News & Insights

Sonic Science: Data-fueled creative best practices for audio ads

Now that you’ve learned how music affects listeners’ subconscious and why podcasts are an important part of people’s daily lives, check out our guide for creating music ads and podcast ads that may help resonate with Spotify listeners—and drive results for your brand.

So, how exactly does audio affect the brain? We asked Spotify experts, neuroscientists, musicians, and podcasters to find out. Here’s what we learned.

Our research showed that 93% of the brain’s engagement with the content on Spotify is transferred directly into ad engagement.1 Which means that when people hear your ad on Spotify, they’re really listening. So it’s important that your ads match the tone and vibe of what your audience is streaming.

Read on for our data-fueled creative guidelines, tips, and tricks to take your audio creative further.

Podcast ads

Learn best practices for making podcast fans your fans.

The genre breakdown

From lighthearted comedy to intense true-crime dramas, different podcast genres stimulate different neurological responses in our brains. Celebrity Comedy podcasts, for example, engage the brain’s global memory centers, activating our past memories and creating new associations. Meanwhile, Self-Help and Relationships podcasts drive high emotional intensity. As for True Crime, our research found that these shows evoke a low emotional intensity, but high impact on memorability.2

When crafting your podcast campaigns, take a step back and ask: What’s the context for listeners hearing my ad? How will this ad sound differently to someone listening to a sports podcast recapping a major game, or someone getting caught up in an emotional episode of a relationship advice podcast? This uniquely intimate medium calls for special attention to ads. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Best practices for podcast ads

Podcast ads give brands a unique opportunity to reach highly engaged, highly attentive listeners as they settle into their favorite shows. Following these steps can help your brand land a good impression, from pre-roll to sign-off.

Choose the right format and length. Podcast ads have two primary creative formats: Host-Read ads, which are created and recorded by the show’s host, usually read in the style of the show; and Voice Talent ads, which are pre-recorded by an actor or producer and created just for the podcast environment. Both are effective for introducing your brand to new audiences, and convert them into fans over time.

Genre matters. If you’re planning your podcast campaign around certain shows or hosts, let the tone of the show inform the creative brief. Talking to sports fans? Go for a high-energy read to catch listeners’ attention. Thinking about sponsoring a self-help podcast? Try a gentle tone and low-key background music to avoid disrupting the moment.

Keep it conversational. Listeners should feel like they're hearing about your product or service from a friend. Use contractions, eliminate jargon, and write concisely with short, straightforward sentences. Focus less on grammar, and more on what will sound natural to the listener.

End with a call to action. Now that you’ve got their attention, end on a strong call-to-action to give listeners a next step or destination. Whatever you want users to do—whether it's visiting a website, listening to a podcast, or using an offer code or visiting a store—say it clearly. CTAs that encourage users to take a specific action tend to see the best performance.

Lead with trust. Spotify listeners are leaned-in and attentive to the podcast ads they hear—which means they have a strong ear for false claims. When writing your podcast ad, be mindful of legal requirements. Watch out for big promises or statistics that can’t be backed up within the ad itself. In other words: If there’s not enough time to properly explain or substantiate your claim, you might want to leave it out.

Music ads

The secret force behind your taste in music? Science. Understand how different types of music affect us, and how to craft music ads that match the tone of the moment.

The genre breakdown

Each musical genre generates a unique neuro-response in the brain. For example, our research found that Rap’s storytelling and lyrical details trigger high engagement and memory encoding—which might be why you still remember all the words to that one song you love. Meanwhile, Latin’s diverse sub-genres create an elevated experience, triggering all parts of the subconscious. Pop’s easy listening and balanced signature also provides a well-rounded experience. And Rock’s high instrumentalization, acoustic sounds, and energy create an emotionally rich experience.

Music is so much more than background noise. Our research found that people’s brains are highly attuned to the music they listen to, and are especially likely to pay attention to the ads they hear. Want to land your message without killing the vibe? Here are our top tips.

Best practices for your music ads

No matter what kind of ad formats you’re using on Spotify, following these tried-and-true rules will help give listeners a great experience—while helping advertisers reach their goals.

Context is everything. Listeners are more receptive to messaging when it matches their mood. Before you write, identify any targeting that will be used as part of the campaign. The best ads consider if the listener is a runner, a foodie ...or someone who is just trying to sleep. In fact, 75% of Spotify listeners say they remember ads more when the ads recognise their moment or setting.3

Tell a story with sound. Use music, sound effects, and ambient sound to paint a scene in the listener’s imagination. By doing so, you'll have a more interesting spot, and will also save precious word-count (and time) to describe things. Sound can be used before words. This isn’t radio or social video, so three-second rules don’t apply.

Transport listeners with 3D audio. Call it the “surround-sound” effect. Advertisers can use 3D audio to immerse listeners in an authentic virtual listening environment, creating a dynamic and sensory experience. When writing the script, focus on the sounds and sensations you want to cause. This experience is meant to help the listener feel the message more than hear it.

Time is precious. Be economical with words to avoid rushed ads. Aim for as few words as possible in the script to avoid breathless, non-stop voiceover. A slow cadence and well-timed pauses make listeners absorb more information. Your script should have at most four or five lines of voiceover, with no more than 60 words for :30.

Tell a story with multiple formats. Separately, audio and video ads on Spotify are proven to drive results for brands. But like the perfect background music with the right VO, they work even better together. Multiformat campaigns on Spotify can result in a 90% increase in ad recall and 2.2X in brand awareness.4 Combine the unique superpowers of audio and video formats based on your campaign objectives and messaging.

Whether you’re working directly with a Spotify team or using Ad Studio, our self-serve advertising platform, any business can create memorable campaigns that drive real business results. Reach out or sign up for Ad Studio to get started.

  1. Source: Neuro-Insight Power of Audio Post SST Survey, June 2021, N=273, % people agree with the statement
  2. Source: Neuro-Insight Power of Audio Post SST Survey, June 2021, N=273, % people agree with the statement
  3. Source: Key Moments Survey, Spotify Users A15-40, US, UK, DE, IT, SP, MX, BR, AU, October 2019 *answered top two boxes on a scale from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree
  4. Nielsen Brand Effect on Spotify, March 2020

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