Ad Creative

Secrets Behind Award-Winning Audio Advertising

Studio ResonateJun 6, 2024

Award-winning advertising often goes hand in hand with effective ad creative. If you want to increase the chance of your campaign winning on the awards stage and in the market, it’s helpful to examine the common threads between the two. To help us connect those dots, our Sonic Strategy Director, Steve Keller, asked industry experts what strategies and tactics were most ubiquitous amongst award-winners.

We’ve translated their responses (reported in this AdWeek article) into a set of actionable tips and best practices that will help you craft your own accolade-worthy advertising. 

Find an Emotional Connection

Audio advertising is memorable when it has a high level of emotional engagement with listeners. Advertisers form branded memory structures and positive emotions when they tell powerful stories. 

To make your campaign impactful, concentrate on telling a story that resonates with your audience. Use characters, dialogue, and narratives that listeners relate to on a personal level. Lean into creative ideas that can gradually help build deeper connections with your audience. 

Stand Out

It’s not just about being different; award-winning audio campaigns are distinctive. They use audio-first approaches where it is a key driver of the creative concept. The audio surprises, delights, or even provokes listeners. 

Here’s a tip: Ensure you have a unique creative idea for your campaign that leverages the strength of audio. Avoid cliches and strive for originality in your script, your voiceover approach, your use of music and sound design, and the experience your audio advertising creates.

Take a Multi-platform Approach

Creative ideas that transcend audio-only platforms result in amplified campaign effects, increased share of voice, and stronger memory structures. (Also, multi-platform campaigns can be entered into award categories beyond audio). 

For your campaign, utilize distinctive yet consistent sonic assets across platforms, including sonic logos and voice-over talent. Your audio identifiers are most memorable when they remain the same wherever, whenever, and however your message is heard. 

Solve a Problem

Campaigns without goals often result in interesting creative work that, unfortunately, lacks a purpose. However, acclaimed audio advertising always solves a clear brand problem. 

Get solution-oriented by making sure you have a clear brief outlining the specific brand problem you need to address. Think of the brief like your northstar, guiding your creativity toward the desired destination. Embrace the power of targeted reach capabilities, sending your message straight to the heart of those you want to impact.

Not sure if your work is hitting the bullseye? Use measuring tools to see if your creative is meeting your goals (or whether it’s time to make some adjustments). 

Embrace Tech

Creative uses of technology can lead to more distinctive audio campaigns. Lean into tech to enhance your creative process and output but rely on human creativity to ensure your use of audio is emotionally engaging. 

Try tapping into AI to handle repetitive tasks, allowing more time for creative brainstorming and refinement, or enhance your creative with tools like dynamic audio and 3D audio. It’s not always about discovering the next tech breakthrough—finding innovative ways to use existing tech can be just as impactful. 

Be Meticulous 

Details can make or break a campaign’s success. Make sure your execution is as thorough as your strategy and that your creative choices are purposeful and optimized for the audio channels you’re using.

Invest time and resources into perfecting craftsmanship. Carefully research, plan, and establish a clear direction before production. Pay attention to every detail, from the script to the final sound mixing. Include multiple brand mentions so people aren’t just remembering the creative. 

Let’s see how some award-winning campaigns flawlessly executed these tactics. 

The Smart Ideas Behind “Dumb Ways to Die” 

For the ultimate earworm, just listen to the original song “Dumb Ways to Die,” part of Metro Trains Melbourne’s exemplary campaign promoting rail safety. (A decade later, and we can’t stop humming it either).  

 “This campaign used audio brilliantly through its infectious original song, while redefining the traditionally staid PSA format and connecting emotionally,” says Keller. “The accompanying music video also enhanced the power of audio to capture attention and bury the campaign’s message in your brain.” 

The creative team was meticulous, even hiring local musicians to record the song for added resonance with the Australian audience. The PSA also existed through online games, print ads, billboards, children’s books and social media activations. 

The end result? Data showed a reduction in train-related accidents, and the campaign was the most awarded in the history of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. 

The Winning Taste of Flavor Radio 

An audio ad about coffee literally serving up the smell of coffee? That’s quite the feat. Dunkin’ Donuts Flavor Radio campaign cleverly deployed audio by using the brand jingle as a mechanism to disseminate the aroma of coffee on public transport via sound recognition technology.

The campaign tapped deep into cross modal associations, dopamine triggers, and pre-existing emotional associations with coffee through the use of sound, sight, and smell. This approach led to a distinctive campaign expertly utilizing old tech in new ways. “I love that this use of technology is essentially a hack by using old school radio to deliver the sonic trigger,” says Keller. 

 It’s no surprise the campaign's success is reflected not just in its numerous awards—including a 2012 Cannes Lions Award—but in the resulting revenue uptick, too. 

The Cheese Champion: Cheez-It Aged by Audio

For our campaign, Cheez-It Aged by Audio, Kellog’s Cheez-It brand collaborated with Pandora to curate a hip-hop mixtape that played continuously for months while aging cheese. The final product? A limited-edition batch of Cheez-It crackers. 

Existing technology was used to bring the campaign to life—but it was the creative and powerful way we used audio to change the flavor of the product itself and drive engagement across other platforms —including a microsite and influencer-hosted YouTube series—that contributed to its uniqueness. 

This campaign’s sonic science experiment tapped into emotional intrigue, too. “Could the molecular structure of cheese really be changed through music? Or was the idea all hype?” asks Keller. 

Ultimately, Cheez-It Aged by Audio became the most awarded audio advertising campaign in the history of Pandora and SiriusXM Media, with accolades including three Effie Awards, two David Ogilvy awards, and a Jay Chiat Award. 

And the Award Goes to...You

Successful audio advertising involves more than just airtime—it relies on memorable, distinctive, emotionally engaging experiences that enhance brand equity, solve problems, and drive revenue. Hopefully these tips and tactics can help maximize your audio’s creative effectiveness, add a bit of gold to your trophy case, and improve your brand’s bottom line. 

Let’s discuss how Studio Resonate can be a part of your award-winning team. 


Featuring: Steve Keller, Sonic Strategy Director

Written by: Joey Selden, Copywriter

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