The IAB just wrapped their 2021 Podcast Upfront – Listen Up! – that was held virtually on May 11th – May 13th. This year’s event, designed for buy-side attendees including brands, agencies and media buyers, previewed the latest innovations, programming and marketplace trends. Ad Results Media got a look at the upcoming rosters of shows and new ways that brands can align themselves through content and integrations.

The agenda for the 3-day event was packed with impressive presentations from leading networks and content creators. While it’s hard to summarize all of the amazing announcements and enthusiasm, we did see 5 key takeaways that were particularly interesting rise to the top.

Takeaway #1: Audio attribution continues to advance and tackle persistent challenges

The number one challenge that advertisers cite for not shifting more of their media investment into podcast advertising has traditionally been measurement and attribution limitations. But the Podcast Upfront marketplace was not going to take that sitting down. On day 1 of the event, Adswizz shared proprietary data, from an internal study of over 1000 clients, that showed 72% of podcast campaigns run with attribution pixels drove consumers to make a purchase and averaged a 4.9% conversion rate.

Wondery, acquired by Amazon in December 2020, provided an overview of their new Voice Actionable Ads currently in Beta. These ads seamlessly enable the listener to add a product to their cart or shopping list using their Alexa – effectively closing the loop and providing full transparency into direct attribution.

Takeaway #2: Podcasters are embracing their “creator” status and so should advertisers

If we heard it once, we heard it a thousand times, podcasters are creators, influencers, brand advocates and loyal consumers. All of the presenters leaned heavily into the talent of the creators in their network and the power of native integrations, host live reads and their influence beyond their podcast platform. Social media super-charged influencer marketing and grew it into a $10B industry. It is certainly our prediction that podcasts have the same game-changing potential. The extraordinary talent that was showcased by all presenters, and tremendous elevation in production value and creativity, certainly indicates the growth of brand partnerships are on the horizon. Podcasts could do for influencers what Instagram and YouTube did 10 years ago.

Takeaway #3: Contextual planning & buying is the next frontier

On day 1, Adswizz made a point to highlight the incredible power of contextual targeting by stating that “context and brand safety are everything”. Through their research they were able to determine that contextual targeting increased conversion rates an astounding 64% over demographic and behavioral targeting.

But on day 2, in addition to singing a Zoom tribute to the Sea Shanty (you are going to have to find that on your own, we can’t do it justice here), Podsights announced their new contextual planning solutions. They stated that the next step in elevating a brand’s effectiveness with podcast advertising is to focus on context. While media planners may know the host, the episode title and general information about the show from the show notes – there is still a lot of unknown context that needs to be considered. Podsights announced a new contextual planning tool that will be available later this year that takes a data driven approach to planning and will be supported by their managed service offering.

Takeaway #4: Video podcasts and YouTube are a match made in heaven for Millennial audiences

On day 2, The Roost (Warner Media) debuted their slate of new video podcasts, which are the perfect marriage of podcasts and YouTube.  They are podcasts made by millennial favorites, current YouTubers and oftentimes life-long friends. The conversations cover horror movies, professional wrestling, pop culture, junk food and HBO Max with high quality visuals and endless entertainment value. These aren’t podcasts that you lean back and relax to while listening – they are truly immersive experiences with podcast-style candid conversations paired with broadcast quality visuals and production value. The creators that work with The Roost tout that “nobody gets the visual side better” and that is what drew them to the network. For advertisers looking for new ways to reach the YouTube audience with native integrations, visual podcasts offer a new type of partnership.

Takeaway #5: Movies for your ears are here

On day 3 of the event, Audacy debuted a new term that is guaranteed to stick around, “movies for your ears”. Leaning into the premium production capabilities of Cadence 13, they announced C13 Features. These are 90-minute, full length fiction stories with high-level storytelling, top talent casting and movie-like production, soundscaping and music. Adam Pincus, CEO/Executive Producer with Best Case Studios, who works in partnership with C13 Features, said that “This movie for your ears, is really a movie that takes place in your head. And it can be so much more powerful, so much scarier, have so much more tension and emotion, when you as a listener are that connected to the story”. The C13 Features will give consumers another reason to migrate away from screen time and immerse themselves in the world of audio, creating even more opportunities for advertisers to reach their target audiences in new environments.

For more insights on the IAB 2021 Podcast Upfront or to begin accessing the recently announced inventory, contact the Ad Results Media team.