Radiocentre is encouraging media planners to progress beyond reach and frequency, and adopt a more sophisticated need-states-based approach to audio planning.

Based on prevailing opinion featured in written pieces and on conference platforms, it would be easy to assume that the future of effective media planning is entirely reliant upon new technological developments that profess to provide ever-greater precision of targeting (and therefore assumed effectiveness) via, for example, personal data, AI, context, and (visual) attention. My sense is that – underpinning and/or fuelled by this – there’s a growing consensus within the advertising industry that machines are becoming better at media planning than people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying that data and technology play an important role in effective deployment of media budgets – where, for example, would we be without Binet and Field’s seminal The Long and the Short of It, and their numerous follow-up analyses?

My concern, though, is that somewhere along the way we’ve begun to lose sight of the fact that we’re trying to connect with, and affect, real people – broad groups of disparate individuals with distinct lives and motivations – whose behaviour doesn’t always conform to the expectations of our somewhat rarefied media planning community.

In my view, device-based personal data – while valuable for some optimisation tasks – lacks nuance and struggles to provide advantage-gaining insight for planning individual campaigns, especially when used in isolation.

Generation Audio: A new study

This is one of the reasons why Radiocentre’s latest research study Generation Audio set out to move audio insight on from just numbers on a page to reveal the real thoughts, feelings, and faces of those who matter most – the listeners. This was gleaned from a deep-dive auto-ethnographic qualitative project, recruiting 20 listeners to capture every moment they listened to audio across a week, explaining how and why they were listening, by videoing themselves on their smartphones.

The ‘audio moments database’ that was created from this consisted of over seven hours of video footage capturing the motivations behind each of 397 individual audio listening occasions. This was used to explore if and how the audio need-states we originally identified in 2014 had evolved. The outputs were also crucial in developing the questionnaire for the quantitative phase of the project.

For this we recruited 1,000 weekly commercial audio listeners to fill in a one-week diary recording specific data about each individual listening occasion they participated in across the week. This captured information relating to a total of almost 11,000 listening occasions, representing a total of just under half a million minutes of commercial listening. This robust and credible dataset allowed us to quantify the scale of individual need-states and the role of different audio formats within them.

Beyond highlighting the impressive headline growth in (and critical mass of) commercial audio listening, this dual-pronged study provides an opportunity for advertisers to re-centre, focus on the listener, and really understand what audiences seek from audio – and how advertising can benefit. We hope that, by placing people at its heart, the research will encourage media planners to progress beyond just reach and frequency to adopt a more sophisticated need-states-based approach to audio planning which, combined with aligned creative strategies, will help enhance overall campaign performance.

As lead singer of The Clash, Joe Strummer, used to claim: “Without people, you’re nothing!” Our experience in producing this study suggests that mantra would be well-worth adopting by the media planning community too, especially when it comes to getting the most from audio advertising.