Advertising through broadcast media has historically been the most effective means of delivering advertising messages to the greatest possible number of consumers. The goal of all marketers is  achieving action from the consumer, but the formula for measuring results of mass media advertising is a simple model of estimated audiences and is the same one used since the 1950s. This same model has also been adopted by much of the digital marketing world with popups and banner ads. As the thinking goes—run an ad many times and if enough people see it sales will go up. But sometimes, sales go down. And in either situation, no one definitively knows why. Until now.

The fundamental flaw of the old eyeballs/impression-based marketing formula is lack of response measurement. Frequency and reach is not always a true indicator of results or value for brands. Translated into the digital world, billboard-style impressions become just plain annoying. It also fails to close the loop and tell marketers the most important thing: are consumers actually acting on the ad through to purchase of the product or service advertised? Put simply: did the ad work or not?

Despite television retaining its top position, broadcast advertising still suffers from a one-directional communication model lacking in accurate analytics and it has paid the price, losing significant ad spend to digital cost-per-click models. Further compounding the challenge for TV and radio are technologies such as PVRs and mobile devices that have fundamentally disrupted linear consumption and the traditional broadcast advertising proposition. In the past, consumers were willing to put up with commercial interruptions during their favourite television shows, because they understood that the advertiser was funding the content they wanted to see; however, we now operate in a world of instant gratification for consumers. They now “time-shift” their television viewing experience to fast-forward through advertising, opting to move to a commercial-free uninterrupted viewing experience. This applies to digital too, where the proliferation of ad blockers show just how annoyed consumers have become by clutter and irrelevant ads. So how then do marketers deliver to consumers what they want, when they want it, without interrupting their content experience?

The key for marketers to be successful in this new online world is to not to simply duplicate old methods into a new digital paradigm, but rather to use technology to market to people in smart, meaningful ways and offer the right message at the right time to spur the right action.

Fortunately, the previously separate and distinct worlds of entertainment, broadcast and the Internet are now merging. This convergence of media, combined with exciting new methods of content recognition, such as audio watermarking (a unique silent code embedded right into broadcast audio) is offering marketers new ways to use the second screen to reach consumers with a more relevant meaningful message. Directly connecting the number one content medium (broadcast) to the number one place to take action (mobile) closes the ad loop for the first time and allows advertisers to measure the response of consumers and whether they take action on the message.

What does this mean for marketers?

  1. We can now expand Google-like internet analytics beyond digital to traditional consumer marketing touch points—television, radio, film, video games, live events and even retail experiences.
  2. We can measure who saw the message, how they responded and who they are demographically.
  3. We can utilize moment marketing, directing the right message to the right audience at the right time to get them to take the right action.
  4. We can avoid interruptive and intrusive forms of marketing based on profiling and better respect a consumer’s right to privacy.
  5. We can deliver a relevant message directly into the palm of the hand, based on what the brain is engaged in at an emotional moment.

One of the basic tenets of marketing is the fact that people make decisions emotionally and quickly, and then justify those decisions logically. Most of us have walked into a store and fallen quickly in love with a product: a pair of shoes, a gadget or piece of furniture. We instantly feel that desire to have it. Then the brain kicks in and we begin trying to determine if we have money to afford it, the place to put it, the closet space and so on.

By delivering the right kind of brand/advertising message at the moment that an individual is feeling an emotion, marketers are able to overcome the single biggest demand consumers have for both broadcast and digital advertising: relevancy. And by directly connecting a person’s entertainment to a marketing message received on their mobile phone, we can provide a call to action that is contextual, non-intrusive and completely actionable in the moment.

Here are just a few ways marketers can use audio watermarking to drive consumers to action and build positive brand awareness:

From 30 second spot to 15 minute engagement: During the Australian Open, KIA Motors Corporation leveraged audio watermarking technology in TV commercials aired during the tournament to connect directly to mobile phones of tech savvy car buyers watching at home. During a commercial, viewers used KIA’s Game On app on their mobile to try to return the serve of the world’s fastest server, Sam Groth, delivered onscreen.

Successful returns were entered into a leaderboard and each point entered the phone’s owner into a contest to win a KIA Cerato Koup Turbo car. Over 370,000 fans downloaded the app taking it to number one, used it 20 times and spent 15 minutes on average using the app to play the tennis game, resulting in a 79% more positive lift in brand sentiment and eight per cent increased car sales for KIA.

From product placement to consumer purchase: It’s long been an tactic of brands to place a product in a film or TV show to create brand association, but beyond estimated impressions it has been impossible to track consumer awareness, sentiment or resulting action from that placement. Using audio watermarking, in the moment when people see your product with an admired celebrity (think Oprah sipping on her Cinnamon Chai Tea Latte) a ‘smart’ message is sent to that individual’s mobile phone with a direct call to action (e.g. 2-for-1 coupon). Soft advertising is growing rapidly and connecting shows to mobile directly is enabling brands to drive sales directly.

From live experience to emotional brand connection: Using audio watermarking, fans tuning into the commercial free CBC broadcast of the Tragically Hip’s farewell concert could have received a ‘smart’ message on their mobile phone from Sunnybrook Foundation, inviting them to make a donation to the Gord Downie Fund for Brain Cancer Research. Giving audiences what they want, when they are emotionally engaged and motivated, delivers the instant satisfaction both brands and consumers seek.

From broadcast event to consumer purchase: To raise awareness of its new beer home delivery service, a Brazilian brewery can use audio watermarking to send a smart message to the mobile phones of viewers every time a promotional ad for the local football team runs. The smart message prompts them to place an order for beer now to be delivered just prior to the actual game. Connecting the online to offline world shows the benefit of the ongoing merger of broadcast and mobile.

Whether the goal is to drive consumers to purchase, to educate a buyer or build brand relationships, every marketer understands the power of being able to make a positive impression on their target audience. Delivering the right message at the right time, and being able to measure the outcome to know the campaign worked is now possible.

Audio watermarking now offers direct marketers immense potential to create meaningful, relevant ‘marketing moments’ that not only enhance consumer engagement, but also provides brands and clients with rich new data about those experiences and their outcomes, and measure the direct impact of every campaign dollar spent.

Think of it as a smarter way to use technology to engage audiences.


This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Direct Marketing magazine.

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Lloydmedia, Inc is based in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and is a multi-platform media company which delivers a total audience of more than 100,000 readers across four national magazines, three industry directories, and a range of events and online marketing.