Digital Audio

Looking to Generate Attention? Audio Ads Outperform Visuals.

Melissa Paris, Vice President, Sales Research & AnalyticsAug 24, 2023

A new study from dentsu and Lumen Research proves that audio ads not only grab audience attention, but they also exceed benchmarks for visual ads.

Attention is a topic that’s been top of mind for agencies and marketers alike for some time now—and over the past few years, it’s really become quite the buzzword. It’s the subject of endless think pieces among the advertising community, and it even spawned its own dedicated research conference.

Until now, attention research has been limited to visual media, relying heavily on techniques like eye-tracking to determine whether consumers’ eyes were literally on the ads they were being exposed to. The beauty of audio ads is that no visual component is needed. They reach listeners right in their ears, allowing them to paint a picture of an ad in their minds. Thanks to years of ad effectiveness studies, we know that audio advertising has a great impact on listeners and successfully drives business results. However, we had not been able to prove that audio ads drive attention in the same way that visual ads can—until now.

Measuring Attention for Audio Ads

We’re happy to report that those days are behind us. We can now confidently prove that audio ads excel at driving attention and brand outcomes—by employing standard attention metrics that have been used to measure other media. For the past five years, dentsu has been leading in the attention space through its Attention Economy offering, which now represents a large database of research across TV, online video, social media, and display ads, allowing dentsu to compare each channel’s impact on key datapoints.

In their latest round of research, dentsu and Lumen Research teamed up with key leaders in the audio industry, including SXM Media, to measure attention in audio formats through consistent methodology and equivalent metrics that have been used for visual media. These groundbreaking, first-to-market studies dove into podcasts, streaming music, and radio environments. 

Audiences Pay More Attention to Audio Ads

The results speak for themselves—in a nutshell, audio for the win! The studies showed that audio ads excel at generating active attention time and driving brand lifts. Audio ads drove over 10,000 average attentive seconds per 1,000 impressions (or APM)—more than 50% higher than the Attention Economy benchmark across video, TV, social, and display. Podcasts are particularly attention-grabbing, driving the highest APM across audio formats and across the Attention Economy database.

Audio ads exceed attention benchmarks

Audio Ads Work Harder for Brands

What does that heightened attention do for a brand? It allows their ads to work harder and produce even stronger results. Looking at brand recall, audio formats garnered an average brand recall of 41%, higher than the 38% benchmark seen across visual ads. Audio ads also drove an average brand choice uplift of 10%, much higher than the 6% benchmark. 

Audio ads make a bigger impression than visual ads

Audio Ads Make a Cost-Effective Impact

Not only do audio ads drive both attention and brand lifts, but they do so in a cost-effective way. Looking at The Attention Economy’s measure of efficiency, attention cost per 1,000 impressions (or aCPM), audio formats can be an incredibly effective channel for advertisers to generate attention. For example, podcasts had an aCPM of $2.80, proving to be more cost-efficient than the benchmark of $4.30.

This research is an incredible win for the audio industry, validating years of campaign measurement studies and consumer insights work to unequivocally prove that audio ads are not only effective and impactful, but they are also superior at generating active attention relative to other forms of media. Our hope is that these new proof points will help to close the bafflingly wide gap that still exists between the share of media time that consumers spend with audio (31%) and the share of advertising spend that is devoted to audio (9%).

As we continue to expand dentsu’s Attention Economy database, we’re thrilled to be turning up the volume on our research by looking at attention in audio for the first time ever. It’s incredible to see the unique strengths of different audio formats validated by our audio Attention Economy studies, further proving the valuable opportunities for marketers in this space.

Kelsey Tyson, VP of Global Partnerships at dentsu

Are you ready to close the gap in both ad spend and audience attention? Let’s talk about audio.

Study Methodology: Respondents were exposed to listening environments that were similar to the native experiences for each audio format. Listeners were given a choice of content across genres and exposed to standard ad loads that featured messages from a variety of brands across verticals. After listening to an hour of ad-supported podcasts, radio, or streaming music, respondents completed detnsu’s Attention Economy survey, which captured metrics like ad recall and brand choice in comparison to a control group. Based on the survey and passive listening data, Lumen Research was able to model an attention score equivalent to what has been captured for visual media.


  • 1.

    dentsu and Lumen Research, with SXM Media and other participants, Audio Attention Economy Study, 2023. Attention Economy benchmarks are continuously updated as the database grows – benchmarks referenced here are from the time of the audio studies’ release.

  • 2.

    WARC, The Investment Gap: Understanding the Value of Audio, 2021

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