Video may have killed the radio star, but audio is fighting back. The medium is undergoing a technology-inspired renaissance, and is slowly becoming an ever-present texture in daily life.

Consumers demand hands-free, screen-free content to fit in with their busy lives. Commuters devour podcasts through headphones on the way to work and, at home, use smart speakers as a quick and easy alternative to text search.

This has a profound impact on brands. With consumers ever-more distracted by visual clutter, companies like HSBC are investing in sonic branding architecture, to ensure they cut through at all stages of the customer journey – from high street branches and mobile apps to ATMs and payment terminals.

However, there is significant room for error. Tactical audio content decisions can result in lasting damage, while the podcast market presents a tricky ecosystem for advertisers to navigate. And consumers are sceptical of voice content which adds little but further ‘noise’ to their lives.

In this edition of Admap, we present eight articles by experts from across the globe with knowledge and advice on the evolving audio landscape.

Tom Webster, Senior Vice President at Edison Research, outlines Four obstacles podcasting must tackle to take its seat at media’s top table. While Edison’s own ‘Infinite Dial’ research shows that more than half of Americans have listened to a podcast, the market faces a number of challenges if it is to win over unconvinced consumers, including a shortage of music-related content and the continued dominance of AM/FM radio in cars.

Alarmed by a decline in brand value, HSBC instigated a global brand refresh, including the introduction of a new sonic identity. In Using sound to create a 360-degree brand experience, Andrea Newman, HSBC’s Global Head of Brand, explains why audio is increasingly vital to reaching consumers – and how the bank ended up working with electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre.

Yet the path to audio branding success is littered with examples of advertisers who have got it wrong. In Sonic Branding: finding your brand’s voice in the age of audio, Michele Arnese, Founder and Global CEO of AMP, reveals the results of the agency’s first ‘Audio Brand Ranking’, and explains why even some of the best-performing companies like McDonald’s and Intel are guilty of inefficient short-termism.

China is leading the world in its adoption of voice, with 77% of Chinese smartphone users already using voice-activated technology. Tim Doherty, Head of Creative Solutions and Innovation at Dentsu Aegis Network China, explores How China is finding its voice, and why the introduction of WeChat’s voice assistant Xiaowei may prove to be a game-changer.

Consumers around the world are experimenting with new methods of discovery, including voice, visual and ‘vertical’ search – the latter referring to search on specialist platforms, such as ASOS for fashion and for travel. In Beyond the search bar: When brands should tune into voice in tomorrow’s shifting search landscape, Sophie Harding, Trends and Futures Director at Mindshare UK, advises what this means for brands’ search marketing strategies.

With over 10% of British households now owning at least one smart speaker device, consumer expectations in the age of voice technology are becoming a vital consideration for all advertisers. Citing evidence from a joint study with IAB UK, ‘Finding your voice’, Ipsos MORI’s Lamberto Ferrara, Semiotics Expert and SRE for Media & Tech, and Joe Roberts-Walker, Senior Research Executive for Media & Tech, offer insights into consumers’ ‘utopian’ and ‘dystopian’ visions of the future of voice.

Mark Barber MBE, Planning Director at Radiocentre, and Heather Andrew, CEO of Neuro-Insight UK, discuss their recent joint study, Hear and now – how situational relevance can bolster radio ad effectiveness. They argue that hearing ads in a relevant moment – such as a recipe ad when carrying out tasks in the kitchen – can boost both engagement and memory encoding.

The opportunities for brands to deliver for tailored messages have been boosted by developments in programmatic audio. In his article, Oliver Deane, Director of Commercial Digital at Global, details Programmatic audio: Past, present and future, including the new data sets guiding digital audio campaigns, and the potential for cross-device targeting.

WARC subscribers can access a deck summarising the expertise and insights from all our contributors.