All Your Podcast Advertising Questions – Answered

All Your Podcast Advertising Questions – Answered

With 485 million podcast listeners worldwide, the potential of podcast advertising is undeniable. There’s a growing interest in the medium and ad dollars are following suit: in 2020, podcast ad spend was estimated at around $500 million in the US and €207 million across Europe.

So, why podcast advertising? As ads get easier to skip, a majority of podcast listeners actually don’t mind listening to the ads. If you offer listeners a discount code or sponsor a podcast, it becomes easy to track ROI. Lastly, podcast hosts are your best influencers with a loyal fanbase. 

But we get it, exploring a new channel comes with its set of doubts, trials and planning and we’ve put together a two-step knowledge trail just for you. Kick it off with this guide to all things podcast advertising and then delve deeper into the topic with expert insights from our latest SCALEup webinar ft. Blinkist.

Just key terms, no jargon: podcast advertising 

  • Pre‐roll: 15–30 seconds spot, aired at the start of a podcast
  • Mid‐roll: 45-60 seconds spot, mentioned during the middle of a podcast
  • Post‐roll: 15–30 seconds spot, aired at the end of a podcast
  • Baked in: Baked in ads or host-read ads are, as the name suggests, sponsorship messages or affiliate ads that are read live by the podcast hosts. These ads become an eternal part of the podcast itself, and everyone who downloads the podcast hears the same ad. 
  • Dynamically ad insertion (DAI): These are ads that play at the end of a podcast, by purchasing ad insertions on an ad server. This automates the process as opposed to the traditional way of manually negotiating and buying podcast ad space. While every user hears a different ad, these ads offer precise measurement and targeting capabilities. 
  • Direct response: Measurable and trackable responses to a podcast ad – usually measured via  a URL or promo code. 
  • CPM: Measurement metric of cost per mille (thousand) podcast listens and/or downloads.
  • CPA: A measurement of the cost to acquire a new customer, resulting from being exposed to your podcast ad.

How podcast advertising works

Podcast as a marketing tool offers two distinct approaches. Firstly, it allows targeting and advertising on podcasts that are popular with your target audience. Secondly, you could consider starting your own podcast to strengthen content marketing efforts and showcase your brand’s personality by discussing topics relevant to your consumers. A great example of this is Girlboss, a job search portal that also built a strong podcast community over the years. 

When it comes to podcast advertising, marketers have a range of options to pick from: Audio ads (pre, mid and post-roll), host-read ads (live or recorded), sponsoring a podcast episode or series, and paid custom segments or AMAs (ask-me-anything) where your audience can directly interact with the brand. 

A recent report by Global Web Index revealed some interesting data about podcasts in Germany. 

                       

To find out more, we spoke with our Chief Operating Officer, Hillevi Lausten, who has worked on podcast ad campaigns for her former employer. She shed light on podcast advertising with tips for marketers looking to explore this medium. 

Define, and then refine

Hillevi suggests starting by gaining clarity on three fronts: define who you’re targeting, set campaign goals and always keep testing. When it comes to defining your audience and messaging, this information is even more crucial for podcasts than it is for other marketing channels.

“I think it is very important to be aware of who I want to reach and what my message should be.” 

Once the who and what are defined, it’s time to refine the ‘how’. Are the ads working? Should we opt for popular podcasts or super-niche ones? From Hillevi’s experience, testing a range of strategies works best: going for popular podcasts with a lot of listeners, trying the niche ones and even testing the ad frequency. And the biggest takeaway was:

“You have to test it for each country and for every product you’re trying to sell.”

Certainly, there’s no one size fits all with podcast ads, and you only learn what fits your brand the best by testing and iterating.

Podcast hosts are your best (and most authentic) influencers

Audiences are drawn to baked-in ads or ads where the podcast host endorses your brand. They prefer host-read adverts and find them more authentic and relatable than an unfamiliar voice clip. After testing different podcast ad strategies, Hillevi’s biggest learning was: “We don’t want to use only audio ads, but we rather be included by the hosts in their podcasts. Especially with the big podcasts, we learned that when hosts recommended us, it impacted our brand awareness and was a great way to combine our brand and performance KPIs.” 

The best case scenario, and an authentic approach, is when podcast hosts promote the product in an informal, organic and unstructured or unscripted style. So rather than cramming all your product’s features into a 30 second spot, get the podcast host to focus on your USPs and their personal experience with your product. Listeners will buy in.

Podcasts are effective

In a recent Nielsen study on podcast advertising, 62% of participants showcased high brand recall, with 57 % experiencing a positive effect on purchase intention about the product they heard in the ad. In addition to the large volume of listeners, podcast hosts have an enthusiastic following and 64% of super listeners actually appreciate advertising as well as the brand supporting their favourite podcasters. 75% of podcast listeners not only pay attention to the ads but also follow specific calls to action after they’re played. A channel where this phenomenon applies so strongly in today’s times? Hard to come by. 

Timing is everything

Pre-roll and post-roll ad spots are generally shorter and less expensive to buy than mid-rolls. Traditionally, mid-roll ads were considered the sweet spot as the user is less likely to skip an ad and more likely to convert from an ad that appears during the podcast. But more recent research suggests there are no fixed rules: This study reveals that pre-rolls were 47% more effective than mid-rolls and ads that played after the credits were 58% less effective. 

Another great tip when targeting popular podcasts, it’s best to start with media outreach at the beginning of the year or at least a couple of months in advance, as most ad spots (especially the popular ones) get filled up in no time. If your product has seasonal appeal, then it is key to plan ahead of time.

How to measure podcast ad campaigns

When it comes to tracking podcast ads, offering dedicated discount codes is an effective way to track the campaign. The majority of podcast ads offer some sort of call-to-action that prompts listeners to go visit a website or use a custom discount code. In Hillevi’s experience, “podcasts can be used just as every other channel in your mix. Make sure you decide beforehand if you want to measure the result based on performance KPIs and/or on brand KPIs. In general, it is important to be aware that there are certain limits, especially if you are coming from a pure performance focus. The one measurement that worked the best in my experience was using dedicated discounts. We could measure the impact over a period of a couple of months.” Another way of measuring ad impact with podcasts is to look at the number of downloads of the podcast itself, and naturally this works better for baked-in ads over DAI ads. 

In addition, custom links or vanity URLs can help track impressions and linked website traffic. While using custom links or vanity URLs, marketers could create custom landing pages that mention the information shared or offers made during the podcast ad. This way it becomes easier to attribute the impressions specifically to your podcast advertising campaign. 

Post-checkout surveys are another KPI that marketers must not miss. Simply adding here the question “how did you hear about us?”, with “podcast” as an option, can augment tracking data using the customers’ responses. These surveys also help you to get a better understanding of brand exposure, recall and channel effectiveness. 

The latest way of measuring podcasts is through pixel tracking for exposure and resulting website activities. However, a challenge marketers face is that podcast listening often happens ‘offline’ after the user has downloaded the episode. This blurs the information about whether the user has listened to the content and has been exposed to the ads. To solve these discrepancies, marketers can use third-party measurement partners that optimise pixel tracking by first pixeling the RSS feed where the podcast was downloaded and then tracking the user visits to the brand’s website. While the tech is still in the works, pixel tracking certainly helps in better measuring podcast advertising with KPIs like impressions, CPM, CPA, sales with promo codes and website hits.

When it comes to the “best” way to track your podcast ads, a mix of the four methods is recommended. As Hillevi concludes:

“Be comfortable knowing not every ad campaign will work on the first go and testing will help figure out what sticks and what doesn’t for your brand or client.”

Top 3 podcasts for marketers

While these podcasts may not directly share information on podcast ads, they are insightful sources for marketers to explore:

  1. Marketing over coffee
  2. Unmarketing
  3. The CMO Asia Podcast

Takeaways

1

Podcasts are effective, listeners don’t mind the ads and podcasters are your best influencers. 

2

Podcast advertising allows you to combine branding and performance KPIs – like other channels. 

3

Track podcast ad campaigns using dedicated discounts, landing pages and downloads. 

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