Member Guest Post with IAB Romania – Harnessing & Understanding the Audio Economy – the Need for Meaningful Content

In this week’s member-guest blog post, we caught up with IAB Romania’s Director Executive, Ioana Anecu on Clubhouse, the new age of the audio economy and how it is paving the way for more meaningful content. 

There have been many opinions written and shared across the Internet about Clubhouse, pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, Many “how to”s from the brand’s perspective, and “riding the waves of the new Clubhouse trend” for KOLs and worldwide specialists – from marketing to lifestyle, hobbies, and music. It will remain the symbol of Social Audio (real-time audio that allows listeners to actively participate in the dialog). But it wasn’t the first and will not be the last app in this sector. Based on exclusivity and scarcity – due to the lack of a recording possibility of the talks – Clubhouse has been, undoubtedly the “rising star” of 2021, harnessing people’s need for getting close to one another, the nostalgia of direct interactions, and following a worldwide video call fatigue. 

One More Step Towards the Age of the Audio Economy! 

While in the last few weeks there has been a flattening in the usage curve, downloads of the app, and interaction within the audio social network, now it seems that Clubhouse is on the rise again, due to the long-awaited Android version that is now available for download and use. Good news for the audio content creator’s economy! 

In a world dominated by visuals in the last decade, audio media brings back to the fold the ability to focus on the real values of the brand and challenges creatives, marketing, and communication specialists to reconnect consumers to the opportunities and usage context of brands. Nonetheless to create meaningful and useful content it can be boring to talk about the brand. But it is interesting to talk and to engage in talks about lifestyle, context, and usage opportunities of products – that is the real creativity, and the real passion! What marketers have forgotten in the last years is the meaning of brands and services. They’ve got so caught up in racing with the competition and highlighting the best features and developing better and better products, both visually and physically, making people share and show off their products, making them go viral, that they have forgotten the core of the brand. The voice and purpose. 

The Pandemic, however, has brought marketers back to the ground: it’s more than just to make a profit, it’s about empathy, purpose, and context. And those are good things to keep in mind for the new digital era. This is why audio has thrived, again, and why audio is passion and imagination. 

After Clubhouse passed the milestone of 250,000 users (IOS only) at the end of April 2021, in Romania, we now have brands supporting rooms that talk about fun, friendship, and relations, because these are the core brand values that people care about. We have a news platform organising daily talks on one hot topic of the day. We have car brands talking about the driving experience and the expectations of their clients. And all of them are really successful in getting people to talk. Pedigree was one of the first brands to grab the opportunity of the Clubhouse platform, with its creative contribution of BBDO NewYork, by organising a room in order to find a home for 20 adoptable dogs, each with its own profile and voice. The impact was emotional and heartwarming, and the result, outstanding! 

But what do you do when you have a brand with less financial power, time, or human resource. A brand that is not as “sexy” as retail, tech, or apparel, but an NGO with a mission in self-regulating and overlooking an industry so dynamic as digital advertising, like us at IAB Romania? 

We did what we knew how to do best – we connected the dots in digital! We were there, listening and engaging in new trends, being active where people were, supplying and highlighting our power, content, and network. We got the chance to reconnect with specialists and those with who we used to interact more at conferences and events. We had missed that, the human interaction and the after-events talks, the spur of ideas and enthusiasm of new ideas and involvement. Behind every successful project & organisation there are good people who roll their sleeves up and get things done!

Being the first local association to be present and actively involved in various rooms dedicated to digital marketing, we had the opportunity to get in contact with some of the people that were a little bit farther away in our usual communication chain. This helped to add growth in attention towards our projects, plans, and to attract new members.  

Within our weekly IAB Romania Digital Brunch (now in its #12 edition since early February) we have approached topics such as the value of the local and European Digital Advertising market, past, present & future trends, Artificial Intelligence in Digital Advertising, Influencer Marketing both on a local and international level, and the impact of cookie depletion. We have also talked about and with Romanian MIXX Awards winners and chatted with the latest MIXX Europe Awards Jury members. We have debated local and international laws and regulations, talked about budgets and performance, targeted ads vs the paid business model, and still have many more ideas to share and comment upon. For example, we plan to have a monthly fireside chat with one of our local members or with IAB Europe’s members to pick a specialist’s brains on forecasts. We’re also looking forward to meeting the winners of MIXX Awards Europe & IAB Europe’s Research Awards so that we can invite them to talk about their winning work and get the jury back to do a talk on this too. We plan to talk about quality in digital advertising, the need for standardisation, new technologies and tools, big data, research, impact and sustainability in digital, minimalism in online advertising, and so much more. 

We created a Club dedicated to various DigiTalks and online advertising topics, which you can access here

Now, with Clubhouse opening to Android users the sky is the limit! 

What’s Next?

But talking about stuff is not enough. We need to make stuff happen. We need to harness all the ideas, content, and enthusiasm around the topics that we approached. So, we now have a repository on our website, a list of people willing to get involved in the task force on Influencer Marketing and new tech trends, and we have new members willing to put a hand into ongoing or new projects we are rolling out. Plus now with Android availability, our target is to use the app to get representatives of the authorities and legislative areas to get in touch and involved in talks with industry representatives. 

The “Never Stop generation” representatives with whom we got in touch on Clubhouse are the people who suffered “event fatigue” in 2019 and then grew tired of video calls. Research from Publicis Romania shows that in one and a half months the number of Clubhouse users in Romania tripled and the main reason for accessing the app is an interest in personal development. 30% are accessing the app daily and are mainly following topics like tourism (yes, we all miss traveling!), wellbeing, business, and personal development. 

Other local research conducted in March shared the profile of the Clubhouse user in Romania. This can be somewhat extended internationally, as well: 77.4% of the users are between 25 and 44 years old, have a high level of education (92.8%), are active mainly in Marketing and Communication (23,5%), IT and Telco (14.9%) and Social Media (9.9%) & Content Creators (7%)  and spend a minimum of 2 hours daily on Clubhouse (54.6%). The grade given to the content found on Clubhouse is 8.1 out of 10. The main reasons for entering Clubhouse rooms and following people are improving knowledge (86.8%) and listening and interacting more easily with Key Opinion Leaders. 

Video Didn’t Kill the “Radio Star” But it Made it Reinvent. 

The Audio Economy is on the rise, without question. Facebook, Spotify, Apple, Twitter, and others focus on audio features. Although podcasting is not a recent trend, it had the right soil to grow and still has room to be valued as a marketing and communication tool. There is so much to harness in terms of audio, as a brand. First, because there are still a lot of people to “enter” the “audio zone” as listeners of podcasts and streaming, and as Clubhouse users. Second, it’s now becoming easier to podcast and stream audio content due to the improvement of podcasting apps and new technology that makes it easier to listen to podcasts while doing everyday chores. It’s a wheel that keeps turning – the more listeners there are, the more content producers that will enter the audio arena – being supported by advertising or by subscription. Considering the findings here, music (and to some extend audio content) is on top priority for willingness to pay for a subscription. The more users and content providers, the more it will become interesting for brands too. 

There is also a need for sharing ideas and knowledge that is usually done by various conferences and events. We, in Romania, had our first audio-only conference exclusively on Clubhouse, which we streamed online. We have a dedicated Podfest conference with insights from brands, tech and content producers. And the wave is still rising. In just a few weeks from now, we’ll find out more about the European Audio landscape at IAB Europe’s Digital Audio Day

Looking forward to hearing from you all on Clubhouse and Podcasts soon!

For more insights and learnings on the digital audio opportunity in Europe, join us on 6th July for our Digital Audio Day. Secure your free space today!

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