Consumers open to audio ads, and are sensitive to brand suitability (IAS study)

As part of a larger research series, Integral Ad Science (IAS) conducted a survey of 1,158 digital audio listeners in the U.S. to understand how consumers perceive and interact with advertising on digital audio platforms. The survey, called The Sound of Suitability,  was fielded in June.

An interesting focus of this work was brand suitability and brand risk — participants were queried about how their favorability changes when listening to risky content.

Basic participation is high for both advertisers and consumers. “The majority of advertisers are investing in digital audio advertising,” the report asserts, and the spend is projected to reach $7.51-billion in 2024.

On the consumer side, the IAS reports that 81% of U.S. internet users listened to at least one digital audio platform in the past 12 months — mostly on phones (75%) and frequently in cars (48%). Spotify and YouTube are the most-used listening platforms, with nearly half of respondents claiming use of each. And 42% of users use free, ad-supported platforms.


Consumer attitudes in this study are friendly to advertising, but with conditions.

Nearly half (44%) of respondents are fine with audio ads, “so long as the ads don’t disrupt their listening experience.” More specifically, “unrelated” ad are more disruptive and unwelcome than “related” ads. Those related ads make listeners feel “more immersed in the content,” according to the IAS.

Supporting that finding, 58% of respondents said it’s important for ads to be relevant to surrounding content, and 28% said they would favor those advertisers.

Interestingly, the survey sought to place responsibility for poorly placed ads. Over a quarter (28%) of participants said the brands themselves (as opposed to the podcast, for example, or any kind of arbitrary ad placement) are responsible for an adjacency to “inappropriate or unsuitable” content. Driving that point to where it hurts, 25% of respondents said they would avoid purchasing those brands.

But what is “unsuitability,” specifically? The IAS drilled into that question while identifying different attitudes around music and podcast listening. It’s one of the key slides in IAS’s presentation:

So — advertisers should avoid violence and sex when advertising on music platforms. And a second apparent takeaway: Podcast listeners are more forgiving about risky advertising themes.

There are age-based differentiators for all of this, and evaluations of host-read ads compared to pre-recorded spots. The study PDF is freely available HERE.

Brad Hill