Binaural Audio: The Dark Horse Advertising Needs

I’ve never heard someone say, “Gee-whiz, I can’t wait for the next commercial!” We’ve heard it all before. We’ve seen it all before. We’re being sold at from every angle. And younger generations are proving every day that traditional brand advertising doesn’t work on them. However as long as we shoot new and unheard of concepts out into the World, we will need advertising. It won’t die, it just won’t. But that doesn’t mean it always has to be the same. Advertising could change as more people realize the sheer potential of binaural advertising.

In the cutthroat world of marketing, every ad agency is looking for an edge.  With the rise of VR and 3D sound, advertisers are chomping at the bit to get to ride that unicorn all the way to the bank.

The next generation of consumers are not sitting in front of a TV right now.  They’re Snapchatting on the move, finding their next Pokémon.  We are now a mobile generation who wears headphones.  Shouldn’t this be the target audience instead of a race, age, or any other demographic?  The content itself should be tailored to our growing stereophonic audience.

Advertisers are methodical in going by the numbers that data-miners provide.  Want to hear something frightening?  Companies like SilverPush, Drawbridge, and Flurry send ultrasonic pitches (which our ears can’t hear) through commercials which nearby tablets and smartphones can detect. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.

It’s funny that with all their visibility, they are seemingly blind to the stats concerning headphone sales.  I assure you; most commercials today would be adopting binaural techniques if advertisers could predict the staggering rate in which headphones are flying off the shelves.


Before I highlight the binaural commercials which are getting it right, I need to go “Moneyball” on you and hit you with some stats.

The unprecedented shift we’re seeing now is in the growth of pure audio advertising – no video.  In the US, advertisers spend $17 billion on radio ads annually.  If you still think radio is dead, look at how Amazon & Uber are marketing in Europe.

I believe no one sees the potential of binaural sound more than the British.  This year, the media giant News UK is buying Wireless Group, which operating the world’s biggest sports radio stations (talkSPORT & Virgin Radio), for about $300 million.

The only way this mammoth investment in radio happened is because the number of people absorbing audio-only content is growing.  Is this only an overseas phenomenon?  Consider how big podcasting has gotten in the US lately.

Would anyone have guessed that podcast-listening has grown 23% since last year?  Monthly listenership grew 75% since 2013.

57 million Americans listen to podcasts.  Apple is laughing all the way to the bank with over 1 billion podcast subscriptions enrolled via iTunes so far.  Podcast user base competes with Twitter’s!  Why the sudden surge?  It’s because we’ve all gone mobile.  In fact, the majority of all podcasts are heard on mobile devices.

The reason why that is music to advertisers’ ears is because those mobile users can immediately communicate the ad’s product using that same smartphone.  Ad agencies know that their message is being received on the same device that can instantly share it using social media in the hopes it goes viral.

With so many listening in a stereo format now, why would any advertiser overlook the attention-grabbing advantages of binaural?  Goldman Sachs knows a thing or two about advertising revenue.  They predict 3D ad revenue will surpass TV revenue by 2025.

So, who’s doing it now?  Who’s been dipping their toe in this ocean of possibility?

Axe was one of the first to show it off in this ASMR-inspired ad:

HP used binaural when selling their slick audio processing wares:

Audi is also advertising their support of 3D sound:

Independent organizations are using binaural to make public service announcements about important topics such as bullying:

Even major Hollywood film studios are drinking the Kool-Aid.  Brazilian sound studio, Binaulab, produced 3D audio clips of the new movie “Don’t Breathe” for people to listen to in a dark booth in a mall to entice them into the movie theater next door:

A company called Hypersound uses special external speakers which you can only hear if they are pointed at you.  Advertisers are using two of these speakers (one aimed at each of a listener’s ears) in kiosks to give passersby a taste of binaural without needing anyone to wear headphones.

I could go on and on.  This technology is fascinating, it’s out there, and it’s got potential we’ve never dreamed of.  This is pie-in-the-sky stuff for us!  All of this is telling me that binaural 3D sound has such a fast track to our emotions; we simply can’t ignore it anymore.

My comments to the ad agencies wanting to give me 3D content is simply this:  Feed me, Seymour!  Feed me!

From One Ear To Another,

Joe Guarini
Hooke Audio


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