ARCHIVES: This is legacy content from before Industry Dive acquired Mobile Marketer in early 2017. Some information, such as publication dates, may not have migrated over. Check out the new Mobile Marketer site for the latest mobile marketing news.

Marketers miss out with mobile radio ads lacking call to action

Marketers are missing an opportunity to connect with an historic majority of Americans who now tune in to Internet radio news, sports talk and music services via mobile, by failing to serve ads that contain a clear call to action.

For the first time since Edison Research began tracking Internet behavior in 1998, 53 percent of Americans 12 and over, or about 143 million people, listened in February to some kind of online radio. The lack of a call to action in ads points to marketers? lack of innovation in reaching growing listenership in ever-popular Internet-only streaming services such as Pandora or Spotify, and the online streams of AM/FM radio stations.

?Way too many audio ads fail to consider a call to action that involves the phone itself,? said Larry Rosin, president of Edison Research, Somerville, NJ.

?With so much data showing that 70 percent or more of online audio is being consumed on mobile, it seems the ads should acknowledge the environment more ? for example, ?Look at the app and click on the item now on your screen.?  

?It seems a waste to just run an ad when one could do more,? he said.

Overcoming obstacles
Edison Research?s 2015 Infinite Dial study interviewed 2,002 randomly selected people aged 12 and up between Jan. 6 and Feb. 9 about their use of digital platforms and new media. 

Research shows various obstacles have been thrown in the way of advertisers getting involved with online audio, but those are rapidly going away.  

Voice-activated NPR mobile radio ad.

?Smart marketers seem to flow naturally to the locations where they can reach your consumers, and increasingly online audio is a great way to do that,? Mr. Rosin said. ?Also, audio ads are really effective and have great standards for delivery. They are easily the most effective form of ads in the smartphone environment.?

But many advertisers mistakenly focus on the graphics and touch engagement, even though data shows the screen is not accessible 79 percent of the time when an audio ad is playing. 

One of the bright spots has been NPR?s Interactive Audio Ads that allow consumers to engage with advertisements by using their voice. 

For example, a Mack Avenue Records? ad on the public radio network allowed mobile users to say, ?Listen now,? to hear a sample of a song by Cecile McLorin Salvant and afterward they could speak again to purchase the track. 

?This created both listener engagement and commerce opportunities and it was all hands free, eyes free, driven only by voice and audio engagement,? said Pat Higbie, CEO of XAPPmedia.

?Marketer innovation has been slow, but that is largely due to lack of capabilities provided by most of the Internet radio services. The only options are often audio ads with visual tile engagements,? he said. 

?A couple of services offer video as well, but we expect to see a lot more options for advertisers in 2015. The irony is that NPR is the leader right now in advertising innovation for Internet radio,? he said.

Marketers need to recognize the massive opportunity that exists in audio ? both online and broadcast ? that can deliver on their goals.  

?At iHeartMedia we have seen that the level of interest and innovation is definitely increasing, but there is so much more we can do,? said Tim Castelli, president of national sales, marketing and partnerships for iHeartMedia.

?Audio is a unique tool in mobile marketing and brands aren't taking full advantage of radio overall ? both online and broadcast. 

?Radio is a proven, high quality marketing vehicle with high-value return on investment,? he said. ?With consumer listening to nearly three hours of radio a day ? 10 percent digital, 90 percent broadcast ? there is a massively under-leveraged opportunity for marketers to connect with people through their ears.?  ?

Marketers are starting to wake up to Internet radio?s reach and favorable demographics. 

In XAPPmedia?s Internet Radio Ad Load Report ? Holiday 2014, researchers identified 101 different advertisers and a broad cross-secton of industries using Internet radio between November and January. 

Retailers accounted for 20 percent, food and beverage 12 percent, media/entertainment/gaming 12 percent, restaurants 10 percent and automotive eight percent. 

Ideal medium
Online radio is ideal for mobile advertising because audio advertising scales automatically across the gamut of mobile platforms. Worries about the device or screen size are unnecessary. 

Venerable NPR is leader in mobile radio ad innovation.

?Audio is a one-size-fits-all mobile infotainment medium,? Mr. Higbie said. 

?This is particularly important because mobile users spend close to two hours per day listening to online radio while ultramobile ? driving, walking, exercising or working ? when audio is often the only medium for advertises to reach mobile consumers. 

?And with interactive audio ads it?s an entirely new opportunity for engagement,? he said.

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York