Ford Smart Speaker

Smart Speaker Radio Ads Massively Boost Brand Awareness and Potential Ford Purchase

According to a new case study by Cumulus Media, radio ads streaming to smart speakers can significantly raise brand awareness. Those who heard an ad from the Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers Association on their smart speaker were 24% more likely to be familiar with the brand, an impressive surge that could portend a rush in advertising toward radio stations playing on smart speakers.

Fording Streams

The Southeast Michigan Ford Dealers Association’s 15-second pre-roll audio ad played on smart speakers streaming Cumulus radio stations in the Detroit area last November. Cumulus surveyed 385 listeners of the relevant radio stations, dividing them by whether they listened with smart speakers or not. The case study doesn’t mention how many were in each group or what smart speakers were part of the study, although the case study’s graphic includes an Amazon Echo. We’ve asked Cumulus and will update if they answer.

The resulting split in familiarity and interest is stark, with 42% of those who heard the ad with a smart speaker saying they were extremely or very familiar with the brand, compared to 34% of those who had not heard the ad. The gap between the two groups nearly tripled on the question of visiting a Ford dealer in the next three months. According to the case study, hearing the ad raised the chances of a visit by a full 63%.

Listeners at Home

As for why the ads had such a dramatic effect, timing and circumstances each played a part. The number of households with smart speakers keeps rising, with about a third of U.S. households having at least one, according to Voicebot data. The proliferation of smart devices has inevitably boosted AM/FM radio too. A year of COVID-19 quarantines and lockdowns has also tipped at least a few people into deciding to get a smart speaker, further accelerating adoption. And people are listening to the radio through them more. Even in March, Nielsen was reporting a 10% uptick in using smart speakers to listen to terrestrial radio. Overall, digital streaming accounts for 11% of AM/FM radio, according to Edison’s most recent report on the subject, a 6% rise from when the company started in 2015.

“With 91% of all time spent with smart speakers occurring at home, smart speakers are bringing AM/FM radio back into the home,” Cumulus Media chief insights officer Pierre Bouvard explained in the case study announcement. “According to Triton Digital, as of December 2020, 22% of all online audio listening to American AM/FM radio stations occurs via smart speaker. Over the past four years, the smart speaker has grown to represent nearly a quarter (24%) of all online listening to all Cumulus stations nationwide.”

Ford also had a baked-in bonus. According to Nielsen Scarborough, American smart speaker owners are also 25% more likely to need a car within a year, although whether the correlation matters is hard to tell. Deciphering how much those numbers matter relative to each other is tricky, but the top-line statistics likely guarantee that companies, car companies, in particular, are going to expand on Ford’s pilot test with more radio ads tied to smart speakers.

The case study may even spur more interactive smart speaker ads. That’s what digital audio advertising service  AdTonos, did in London a couple of months ago for Audi. Like Ford, AdTonos ran a commercial radio ad heard only through smart speakers, Amazon Alexa-enabled ones in their case. But listeners would then be asked at the end of the ad if they wanted to book an Audi test drive. A yes would prompt Alexa to find the nearest Audi dealer start determining a time for the listener to go take the test drive. AdTonos’ effort combined the interactivity of some of the ads played by smart speakers when streaming Pandora or Spotify with the wider reach of terrestrial radio.

Regardless of any interactivity, it’s easy to imagine another carmaker and other manufacturers following suit with their own smart speaker-exclusive ads. Fiat Chrysler Automotive could conceivably be up for running such a campaign, especially if it can leverage its first in line to create an Alexa Custom Assistant.


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