Podcast Advertising 2019

How it Works, What’s Effective, What Needs to Grow

The popular question for the last few years in the media industry has been, when should I start taking podcast advertising seriously? As the years pass, the number of listeners steadily increases, as well as the advertising dollars. According to Edison Research yearly study, The Infinite Dial, the podcast audience has grown to 90 million listeners per month in the US, an increase of 113% since 2014. With an increasing number of monthly listeners, continuing to trend upwards, the industry is seeing advertising dollars being shifted from traditional broadcast radio in their media budgets.

How much money? IAB & PWC released a revenue study and put the total amount spent in the US in 2018 at $479.1 million dollars, up 53% from 2017’s $313.9 millions dollars. Many brands and advertisers are putting a portion of their media budget into podcast advertising, others are still somewhat hesitant because of certain metrics the industry is still lacking, so if your brand or agency are ready to try this ever growing medium, you need to educate yourself on how it works, determine its effectiveness and what still needs to improve.  

On average, a typical podcast episode will have 3 advertisements through out the show: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll. Pre-roll ad normally happens after a brief introduction, and on average goes for 15-30 seconds, the listener wants to get to the show so a longer ad could be deterring. A mid-roll will air halfway through the episode and on average will last 60-90 seconds. This gives the host a break or a spot to transition into a new topic, and the longer ad flows better since the listener is committed to finishing. The post-roll ad will air prior to the closing statements from the host, and on average last 20-30 seconds.

The listener is still engaged with the episode, but better to keep it shorter than the mid -roll spot because they will know that it’s the end of the show. These ads can either be read live in the show by the host or inserted in from a previously recorded spot. Podcast hosts read most of their ads during the live taping, as opposed to placing a prerecorded ad from themselves or a creative company into the episode. Listeners of a podcast feel a connection to the host because of the personal nature of podcasts, the listener feels like they’re listening to a recommendation from a friend, as opposed to an advertisement.

A common misconception by the general public, advertising doesn’t always yield positive results. In podcast ads, and any form of advertising, you need to have a solidified plan and budget to be put in position to have a positive ROI. Katie McKenna, Director of Content with Portent, wrote that you need to ask yourself six questions to decide if you the brand/advertiser are ready to invest in podcast ads:

  1. What are you advertising? – What is your product/service?
  2. Does podcast advertising make sense for your audience? – Does your target demo listen to podcasts?
  3. What are you offering/branding? – Awareness campaign, or an actual service?
  4. Is it a good offer? – Price competitive, ready for market?
  5. What is your budget? This will determine your reach & frequency and if it’s worth investing.
  6. What is your timeline? When are you planning to launch?

After you’ve answered these six questions with your team, and you’re ready to invest, you’ll need to get the most out of your campaign. South Eastern University, in association with Marketing Dive, suggest these five tips to make sure your campaign is effective:

  1. Midway is the best way: Schedule your ad to play during the mid-roll ad slot, people are listening closely as you’re flowing from the first to second half
  2. Find your fit: Podcasts cover a wide array of interests and audiences, you should identify shows that will sync with your brand, products, and services.
  3. Test ad performance: Consider advertising on eight consecutive episodes to reinforce your call to action, then review.
  4. Use promo codes and metrics tools: Use these to see if your message is being acted on and people are following your message.
  5. Trust a host’s appeal: The host is somebody your audience likes and trusts. Build a connection so they’ll be sincere about your product/service.

Once the campaign finishes, and you’re ready to assess the success of your campaign, you’ll want to see the metrics of how it performed. Metrics, and backend reporting are the areas that need the most growth in the podcast industry. According to the IAB (International Advertising Bureau), podcast advertising lacks the uniformity in measurement systems and metrics. Their statement also noted that “meaningful measurement has been thwarted by an inability to connect, track, and analyze user requests; measurement products that use dissimilar, proprietary algorithms; and a lack of an agreed-upon set of metrics and their meanings.” Standards do exist, but currently podcast advertising generally performs better for direct to consumer brands, as opposed to multinational established corporations.

This is where the hesitation still exists between larger, most established brands, they need assurance that their investment will yield a positive ROI. Another area that needs to grow is the targeting. Brands and advertising want a better way to target their desired audience. According to Verge, Spotify announced recently that advertisers can now target ads based on the podcasts people are listening to. The rest of the industry needs to follow suit.

Podcast advertisements are probably the closet thing to paying for word-of-mouth advertising. When listeners turn into a podcast, the relationship they build with the host/hosts gives them a sense of trust and friendship. This is key when looking into if investing in this growing medium is right for your brand/advertiser. The money is being invested and is growing, the listenership is there and is growing, but the metrics and backend reporting is still what holds some back from investing.

Until the podcast industry can give us all the metrics other mediums can, there are a few ways to test its effectiveness. Include a promo code in the advertisement and you’ll be able to monitor who used the code that was mentioned in the advertisement. Have the ad mention a URL that leads to a site or extension and you’ll be able to see who used the URL from the ad. Last would be a checkout survey, once they’re in the checkout ask how they learned about the promo. These three ways are thee most used, and able to see who heard the ad from the podcast episode, but this isn’t everything advertisers and brands want and need. The industry is growing at a rapid pace and does not show any signs of slowing down, the metrics and backend reporting will be what either holds the industry back or skyrockets them to the top.