New Study: The Power of Audio and Podcast Ads

October 11, 2021

The Audio Solution for HFSS Regulation

To quote Bob Dylan, “the times they are a-changin” for high fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS) food companies. The Department of Health and Social Care called for a total ban on HFSS paid-digital advertising and regulation putting it into law will soon be enacted by the UK Government. This change will leave millions of pounds of ad investment in the balance. So the question stands: how will this spend be redistributed?

We believe the answer lies in the one medium excluded from the ban: audio.

Audio-first channels have doubled in popularity in the past five years in the UK, with 15 million people listening to podcasts and 103 million pounds spent on digital audio advertising in 20202. With podcasts, streaming music, and streaming radio all having been excluded from the ban on HFSS advertising, no matter the time of day, the impacted companies can still advertise to their target audiences without interference. This makes the growing, multichannel medium the perfect platform for HFSS advertisers to pivot their advertising spend to and still reach an engaged audience.

At The IAB UK’s Audio Week last month, our Director of Client Success, Amanda DiMarco, presented a recent study conducted on the Veritonic audio analytics platform on whether digital audio really is effective at enticing consumers to buy from HFSS advertisers. Historically these brands have concentrated spend on video and TV advertising, but the results of this study showed this trend is probably more based on habit than advertising effectiveness.

Coca-Cola, Cadbury, KFC, McDonalds, Wagamama, Burger King, Doner Kebab


The most effective advert in the study came from Diet Coke. It had 2x higher recall than other adverts tested, and engagement spiked for likeability when the sound effect of a can popping was played. Our research showed that HFSS brands leveraging sound effects in their adverts had the highest likeability scores and overall Veritonic Audio Scores on average. Music also aided in likeability, with ‘no music’ having the most negative impact on likeability among the sound components tested. This finding is unique to this sector of FMCG and fast-food brands as research testing adverts from other industries has indicated that not including music can be most resonant.

leverage sound effects

The advert also increased intent to purchase Diet Coke by 3%. An increase of that magnitude for a legacy brand like Coke is exceptional, speaking volumes to the effectiveness of the audio medium and the advert creative.

Click here or on the Veritonic Audio Score below to hear the advert.

Diet Coke ad Veritonic Audio Score

Another consideration for HFSS brands is whether to make a much bigger push to promote healthier or more sustainable options. In the example we tested below, one KFC advert promotes the brand’s standard offering and the other introduces a vegan offering. Both adverts scored comparably for intent and likeability. This shows that brands can not only advertise on audio to promote their HFSS options, but also increase intent for their lesser-known food options.

Additionally, it’s possible this regulation is pointing to a larger shift in public opinion about HFSS foods. 40% of respondents were in support of the ban. Therefore, it may behoove brands to start talking about alternative options anyway.

KFC Delivery and KFC Vegan

Brands that have built healthier options into their brand personality like GDK and Wagamama see even higher intent lifts, both hitting double-digits across the ads that were tested.

GDK and Wagamama

The opportunities for FMCG and fast-food brands are vast. In fact, in Veritonic’s yearly look at the top podcast advertisers no fast-food brands made the list. Therefore, not only is audio an effective medium for advertisers, but the space is open for the taking for whichever FMCG or fast-food brand is, well, fastest.

Want actionable, fast data to inform your audio strategy? Let’s talk!


1Statista, 2021

2Statista, 2021

3AdAge, 2021

Research, Test, and Measure

the ROI of your audio assets.