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Surrounded by sound: the 3D audio revolution

Nov 11, 2018

Technology is evolving faster than ever, but sometimes it takes a long-forgotten idea to transform the media of the future – and 3D audio is no exception. A technique that dates back to 1881, it allows for an immersive experience like no other. So let’s explore how this strategy can inspire audiences to not just hear a brand’s message, but truly listen.

Unlike traditional 5.1 surround systems, 3D audio fools the brain into believing it’s hearing recorded sounds-first hand – and is especially effective when listening through headphones. Binaural audio perfectly mimics how we receive sound, allowing the listener to localise what they’re hearing with immaculate precision, creating the illusion you’re actually there. By wholly replicating the workings of the human head – often using an artificial head, fitted with two omni-directional microphones for ears – a naturally immersive experience is achieved without an expensive array of speakers. As a result, it’s been embraced by brands creating the next generation of virtual reality hardware (like the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Morpheus), as well as those seeking to get into the heads, and hearts, of consumers.

Warner Brothers and Spotify recently collaborated to promote the release of A Star Is Born – featuring original songs from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga – and created an advert using 3D audio to heighten the emotional impact of the critically-acclaimed soundtrack. The ad stands out in what is a highly competitive environment for content – simulating the effect of being in a theatre when the viewer is wearing headphones and transporting them into the world of the movie itself. Sounds can be heard not just left and right, but above and below for a truly all-encompassing experience. And this revolutionary approach appears to have hit the mark: following the film’s opening weekend, ‘Shallow’ was the most-repeated song in the USA – and has since been streamed over 2 -million times.

But while the buzz around movies comes and goes, 3D audio promises to be much more than just a passing phenomenon – it’s something which advertisers are taking increasingly seriously. Wanting to boost subscriptions to their Formula One channel, Sky Sports recently led a study to determine the impact of 3D audio on coverage that’s heavily visually branded. Working in conjunction with DAX (the world’s largest digital audio advertising platform) and Neuro-Insight, the brain reactions of 99 people were measured when presented with adverts in stereo and also 3D audio. The results showed the emotional responses of participants were 39% stronger when compared with stereo. Not only that, after hearing the 3D version of the ad, 68% of listeners said they would consider Sky F1, up from 23% who just heard the stereo version.

There’s no denying the lasting impact audio is having on the advertising world – it creates a meaningful and engaging experience that carries an emotively sensory weight that’s tough, if not impossible, to replicate. It allows consumers to become fully immersed within the world a business has created – positively reinforcing the brand’s message and establishing a bond never before thought possible.