers. And all of these listeners interact with digital audio advertising daily. 

There is a wealth of untapped potential for any brand or business in the audio advertising sphere.

graphics for streaming statistics
Streaming is taking over audio consumption, especially for younger demographics. Source

If you are hesitant to dive into what it means to hire voice actors, create digital audio ads, and discern whether or not audio marketing applies to your brand awareness, then this article will answer all of those questions. 

Let’s prepare you to create a marketing strategy for your audio marketing by first defining what we mean by audio advertising.

What Is Audio Advertising?

Digital audio advertising is simply the process of creating audio ads that can be inserted or included alongside audio content. Realistically, it is a modern-day interpretation of old radio ads where a radio station would play a recorded audio ad campaign during breaks between songs.

digital audio advertising being used across three different smartphone displays, all within Spotify
Different types of audio advertising are being used within Spotify. (Source)

The primary difference between traditional radio and digital audio advertising lies in the platforms these audio advertising placements can be found, what target audiences they reach, and how they can directly affect a call-to-action in potential customers.

According to Pew Research, as of 2021, 85% of Americans own a smartphone. This means that they have access to podcasts, digital radio, and music streaming services in the palm of their hands at all times. And these are the best and most likely places consumers will interact with audio advertising.

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The 3 Types of Digital Audio Advertising

Advertising in the digital space isn’t new, but the formats of these advertising campaigns have shifted and will continue to shift. It is a guarantee that your target audience is listening to audio advertisements at this point. If you want to grab your own slice of that pie, you need to be aware of the various audio formats available.

There are truly only three primary types of digital audio advertising markets that dominate the audio advertisement industry:

  • Audio advertising for podcasts
  • Audio advertising for digital radio
  • Audio advertising for music streaming services

Each of these will require its own audio formats, cater to a variety of demographics, and allow for different types of programmatic audio advertising.

Audio ads for podcasts

An example of Spotify’s call-to-action cards for podcasts, showing how a pop-up shows up during the ad placement within the Spotify player
Spotify’s call-to-action cards for podcasts in action. (Source)

Podcast advertising is what immediately comes to mind for most people when they think of digital audio advertisements, but if you pay close attention to podcast ads that pop up, then you will notice how much variety there is in the industry.

For podcast ads, there are predominantly three “placements” in the episode:

  • Pre-roll
  • Mid-roll
  • Post-roll

Out of these options, mid-roll is often the most expensive and most effective. Most podcast listeners are listening while commuting, shopping, or doing other tasks. They aren’t able to or are unwilling to skip podcast ads in the middle of the episode. The second best placement is pre-roll (at the beginning of the episode) because of the same reasoning as mid-roll placements.

Post-roll ads are the least effective because podcast listeners can completely avoid these ads by hitting the “next” button when the ads start and simply jumping to the next episode on their playlist.

Furthermore, podcast ads can be recorded by hiring a voice actor to do a specific ad placed in the podcast episode. Many podcasters will offer to read ads as part of the episode, though. This is a great way to gain support and encourage listeners to engage directly with a call to action.

Audio ads for digital radio

A showcase of the iHeart Radio Ad Builder in the app alongside metrics with bar graphs, data collection, and impressions
iHeart Radio’s in-app ad builder for audio advertisements and metrics. (Source)

Digital radio is a perfect combination of how one would approach audio advertisements for podcasts and music streaming services. Digital radio takes the traditional radio algorithm and brings it fully into the digital age. There is still a real-time conversation going on while also having access to the perks of a streaming platform.

For example, Pandora is known as "Pandora Radio," but it is more of an amalgamation of traditional radio, podcasts, and music streaming because the Pandora radio feature doesn’t allow you to curate your own playlist but selects songs for you based on a genre, artist, or particular song. However, it still contains ad breaks like traditional radio, and there are real-time shows, too.

For avid audio listeners, digital radio platforms that can combine aspects of everything into one convenient location are a godsend. iHeart Radio is a great example of a fully digital radio platform. For those taking a stab at a digital marketing approach that includes audio advertisements, it means paying attention to digital radio is critical to their success.

Much of what applies to how digital audio advertisements can be created and broadcast for podcast and music streaming services applies here as well. That being said, metrics for these audio ads are a little more convoluted to keep track of, so be aware of how much more work will be needed to collect and organize good data from digital radio services.

Audio ads for music streaming services

A sample of what Spotify’s audio and display ads look like for free subscribers, an ad for LinkedIn Learning
An example of Spotify’s display ads for digital audio ads for free subscribers. (Source)

In the world of streaming audio, there is one giant whose shoulders everyone else stands on: Spotify.

What started as an on-demand music streaming platform evolved into an adjacent social media platform for audio listeners. While other platforms like Soundcloud also made a lot of headway for music artists and Amazon Music has created an efficient alternative, Spotify is the brand that took the music streaming service to new heights.

Spotify currently sits in a position where it could be considered a form of digital radio, for all intents and purposes, but it is still a music streaming platform at its core. Recent innovations, such as the ability to display video ads in conjunction with audio advertisements, are still pushing the audio advertising industry forward.

For incorporating audio advertisements on music streaming services, the norm is still to have recorded audio clips ready to go. It is even worthwhile to have a variety of different audio ads ready to go so they can be mixed up since most music streaming services have some amount of required ad placements depending on the subscription of the listener.

The Best Tools for Creating Audio Advertisements

There are a lot of great tools and software out there for creating audio advertisements to fit across any of these three types of digital audio ads.

However, here is our list of some of the best audio advertisement platforms to go check out and get everything done correctly:

You’ll notice on this list that two are specifically geared toward audiences from different regions.

While anyone can create audio ads using a microphone, a well-written script, and the ability to upload those to a platform like Spotify, iHeart Radio, or Apple Podcasts, it takes special attention to detail to ensure everything is optimized for your target audience.

Create Digital Audio Advertisements For Your Target Audience

If you haven’t started working on audio ads to raise brand awareness, there is still time!

Some portion of your target audience is engaging with one of these platforms, and you can find a great way to make audio advertisements work for you and your brand.

If you want to stay up to date on all things media and keep learning more about digital audio ads, then subscribe to Indie Media Club!

If you have any questions or think we missed something, then leave a comment, and we will try our best to get an answer for you!

By Francois Marchand

Francois Marchand is Indie Media Club's content strategist and editor. He is passionate about helping and educating business leaders, media producers, and digital marketers grow their skill sets to stay ahead of the competition. Francois holds a BA Specialization in Communication Studies & Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and 20+ years of experience in marketing, ecommerce, traditional and digital media, and public relations, including The Vancouver Sun, The Province, National Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, Unbounce, and Vancouver Film School.