Audio ads elicit higher levels of emotional intensity, according to a new report.

A recent study conducted by WPP ad agency Mindshare shows audio ads consistently drive higher levels of engagement and recall compared with other media formats. Using neuroscience and cognitive research, the study found increases in emotional intensity elicited by audio ads were 12% higher than global all-media benchmarks and correlated with an increase in brand breakthrough.

Researchers at Mindshare’s NeuroLab unit and Spotify’s Sonic Science team examined consumers’ subconscious and conscious response to advertising, looking at which parts of the brain light up in relation to which advertising assets to learn which creative work resonates with consumers in an audio-only format.

For the study, NeuroLab researchers first asked participants about their demographics, preferences, and habits as they relate to podcasts and music. To test the audio creative, NeuroLab ran facial expression analysis while respondents were shown a first-person video simulating the experience of walking through a city. This was done to retain visual focus without distracting from the audio ad. The facial expression analysis focused on two core metrics: valence, which tracks the overall positivity or negativity of the experience; and expressiveness, which measures the overall emotional intensity where higher levels of expressiveness are associated with increased memory encoding.

The research also underscored how using a celebrity voice in an audio ad can create an association between a brand and a consumer. For one of the brands NeuroLab studied, ads featuring celebrity voices drove a 21% increase in engagement and emotional intensity. The study also provides more evidence of the value of sonic branding. A gaming company, for example, effectively trained its audience to associate its sonic logo with a popular video game such that when that audio signature was used, NeuroLab saw a marked increase in positive emotion that continued for the duration of the spot.

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