Contextual Advertising: Ads that Target Rituals Drive Purchase

By Idil Cakim, SVP of Research & Insights

Here’s how the study was conducted:
Close to 2,000 weekly audio listeners were randomly assigned to groups where they listened to about 30 minutes of broadcast or podcast content ranging from news, sports, and music to health and wellness, entertainment, and travel, among others.
The audio content was interspersed with ads from Verizon, Ulta, and a major cruise-line brand. Then, participants answered questions that gauged ad effectiveness.
The test groups heard ads that aligned with either the genre they were listening to or the ritual they were performing. Control groups’ ads were not aligned with context.

Audio is front and center of our lives — so much so that the majority (74%) of us carve out time in our day for our favorite stations and podcasts. In our everyday rituals, from coffee runs to walking the dog, listening to content becomes a habit in and of itself. 

Now, based on Audacy’s Contextual Alignment study with Magna’s Media Trials, we know that listeners are more likely to get excited about brands, search for product information, and plan to purchase if the ads they hear are in context with their rituals. The takeaway for marketers is clear: Aligning audio ads with rituals moves audiences down the funnel.  

The Path to Brand Fandom

Many people we interviewed for our Audio Rituals study expressed how motivated they were by their audio — it was what got them through the day. When we asked them to imagine a day without audio, they gasped and said they just couldn’t do it, or that they wouldn’t get the same enjoyment from their activities without it. 

Our Contextual Alignment study proves their sentiments, and there’s a catch for brands: Ads have to be aligned with genres or rituals to generate excitement and feel relevant. Especially for listeners in-market for the types of products they heard about, hearing contextually relevant ads made a notable difference. Compared to control groups, these audiences who heard the ads were +10% more likely to say they were excited about the brands mentioned in the ads and were +8% more likely to indicate the brand felt relevant to them. 

And Action!

Alignment drives search, and ritual alignment drives purchase intent. Aligning listening experiences by either genre or ritual significantly boosts search intent, compared to ads that do not align. And ritual alignment specifically creates a notable difference in purchase intent. 

Turn Up The Music: Music raises awareness and prepares listeners to buy

Music marks the way we receive and keep information. Audacy’s previous studies have shown the direct impact music has on recall — Our study on contextual alignment further shows that aligning with music generates a significant lift in unaided awareness and search intent. 

And now for Podcasts: Contextual alignment – with genre or rituals – significantly boosts favorability, intent to search, and purchase 

Podcast audiences listen with intent and full attention, a listenership especially well suited for ritualistically aligned ads. Earn favorability, drum up engagement through search, and welcome new customers by aligning your brand with podcast listeners’ audio rituals and favorite genres.


Takeaway: Contextual alignment is the primer every advertiser needs to launch with success — it compounds impact and mobilizes audiences. Delivering messages at the right time, in the right context, will yield results.

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