What Is Digital Audio Advertising [& How to Boost Your Audio Advertising Strategy]

by Jordan Bentley in
advertising growth chart

Audio advertising used to be limited to radio ads, but with the explosion of digital media programs and products, digital audio advertising has found a home in streaming audio, podcasts, smart speakers, and so much more. 

Learn what digital audio advertising is, and how it can boost your advertising strategy.

What Is Digital Audio Advertising? 

Digital audio advertising allows businesses to share their voice with their customers through digital media. This can strengthen a brand’s personality and voice by creating a personal connection between the customer and the brand. 

The most popular form of digital audio advertising is in the commercials and advertisements on media streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, or iHeartMedia, but it can be included across a variety of programs, apps, and websites.

The History of Audio Advertising

Audio advertising started with radio advertising. This was a breakthrough in marketing because up to that point the only other option for mass-market advertisements was print media. Audio advertising gave companies the ability to reach and interact with their target audience in real-time. 

Radio advertising showed up in more than just the advertisement breaks in the middle of a program. They came in the form of catchy jingles, humorous messages, and program sponsorships to help companies communicate with their audience. Many of the same strategies and best practices applied to radio advertising are the groundwork for digital audio advertising.

Radio vs. Digital Audio Advertising

Both radio and digital audio ads provide a human touch to a business. Customers can see a bit of the brand voice and personality and establish a relationship.

The biggest difference between radio and digital audio advertising is where they are located. While some of the advertising strategies are similar, radio advertising is limited to the radio airwaves, while digital audio advertising covers a wide range of online and digital ads.

The Cost of an Ad

The exact cost of a campaign can change depending on which audience you target and how long you want your campaign to run. The more listeners you reach, the more expensive an ad will be. Most campaigns will run multiple times per day for weeks, which can quickly add up to a high budget. A radio ad campaign can run anywhere from $200 to $5,000 a week depending on location and the time of the spot. In more competitive markets, you can expect to pay more. 

A major strength of digital audio advertising is that instead of reaching all listeners, a marketing campaign can target a specific demographic. This allows businesses to connect to their potential customers in a personalized way. This can create deeper customer loyalty with your brand. 

Types of Digital Audio Advertisements

Digital audio advertisements come in different forms that can play different roles in an advertising campaign. Here are six of the most commonly used types of digital audio advertisements. 

Cross-Device Audio

Cross-device targeting is when a business tries to identify and deliver ads to a specific audience across all of their devices. The goal is for your advertisement to appear as a consistent message no matter if listeners are using their desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, or smart speaker. Developing a holistic omnichannel strategy will help create a smooth unified voice from your company that your customer can interact with no matter which device they use. 

Display Ads

Display ads are more than just traditional banner ads. It is possible to use rich media, like audio, to enrich the ad which helps draw the customer’s attention towards it and increase conversion rates. 

Sponsored Sessions

No one likes having their favorite podcast or listening session interrupted by an ad, and sponsored sessions are the solution to that. If a customer chooses to interact with your ad, they can unlock 30 minutes of uninterrupted listening. This gives you a chance to interact with your target audience. Your audience will also see your brand as the reason they are able to enjoy their audio uninterrupted, which can improve your brand image. 


Takeovers take over the app or program you are advertising with. Takeovers disable options to mute, skip, or fast forward through your ad which ensures it will be viewed by the customer. Generally, video ads are used more often in a takeover, but it is possible to deliver an audio ad with a static image in the same way.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored content allows your brand to engage with your demographic without having to interrupt what they were already watching or doing. It creates native content that looks and feels natural to what your audience is already experiencing. 

Voice-activated Ads

Digital home assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant, and Apple’s Siri allow consumers to speak to interact with an audio ad. This gives companies the chance to ask if a customer wants to hear or learn more and get a direct verbal response. 

Host Read vs. Traditional Recorded Ad

Traditional recorded advertisements are what you would expect when your favorite radio station goes on a commercial break. In contrast to this is the host read. 

Host reads are when the host or DJ reads a script about a product. A host read isn’t part of an advertising break but is part of their normal program. Generally, a listener will feel more connected to a host read because it’s a voice they recognize and trust. The biggest risk of using a host read is the lack of control you have over the way your advertising copy is read. Emphasis on the wrong part of a sentence, a stutter, or a mispronounced word can change how your audience sees your brand. 

Dynamic Ads

Dynamic audio ads change in order to adapt to each user that listens to them. Dynamic ads optimize triggers like location, weather, and time of day to make sure the right message is shared with the right listener at the right time. This allows you to hyper-personalize your audio advertisements by utilizing rich listener data.

15 Second Ads vs. 30 Second Ads

It used to be that all audio ads were 60 seconds, but in 2005 the audio advertising landscape changed with 30 and 15-second audio ads. These shorter length ads cost less to run, making it even more affordable for all business types to run an audio campaign, and are perfect for companies with short, concise, messages that don’t take long to share. Tight, powerful ads may be hard to create and write, but they are worth the effort. 

Pros and Cons of Using Digital Audio Advertisements


  • Obligatory Listeners - Unlike other digital ads that can be scrolled past, blocked, or ignored, digital audio advertisements require the audience to listen. This ensures that your ad is heard and your brand is getting exposure
  • Wide Reach - Streaming services have steadily grown in their reach and there are a growing number of users who use some sort of digital audio service. 
  • Personality - Audio advertisements allow you to showcase your brand voice. They let you create a point of engagement with your customers which can leave a more lasting and memorable impression than traditional print media. 
  • In-Depth Targeting - With digital advertising, you can target very specific demographics and locations. Understanding the interests of specific demographics lets you target audio ads that are more likely to interest your audience, which provides a better return on your investment. 


  • Attribution - Due to restrictions in programming and tracking, it can be difficult to attribute a rise in customers or traffic directly to digital audio ads. Because users do not want to interrupt what they are doing while they are listening to a streaming program, it can be hours or days after they hear the ad that they go to a website or buy a product.

Which Platforms Are Marketers Spending Their Digital Ad Dollars On? 

With the growth of digital streaming services and podcasts, there has been a steady growth of audio ads. The online advertising sector has seen double-digit growth for more than two decades. Between Q1 2019 and Q1 2020, there was a 12% increase in advertising revenues with roughly $31.4 billion being invested in digital advertising. 

With the growth of traditional digital advertising, there has also been an increase in digital audio ads. It is estimated that US digital audio ad spending will reach $3.72 billion in 2020. While digital audio advertising revenue is steadily growing, local radio advertising revenues have dropped and it is estimated that revenue will only be $12.8 billion

Where Does Digital Ad Revenue Go? 

There are a growing number of digital services where you can advertise. Here are some of the most popular ones.

  • AM/FM Online Service

Many radio stations provide options to listen to live broadcasts digitally. As part of their digital streaming service, they can choose to either duplicate their existing traditional radio campaigns or have exclusive digital audio advertising spots. 

  • iHeartRadio

iHeartMedia, one of the biggest over-the-air radio companies, announced that its digital platform, iHeartRadio, earned $92.8 million in the first quarter of 2020, up 22.2%, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reported that the platform “has worked hard to integrate into as many spaces as possible” in 2020, including hotel rooms, wearables, and Facebook Messenger.

  • Pandora

In 2019 Pandora’s advertising revenue grew to $1.2 billion. Pandora was one of the initial streaming services, but over the years other companies have been able to take small chunks of the streaming market away from Pandora. In 2020, Pandora has almost 63.5 million active users

  • Spotify

Spotify is estimated to be receiving somewhere between $650 and $700 million from advertising. While their annual revenue is smaller, they do hold a larger market in online streaming, with over 320 million active users.

  • Apple Music

Apple Music has over 68 million subscribers but has been tight-lipped about how many free users are on their platform. 

  • Amazon Music

With over 55 million customers, Amazon music brings in about $10.1 billion from advertising. 

  • Deezer

While it is a lesser-known streaming service in the US, Deezer is popular in Europe and internationally. It has 14 million users as well as annual advertising revenue of around $400 million. 

  • Podcasts

With the variety of forms and ways podcasts are distributed it is a bit more difficult to track, but it is estimated that in 2019 there was roughly $708 million in advertising, and it is estimated that the one billion dollar mark will soon be reached. 

Why Use Audiohook?

Unlike our competitors, Audiohook has a unique platform for you to manage and maintain your audio advertisements. Here are a few things that help us stand out from the crowd. 

Attribution Tracking

Attribution tracking lets you map your customer’s journey. You’re able to follow their progress through the sales funnel at various touchpoints. Audiohook allows you to track and add triggers where you need them. Without attribution tracking, you won’t know where your ad campaign is losing customers to determine where you can improve. 

Less Expensive

Compared to our competitors, Audiohook brings you more bang for your buck. You don’t need an overly expensive or bulky program to get the job done right. 

Advanced Market Targeting 

We help you reach the right customer at the right place with the right message. Rather than wasting your budget by reaching out to broad markets, Audiohook helps you reach out to your niche target market to help improve conversion rates. 

Robust API

The application programming interface (API) is the behind-the-scenes power that makes an application or program perform just the way you want it. Think of an API like your waiter at a restaurant. The API takes what you have asked for, delivers that request to the system, and then once the results are found or created, delivers what you requested. Audiohook provides a robust API that is both flexible and reliable. 

More Publishers

Audiohook works with more publishers, giving you a broad reach. You don’t need to have a different program for each campaign or publisher, you can get it all done in one place with Audiohook.

5 Key Takeaways

  • Audio ads provide a personal connection with a brand.
  • Audio advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry. 
  • Traditional radio ads are still popular, but digital advertising is steadily growing. 
  • Audio ads don’t have to be expensive.
  • Digital audio advertising is able to reach customers at all points in the customer journey. 

Audiohook Can Help

Audiohook enables marketers to unlock digital audio as a new advertising channel. It has built-in tools that help you measure and attribute digital audio to build new growth. Sending audio messages is just as easy as sending an email. You provide the text, and we’ll handle the rest. Within 24 hours, we’ll provide you a link to hear your audio message. Audiohook can integrate with more than 2,000 applications to help you automate and manage digital audio.

 Learn more about how Audiohook can help your company by scheduling your live demo today.

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