Why 3D Audio is the Next Great Marketing Tool

For its “Trust Your Inner Voice” campaign, the Dutch beer company Swinckels’ recently released a video that exploits Morgan Freeman’s deep, rich baritone in a whole new way. The ad begins with an instruction: “Use headphones for a superior 3D experience.” We’re consuming more content than ever before with headphones on, so you may already be wearing a pair while reading this on your smartphone, laptop or tablet. If not, go grab a pair and prepare yourself to start feeling very thirsty for an ice cold Swinckles’.

When Freedman describes the importance of trusting his inner voice, that distinctive baritone of his bounces around inside your own head — not just to the left and the right, but in front of you and behind you, in a 360-degree soundfield. When Freedman pours a bottle of Swinckels’ Superior Pilsner into a glass that is just off-screen, it sounds as if the beer itself is filling up your own head, frothing as it rises. This is more than just an ad. It’s a fully immersive experience.

Day in and day out we get pummeled with instantly forgettable ads. Marketers are looking for every possible edge to steal our attention. So it’s a wonder that we aren’t seeing (or rather, hearing) more spots like this one, which stands out from the yammering pack by taking advantage of immersive binaural 3D audio. Swinckels’ is just one of a small handful of companies that have tapped binaural’s enormous marketing potential. Axe was one of the first…

…and HP used binaural 3D audio to sell their slick audio processing wares.

But binaural’s potential as a marketing tool is even greater in the audio advertising space, with 57 million Americans now listening to podcasts on a monthly basis (up 23% since last year). The BBC is in the midst of expanding its slate of binaural radio programming, and it’s easier than ever to start your own binaural podcast. Yet marketers have mostly ignored the possibility of tapping the captive, headphone-wearing, fast-growing podcast audience.

One of the few exceptions is British ad agency Global Media & Entertainment, which teamed up with book publisher Harper Collins to produce a steamy 3d audio excerpt of Sharon Kenrick’s romance novel A Royal Vow of Convenience. The excerpt ran for one week last November on British radio station Heart London, generating buzz for the book in the British press (not to mention a 2017 Cannes Lion award for Global). But that chapter-length trailer is an evergreen piece of advertising that now lives on Soundcloud and Audioboom, so anyone who’s interested can listen to the excerpt before deciding whether to buy the book. Listen for yourself — it’s a much more enticing sell than a written description on the back cover.

Jo McCrostie, creative director at Global, is bullish on binaural: “As more and more people spend time listening to audio and the headphones market continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, many advertisers have been quick to recognise the opportunity. Within that growing market, 3D audio is something quite unique, creating a more immersive and intimate listening experience.”

Binaural audio used to be reserved for professionals with big rigs and big budgets. Global employed a dummy head with microphones embedded in ear, costs thousands of dollars. A dummy head recording device can also prove cumbersome for marketers on the move. But with the recent release of the Hooke Verse — a 3d Audio recording headset with binaural microphones embedded in each earbud and priced for the everyday consumer — the possibilities for creating mobile 3d audio experiences for prospective clients and consumers alike are now limitless.

Alexander Plaxen is the President and Founder of Little Bird Told Media, a Silver Spring, Maryland based outfit that designs digital engagement strategies for conferences and trade shows. Plaxen is strongly encouraging his clients to incorporate the Verse into their social media strategies, both to build buzz in the days leading up to the event and to create a true-to-life experience for those who can’t be there in person. Moreover, Plaxen’s clients can use those binaural audio recordings to promote the following year’s conference, thereby increasing interest and attendance.

“With the Verse,” Plaxen says, “you’re able to bring people into the event on a whole different level. One of the things we use a lot in social media marketing is FOMO — Fear of Missing Out. Whether your walking them through a trade show floor or putting them front row at a keynote speech, it gives people the opportunity to feel like they’re really there.”

3D audio is not just great as something that an audience can consume–it’s a great tool for marketing and advertising, which hasn’t really been tapped upon yet. While we use 3D as a way to experience something, what better way to describe the experience than to put it out there for the world to see? 3D audio is finding more uses for itself day after day.

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