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Recording and Creating Audio Ads

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Editor’s note: This is an update to a post originally published August 2016.

Want to Create an Online Radio Ad that Increases Sales?

Studies indicate that audio ads may be more effective than other forms of media, including traditional radio.

An independently commissioned study by internet radio giant, Pandora, found that when audio ads were integrated with participants’ personal music playlists, the ads impacted long-term memory 49 percent better than radio, 36 percent better than television, and 29 percent better than mobile video ads.


Considerations for Creating Audio Ads

Thanks to the availability of software, the affordability of professional recording equipment and the variety of places to host an online audio ad, it’s easier than ever to get your message out.

But when it comes to creating your own internet audio advertisements, there are a few things to keep in mind, including:

  • What creates a compelling audio ad
  • Technical specs for online audio ads
  • Audio production techniques and special effects
  • How to mix your audio so it sounds great on all devices

Audio Ad Channels

There are many different channels and applications that your audio ads can exist on. It’s estimated that 1.2 billion people used an audio streaming service across the globe in 2018.

Before we dive into the specifics on audio ads, it’s important we highlight what platforms that your audio ads can run on.


One of the original internet radio services, Pandora (also known as Pandora Radio), started in 2000.  

Pandora is still one of the top three most popular audio streaming platforms in the U.S.

Pandora offers the strongest lineup and variety of banner, video and audio ads for potential advertisers.


Spotify is an audio streaming platform that was started in Sweden in 2006.

Spotify is the most used audio streaming platform in the U.S., and has 217 million total users globally, with 100 million of those global users paying for subscriptions.

Google Play Music

Google Play Music is an audio streaming platform that Google launched in 2011. The platform had 21.9 million monthly users in the U.S., as of March 2018.

The platform is available in 63 countries and has a catalog of 40 million songs.


SoundCloud is an online audio distribution platform that lets users upload, share and promote their audio.

The platform was founded in 2007 and has 34.2 million monthly users in the U.S. as of March 2018.


TuneIn (also known as TuneIn Radio) is a U.S.-based audio streaming platform.

The platform was founded in 2002 and is based in San Francisco, California. As of 2019, TuneIn has 75 million global users.

Purchasing Audio Ads with Google

While each of these companies may offer ad buy directly through the platform, advertisers can also use Google Display & Video 360 to buy audio ads almost all of the popular streaming services mentioned above. Google Display & Video 360 is a one-stop hub to manage all your digital audio campaigns. Readers should also note that Apple Music doesn’t offer advertising.

Audio Ad Effectiveness

Ok, so you’re sensing audio ads may be important for your brand to prioritize, but wondering where the concrete data is to indicate just how effective they are?

Here are five fast facts to solidify your trust that audio ads will deliver a return on investment:

  1. Spotify reports that its audio ads generate 60% higher ad recall than more than 1,600 comparable online campaigns.
  2. Podcast listeners are more likely to take action after hearing an ad in their favorite podcast. 45 percent will visit the website, 42% consider a new product or service and 37% will gather more information about the product, according to The Interactive Advertising Bureau.
  3. 90 percent of audio streaming listeners choose ad-supported listening.
  4. Every single Spotify ad gets 100% share-of-voice. Also, 72% of weekly Spotify streams in the U.S. are by millennials.

Butler University tested Spotify to connect with their target demographic. Butler achieved 1.6 million impressions, over 700,000 audio plays and an audio completion listen-rate of 92%.

Top Audio Streaming Services

Here are the most listened to audio streaming services in the U.S. (all numbers are U.S. users):

  1. Apple Music: 49.5 million monthly users
  2. Spotify: 47.7 million monthly users
  3. Pandora: 36.8 million monthly users
  4. SoundCloud: 34.2 million monthly users
  5. Google Play Music: 21.9 million monthly users
  6. iHeartRadio: 19.9 million monthly users
  7. Amazon Music: 12.7 million monthly users
  8. Shazam: 10.6 million monthly users
  9. SiriusXM: 7.6 million monthly users
  10. TuneIn Radio: 6.6 million monthly users

Three Elements of a Compelling Audio Ad

While the method of distribution for audio ads has changed, from radio to online radio ads and in-stream audio advertising, what hasn’t changed – is what makes a great audio ad.

Here are three components of great ads:

1. Your Audio Ad Script Matches Your Brand Voice

Depending on your brand and the goal of your advertising, you may integrate cheeky language into your script, or opt for a no-nonsense approach. In the end, what matters most is that the words, phrasing and tone you choose to include match your brand voice, making your ad come across as authentic.

Bonus! Get scriptwriting inspiration for a wide variety of industries, with these voice over sample scripts.

2. Your Audio Ad Sounds and Music Create a Mood

Without visuals to rely on, the music, background sounds (e.g. Foley) or special effects you select all need to work together to convey the mood and setting of your commercial. This careful attention to detail can mean the difference between catching a listener’s attention, or fading into background noise.

For instance, if you’re a company that sells vacation packages, imagine how your target audience might be captured by the grating sound of an ice scraper on a car windshield – especially when juxtaposed with the sound of ice cubes clinking together in a fresh cold drink, as waves crash in the background.

3. Your Audio Ad Voice Over Forms an Emotional Connection

Often, casting directors will say that as they’re listening through auditions, when they find the right voice, they “just know.”

While this might seem like an oversimplification of the casting process, when you consider how important emotional connection is to capturing attention, it makes sense. When it comes to our emotions, we’re often moved by what we hear simply by hearing it. We don’t need to think over ‘why’ we’ve reacted, all we know is that the performance connected on a visceral level.

Chances are, if the voice over has caused you to pause and take notice, it will do the same for your audience.

However, writing a great script for radio, as well as casting, are both an art and science. Learn more about how to cast the right voice.

Specifications for Online Radio Ads

How Long Should an Audio Ad Be?

Typically, online audio ads follow the same timing constraints that radio ads do, and should be cut to either: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, or 30 seconds (not including any silence at the beginning or end of the file).

Tip: For many sites, the audio clips must be an exact length (e.g. as specified above). Even if you’re off by half a second, it could cause your ad to be rejected from a digital audio advertising network or other site.

What are the Technical Specs for Internet Audio Ads?

For most platforms that host or distribute your audio ad, the audio file should be .WAV or .MP3.

However, some sites may also require, or offer the option to provide, other collateral such as visuals. As an example, Spotify’s ad requirements go into detail on both the audio format, file naming conventions, and visuals.

Audio Production Techniques

Beef up the production by mixing in your show intro, imaging, and musical transitions. Remember when you wrote your ad copy? Try fading your background music in when your ad begins. Lower the volume level of the music when your announcer is speaking so that your listeners can hear every word they say. At the end of the ad, fade your background music out. Use musical transitions between the various segments of your ad. These musical transitions are known as bumpers, stages or sweepers.

Mixing Your Online Audio Ad

Your mix brings the vision for your finished ad to life, and is essential to helping your content to convert. A good mix will hook a listener in a way that’s seamless, holding their attention from start to finish, as well as maintaining a consistency between other audio ads in your campaign. In short, it’s what makes your brand sound like your brand – and on that note, any track that contains voice over deserves meticulous attention.

Get some mixing tips and tricks in Mixing Your Podcast.

Testing Your Online Radio Ad Before Distribution

One of the best ways to test your online radio ad is simply to listen to it on a variety of stereo systems such as your computer speakers, headphones, mobile phones and mobile phones with the speakerphone enabled.

And of course, it can be very helpful to have a colleague lend their ears to the process as well, too. Often, we can become accustomed to what we’re hearing so it can be useful to see if other people pick up audio anomalies that we may have missed.

In the end, if your mix translates well from device to device, feedback is positive, and the ad meets the technical requirements for your distribution channel – you know that you’ve created an excellent work of art.

Now all that’s left is to release your ad into the world!

Do You Have Experience Creating Audio Ads?

If you’ve ever created, or voiced an online radio ad, please share your experience!

What worked well?

What challenges did you have to overcome?

We’d love to hear all about it, in the comments below.

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