A Marketing Guide to Podcast Advertising

I think it’s safe to say podcasting hit its stride in 2017. A recent study from IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that podcast advertising revenue has grown by 85% since last year and is on track to reach more than $220 million
in 2017
.

Depending on how familiar you are with the platform, this may or may not be surprising. This form of digital broadcasting has been around for nearly two decades but has evolved tremendously since gaining popularity with mainstream audiences in the last 5 years. (Thanks, Serial!) As technology has grown smarter, faster and more connected, and the content produced has become more timely, interesting and varied, podcasting has become a credible and authentic method for broadcasting digital audio content.

The latest numbers from Edison Research say that 67 million Americans above the age of 12 are listening to podcasts every month. These aren’t just passive listeners either. They are highly engaged consumers who connect deeply with the topics and hosts of these shows, share listener recommendations with their friends, and have proven to take action after hearing a sponsored message. In fact, 65% of listeners say that podcast ads increase purchase intent. “Super listeners,” as the Knight Foundation has named them, are the latest group of power users on tap to be audio advertising’s next big coup.

Podcast Advertising 101

As a marketer, what’s not to love about a highly engaged audience like this? With all this industry buzz about the medium, consider these four things before you rush to invest your dollars in podcast advertising:

A test and learn mindset is key.

It’s not quite the wild west out there, but there still aren’t a lot of ad standardization practices and guidelines that exist yet. A nimble approach to creative formats, messaging and measurement KPIs is important to keep in mind. As a young advertising channel, brands and media companies are still setting the rules as we go along. The IAB introduced its first Podcast Playbook this summer, outlining standards, guidelines, and best practices for advertising in audio – there’s sure to be more to come on this in 2018.

Listeners are driving content—and ad messaging.

The key differentiator with podcasts is the “listener first” attitude in content and ad creation.

Podcast hosts take great care in choosing and approving their advertisers because of the strong relationship listeners have to the show and their hosts. many listeners understand that advertising is necessary to support a podcast. Their dedication to the podcast also keeps them from skipping ads because they don’t want to miss any part of the show. This creates a very favorable advertising environment; engaged users are receiving ads that are relevant
to them.

Format is crucial.

Since listeners are highly engaged in this medium, the delivery and the format of podcast ads resonate strongly with them. To date, we’ve seen brands buying everything from traditional pre, mid and post-roll formats to developing their own branded podcast series in partnership with publishers. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this medium is the creative approach to how these ads can be executed. Here are a few examples:

  • Host: Host-read ads are delivered by the show’s host and may/may not be a form of endorsement.
  • Endorsement: A show host talks about their personal experience with the product and encourages listeners to purchase. Blue Apron and Squarespace are examples of brands currently doing this.
  • Custom Segments: A custom segment is part of an episode where advertisers have the opportunity to work with hosts and producers to create content around topics natural to the show. These segments are usually longer than a standard pre, mid, or post-roll spot.
  • Branded Series: Branded podcasts are full-length episodes created by the network on behalf of a brand. The brand has significant editorial control over the content and execution. Brands like GE, Gatorade, and Tinder have developed hit podcasts to much success.


Who’s the consumer I’m trying to reach?

This may seem like an obvious question, but it’s easy to get caught up in the buzz around the latest platform to spend your advertising dollars.

The average podcast listener skews young, educated, wealthy and likely to be influential in business. If you’re a B2B brand or B2C brand selling financial services or lifestyle products, you might be in the right place.  If you’re trying to sell headphones to teenagers ages 13 -17, this may not be the right channel to spend your money right now. Research shows that only 9% of podcast consumers ages 12 – 17 are consuming podcast content – so maybe come back and revisit.

How do you measure success?

As with any campaign, there are many ways to evaluate success. On this unique platform, the approach should be no different. Podcast measurement is still in its infancy but is sure to evolve as the platform continues to grow. Right now, downloads are really the only metric we can look at, but Apple recently noted that it’s full suite of analytics are due to launch soon. Direct Response campaigns are highly quantifiable via custom offer codes and vanity URLs. Recall and Lift studies have also been conducted in across this space to measure overall growth in ad effectiveness. The most important thing is to identify your marketing objectives and which metrics and KPIs are most important to your campaign.