Online audio ads still risky business

Despite all the hype about Web radio, there are still some tricky issues associated with online audio ads....

Despite all the hype about Web radio, there are still some tricky issues associated with online audio ads.

The price of advertising online is comparable to FM, but according to Sebastian Royce, creative director at London, Eng.-based digital ad agency, there are many variables to mull over, such as the quality of sound and the level of speakers at the user end. ‘Are you going to lead them to adjust their speakers [before an ad plays]?’ he asks. ‘These things have to be taken into consideration.’

For one thing, he points out, unless there is a prerecording available, advertisers must be willing to hire voiceover actors and invest in the production of an ad. Because they can’t control quality on the consumer end, some think they can get away with recruiting non-professionals to read copy. ‘[Clients] don’t realize that if they come up with a unique piece of dialogue, they can’t [have people] just read off sentences. It doesn’t work.’

Another catch-22, he says, is that it’s virtually impossible to produce an ad that has sound and is also effective graphically, because quality, consistent streaming requires the lowest possible file size. ‘You can’t have [both] a fantastic looking banner, as well as loads of sound,’ he admits. ‘We’re fighting to keep file size down by compressing everything as much as we can, but it’s tricky.’

One option is to keep the image simple, or even static. According to Scott Pederson, senior marketing manager at Seagram Canada, the graphics featured in the brand’s Frost Cooler Vodka promotion on, created by TBWA Chiat/Day, were purposefully uncomplicated. Internally, the first reaction was that they weren’t rich enough. ‘But not being able to control the type of technology people have, we had to keep it simple,’ he explains. ‘That was intentional, because there is an irritant factor when it comes to long loading times.’

Seagram also wondered whether implementing Vokens technology, which allows graphics to float across the Web page, would aggravate users. However, it was decided that the target, young women, would more likely be curious than annoyed. ‘Maybe six months from now, people will be sick of Vokens like they’re sick of banners, but because we were one of the first ones out there, we didn’t think that it would be a concern.’

However, Royce generally suggests marketers target the highest common denominator, especially when it comes to the youth demographic, which tends to be more predisposed to having the latest technology. ‘We’re always encouraging people to push the envelope and [be] more interactive, otherwise you won’t end up with any cutting-edge creative.’