As part of the WARC x Spotify “Getting your brand heard” report, Tobias de Bont, MD and Partner at De Bont Consulting Group, shared his perspective on the future of digital audio within the telco industry, plus how it can be applied at various stages of the marketing funnel.

Headshot of Tobias de Bont

Tobias de Bont, MD and Partner, De Bont Consulting Group

What are the main goals and KPIs that marketers in the European telco space are looking to achieve?

I think it’s about numbers, numbers, numbers! As a marketer, the eye is on delivering sales and getting the right cut-through in the market. Brand awareness is also important. But then again, it's about looking at the whole funnel and the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action) process. You need to fill that funnel and ensure predictable results from your marketing efforts.

How are you finding scale and targeting falling into these different objectives and metrics that the marketers are being asked to achieve?

It depends on what kind of business you are in. In a B2B environment, it’s relatively easier to target an audience because you know them and it's a more select audience. It's also easier to identify potential customers.

In B2C, however, there are a few unknowns and the market is a lot bigger. Hence, you reach a lot of people potentially with your marketing efforts.

It's sometimes a little less predictable but at the end of the day, it's still a numbers game in both cases. A look at the funnel shows marketers how important it is to acknowledge what a customer is doing, which buying phase they’re in, etc. That’s especially true in consumer markets because you need to have big numbers at the start of the funnel. This is to get significant numbers out of new buyers and even for retention.

How are marketers translating some of those goals into their selection of different media channels? And what processes are you seeing from those teams?

The media selection depends on the audience. But then again, if you focus purely on the consumer market, you will look first at the media that reaches the biggest audience chunk. Since that is really important, TV is still big.

Online, though, is big as well. We already know it's really difficult to find a target group for digital; you need to have diverse strategies to get the right volume. It’s really easy to lose money on one or two particular social media networks. You also end up losing out on the bigger picture.

It's also about where you are in the customer journey – how fast you can penetrate the market and the budgets. If you look at a consumer company, for instance, you mainly look at TV and online. But if you are a little bit further down the road, you can focus a bit more on your premises – your website or others which are familiar with your product. You can understand what is contributing to your sales mix.

A look at more mature companies shows a shift in their general media selection. This is because they know that certain channels are potentially not delivering additional sales.

How is experimentation around media selection playing out in terms of planning and within budget processes?

The good news is that those dynamics become more fluid. Budgets were fairly rigid in the past. If you had a 10 million budget you simply had to stick to it. That's changing now. If you look into those dynamics, you’ll see that financial business partners help out marketers quite a bit. They point out how, if there's a real pocket of growth, those opportunities can be maxed out without having to answer too many questions.

There’s another shift now, though, which I think will reverse soon. Media buying is shifting in-house, at the moment. These kinds of businesses will be outsourced again in a couple of years, however. This is because, in most companies, including larger corporations, those departments are never big enough to keep up with market developments. Even the best marketer will be awful after three years if they are on their own.

How are you seeing the evolution of the products and services within telco affecting media selection over time?

You will see a massive shift to online. But then again, you need to have the old media as well for quick penetration. Shops will never stop existing and people will always like to see and take demonstrations of how things work.

There will also be a shift to service-oriented experiences – in particular, offline experiences – to see what the actual effects are. There will be more product demonstrations, not just in real life but also virtually, where customers can actually try products.

We will also see a lot of freemium products – try first and then buy. I think Spotify is offering this, for example. Having said that, a lot of companies don’t offer products for free anymore; they believe their product is at a level where people need to pay for it.

What are you seeing as the preferred media channels at the moment within this industry?

In telco, the most preferred channels are the online and traditional ones like TV, which is also a big trust-builder. You need to ensure that you hit upon a big audience. Doing cross-media campaigns helps with penetrating a market; a lot of people believe if you have the money for TV, then you're trustworthy.

We've got the death of the third-party cookie looming large for us. How do you think that's affecting this space and the media selection?

People need cookies for times they aren’t sure if a visitor, who is showing some interest in their product or service, is actually targetable.

If you are making use of sanity checks, design thinking, putting the customer first and being real and sincere, then I think there isn’t a lot of reason for customers to disbelieve you. Authentic brands don’t need tracking cookies anymore. You know the number of followers who are interested in what they see on your website and in what you’re communicating to the market.

Tracking cookies aren’t the Holy Grail. One can make mistakes even with them. For example, you never know if the customer already bought the product through your competitor’s website but you might still be targeting them.

Within the telco space, how are you seeing audio being used within the marketing mix?

I worked with Vodafone for quite a while and we started giving Spotify subscriptions to our premium customers. And I think this was stimulating a lot of users and was also triggering retention. On the other hand, it's not a cheap product. So if you have it in place as a giveaway, it can cost you a lot. And if you stop offering it, customers potentially leave.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of audio as a medium?

One thing I notice about OTT or content companies is that they are too involved with their competition. Most of the time, if you ask for exclusivity, you can shrink your potential market. If a supplier has everything, most of the time it helps them with getting a bigger chunk of a bigger market.

I’ve seen that 95% of customers will move regardless of what you offer. If they really want what you offer, of course.

If we're looking towards the future of how audio might operate within the media plans within the European telco market, what do you think is on the rise and what do you think is the future then for audio?

Integrators are not yet here, but I think they’re definitely for the future. This can allow us to have all kinds of OTT players on one app. So you have Audible from Amazon, and another podcast app, along with the Spotify app. That will help a lot.

Recently, I saw a lot of people moving from a paid subscription to a free subscription. And also, more people will combine subscriptions with friends and family in the future. These subscriptions could amount to probably 50 Euros or Pounds for the contract, but then they can be used by five people instead of one using it for €10.

I think audio is on the rise and radio has been completely replaced by these kinds of streaming apps. These apps let you listen to music in your own moment.