AI Comes to Digital Audio Advertising – and It’s Improving Personalization

The digital industry is now familiar with AI-driven technology because it delivers value in data analysis and ad targeting. But the focus today is on AI’s potential to transform creative functions.

In particular, brands should look closely at how AI can enable highly relevant, customized creative at scale. This is the next logical step in using AI in advertising.

Brands need to look closely at digital audio, a channel that has seen explosive audience growth, deep levels of engagement – and an influx of ad spend. Experts predict the digital audio ad marketplace will surpass $10 billion in the US this year and hit $12.81 billion by 2027. Increased audience size presents more opportunities for creative personalization at scale – AI will make this even easier. We can take Spotify’s enthusiastic embrace of generative AI for content and advertising personalization as a sign that these tools are ready to take on the task.

Creative Variation Without Manual Repetition

When it comes to the traditionally manual task of developing multiple versions of an audio ad for a wide array of audience segments, tools like synthetic voice hold some promise. This software-generated replication of the human voice enables brands to produce thousands of audio ad variations efficiently and at scale. In other words, brands can generate vast ad variations without demanding extra time from a voiceover artist or celebrity spokesperson. But synthetic voice isn’t a perfect solution, as we’ll explore briefly.

There’s potential here across all digital audio channels, but synthetic voice can provide particular relief for podcast hosts, guests, and spokespeople. In podcasting specifically, advertisers are keen on leveraging the intimacy of the format. But authenticity is a central part of the host and audience relationship. Podcast audiences are accustomed to hearing endorsements from hosts and trusted personalities, so maintaining a seamless, natural listening experience is imperative for brands.

Hold Onto the Human Touch

However, creators are on high alert to protect their work and livelihoods from technology exploiting and devaluing them. Celebrities and professional voiceover artists won’t share the rights to their voices for free – they will demand to be paid fairly for licensing and usage rights. Rather than looking at AI to replace human voiceovers, advertisers should consider how AI can act as a partner or collaborator to their team, where synthetic voice can deliver its greatest value. There is a balance between adopting technology that can give brands a competitive advantage and appreciating the talent of human creators. By marrying the two, advertisers can produce innovative ads that keep the all-important human touch.

The technology is also not necessarily a simple plug-and-play solution for brands. Realizing the true benefit of synthetic voice requires the involvement of a platform that can automate the delivery of thousands of dynamic audio variants. That platform will be crucial for leveraging the data necessary to produce and serve myriad creative variations via a single Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) tag. After all, producing countless ads is a fruitless endeavor unless the technology is available to serve the correct version of the ad to each listener. Efficient production can only deliver value with efficient, highly targeted deployment, which requires more tech support and sophistication.

Driving Customization Through Contextual Insights

As in any digital channel, context is at the heart of relevance and engagement. AI will be a powerful digital audio tool for gaining contextual insights – including details about the listener’s environment and insights that can drive content recognition and keyword targeting. Brands can apply those insights to customize ads creatively for greater relevance and resonance in that environment. For example, they can use these insights to drive listeners to a local store to find a specific brand, or promote the most recent release on a particular streaming service, or use date and time triggers or device type to encourage listeners to upgrade their phone to the latest model. Data triggers – including purchase history, listening preferences, loyalty status, geolocation, or device type – can also be used to determine specific lines from the script. It makes production more efficient while also making the creative more personalized. 

Optimizing creative in advance, which can be the most challenging step in successful personalization, ensures the listener only hears one ad that feels specifically made for them. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek has highlighted these very opportunities for contextualization and personalization. The platform has already used AI to provide custom audio commentary and promote podcasts. Now, Ek is praising the technology’s promise of reducing the cost of audio ads in new formats with thousands of variations.

Marketers will need tech partners to match the correct creative version for each listener’s context to process the relevant data points that enable personalization. AI-driven technology that aligns creative with context will empower brands to personalize and scale audio campaigns without accruing high production costs. The larger the brand, the more value they gain by effectively developing hundreds or thousands of creative variations.

Take the CTA to the Next Level

When we add addressable audio to personalization, a brand can target a listener with a specific call to action. They can do this by inserting a data-driven (contextual and audience data) call to action into the creative. For example, brands can use device data to direct iOS or Android users to the right app store, or by presenting a product as a good solution for an issue in the listener’s environment. This allows brands to take audio – traditionally considered an upper-funnel channel for driving brand awareness – and use it to drive lower-funnel actions, such as visits to a physical store, app store, or landing page. This evolution is possible thanks to dynamic creative.

For brands and agencies, AI provides efficient assistance in digital audio, the human team steers the brand in the right direction to meet its campaign goals, and the right tech partnership automates and streamlines delivery for all relevant creative variations, formats, and settings. This is the equation brands need to confidently dive into the thriving digital audio marketplace and truly connect with listeners.