Global President of Dentsu Mcgarrybowen and Cannes Lions Radio & Audio Jury President on how technology, innovation and, yes, lockdown have transformed the creative potential of audio
Imagine getting invited into an all-audio virtual room. But no one speaks. Everyone in there is just listening to 'people working in the office'. Printers humming, keyboard typing, little chats while walking towards the elevator, catch-ups by the coffee machine.
This is an example of how we have transformed our listening habits during the pandemic.
With limited social interaction, and more than a year WFH, most of us have welcomed audio-only apps, and group-chatting platforms. From Clubhouse to Discord, we yearned for more listening hours. Somehow, we all missed conversations- chatting, or eavesdropping. While critics can't see the point and will probably never try these apps, others find peace and gratification in them. These were being hailed as the ultimate gift during a lockdown.
Brands have started to jump into these opportunities. I can't believe nearly 8,000 of people tuned in to Droga5 and IHOP's marketing stunt in Clubhouse to launch their new thick-cut bacon. People were invited to listen to bacon sizzling. The app simply raised appetite for a new platform and literally for a new product offering. I would categorize this as "Listensurround". As they say, "Sound is the forgotten flavor sense", this is your new product demo- an imaginative way to truly engage with communities and offer a unique experience.
Then there's the resurgence of podcasts, with 58% more people "listen-learning" during their isolated moments. I started taking a break from my usual Dua Lipa/ BTS playlist during my long Sunday runs and started listening to Michelle Obama chat with her mother instead. There's really a little bit of comfort of being in a midst of their conversation.
What about Hey Google, Alexa, Siri and the voices in our phones, and homes? The rise in voice tech usage is up 65% worldwide over the past two months compared to previous years. Suddenly we have a friend, an assistant, a companion in isolation for our endless health inquiries, doctors' e-consultation scheduling, new recipes, DIY home improvement, crafts, appliance, and computer troubleshooting and many more.
In the era of fake news, fake posts and deepfakes, we all needed a voice that we could trust. Somehow the Gen Z wanted to get the real deal from live radio. Probably it came with the fascination of 80s and 90s vintage themed shows and fashion. They simply loved listening to good old radio for news and information, DJ chats and music. Nielsen even reported that 78% of them listen to AM/FM radio to feel human connection during quarantine.
Remember Black Mirror's "Be right back" episode? I was so amazed the first time I watched it. The company gathered all the voice data of a woman's husband to enable her to continue talking to him and hearing him speak even after he passed away. Wasn't this like the Cannes Lions winner Project Re-Voice's technology from BWM Dentsu? Lyrebird, a Montreal-based company, already known for the most convincing voice cloning technology, was behind that.
3D AUDIO, Sound ARs, geo-tagged radio, apps for your airpods, audio that you can watch like Apple TV's series "Calls", are all here to give us the most immersive experiences.
Audio has evolved in these trying times. Zoom burn out, Streaming videos fatigue, the noise of fake news and mental health challenges, urged all of us to start listening more.
Merlee Jayme is Jury President of this year’s Radio & Audio Lions at this year’s Cannes Lions. She is Global President of Dentsu Mcgarrybowen and Chairmom at Dentsu Jayme Syfu