There are many effective ways to measure success for your brand and calculate ROI for podcast advertising. As with measurement and attribution of any media channel, audio ad measurement comes with challenges. There are, however, several methods that can be used alone or in concert with others to paint an accurate—and complete—picture of the ROI generated by your ads on podcasts.
With more than 183 million people in the U.S. having listened to a podcast, there is significant potential to connect with consumers in a highly personal and focused environment through audio advertising. Yet, adding a new channel to any media mix requires testing, learning, and accurate measurement to determine how ad spend translates to business impact. Many advertisers have held back investment due to a lack of confidence in the medium’s measurability.
Still, there is attention to be grabbed in audio, and many advertisers are capitalizing on the opportunity. Listening time is increasing among American audiences, with the average weekly downloaded hours per listener growing by more than an hour between 2021 and 2022. Nearly 70% of consumers are more willing to consider a product or service after hearing about it on a podcast. Research has also shown that podcast advertising commands the highest level of attention compared to other channels. All of that translates to major momentum for campaigns; in fact, 51% of podcast listeners said hearing an ad on a podcast made them want to buy something from the brand.
While there are technical challenges to measurement in audio advertising, proprietary and third-party solutions have rapidly evolved to meet the needs of a flourishing industry with tons of potential to generate meaningful revenue for advertisers. With the right strategy buoyed by the right technology, advertisers can do more than measure ROI—they can gain confidence, transparency, and accountability.
As leaders in the audio space, we’re on the frontlines of measurement and attribution developments that are transforming the possibilities in audio advertising. Working with hundreds of companies of all sizes, we’re privy to the most talked-about strategies and tools. Based on these conversations and our own research, we’ve identified best practices to guide your podcast ad measurement strategy.
Define your goals and timeline
Before launching any campaign, it's critical to outline your goals and timelines. Are you looking to increase brand awareness? Generate leads? Drive sales? Your goals guide your strategies, which in turn help you determine which metrics are most crucial to measure, and why. These KPIs help you develop winning strategies and make tweaks as needed throughout the lifespan of the campaign.
Test and learn
Brands spend aggressively on ads because they’re effective. Testing to home in on ad concepts, messaging, and creative strengthens the chances of a strong return. With this data, typically provided by your target audience, you can improve core concepts, gain a better understanding of segmentation, and iterate quickly. Research, as always, empowers better decisions for every campaign. Virtually any business model can structure an effective test-and-learn campaign to establish a baseline ROI for podcast advertising.
Measure podcast performance
Podcast metrics track the performance of the podcasts you’re advertising on, which, in turn, directly impact your advertising campaigns. These metrics give insights into how your campaign is performing from a high-level perspective. Downloads, listener engagement, demographic data, and other metrics can inform businesses about how their ads are being received, their effectiveness, and opportunities to tailor ads as needed.
Direct response audio ad measurement
Direct response podcast ad measurement tactics allow businesses to track and measure the results of their efforts immediately. Direct response marketing is powerful because it quickly generates new leads and paints a clear picture of engagement. These are crucial measurement methods that work across all podcast advertising formats. They include:
To drive consumer trials, incentivize purchases, or enable mass sampling efforts, brands can offer a custom promo code on each podcast they are advertising on. A podcast host will include mentions of the promo code in the main content of the episode. Alternatively, promo codes can be marketed with more traditional ads and companion units. Creating a unique promo code for each podcast or podcast episode is a great way to capture granular show-level data to establish which is more efficiently driving sales. For this to be effective, it is critical to ensure that your technical infrastructure supports the capability to create and track multiple unique promo codes and that your direct and third-party sales channels can accept promo codes and report on usage.
Brands that are trying to drive immediate conversations or generate more broad-based consideration and engagement can measure success using vanity tracking URLs. This tried-and-true direct response tactic is just as relevant today for podcasting as it was historically for direct response television. One way to create a more seamless transition and “warm handoff” when using vanity tracking URLs is to create custom landing pages that mention the referring content, offer, or podcast. These landing pages will reaffirm to the consumer that they are in the right place and generate goodwill by reminding them that your brand is supporting their favorite podcasts with advertising.
Similar to ensuring that your technical infrastructure supports unique promo codes, the same rules apply to vanity tracking URLs. You must be able to generate and track vanity URLs with ease and granularity.
Surveys are an excellent way to augment automated tracking data with self-reported responses from consumers. When a consumer makes a purchase directly from a brand or through other sales channels, asking them where they heard about the brand is a great way to attribute exposure and, more importantly, recall and channel effectiveness. Listening to a podcast demands one’s full attention, and an advertiser’s message is often more salient and memorable than on other channels. Asking a consumer which channel they attribute their visit or purchase to can offer proof of the importance or persuasiveness of podcast advertising.
Direct response + attribution based methods
Direct response and attribution-based podcast ad measurement take into account unique touchpoints that guide people to conversion. Providing insight into the customer journey with great nuance, these models can tell advertisers how much credit each ad interaction gets for conversions. These methods include:
The newest addition to the podcast measurement ecosystem is using pixels to track exposure and subsequent website activity. One of the fundamental challenges with this method is that podcast listening often occurs offline, after the podcast episode has been downloaded. Therefore, podcast downloads are considered impressions, whether the user has listened to the episode or been exposed to its ads. While this can be very frustrating, there are several third-party technical solutions to pixeling the RSS feed, which is used to download the podcast file, and then tracking the user’s visits to your site. While this is by no means perfect, the important benefit is that it actualizes the ability to measure many more success metrics including: impressions, CPM, average order value (AOV), cost per acquisition (CPA), total sales, and total site visits.
Brand lift studies
For brands that do not offer consumers a direct conversion opportunity or simply want greater insight into how effectively they are communicating with new or existing audiences, brand lift studies provide a great measurement solution. Brand lift studies use online surveys to measure a variety of outcomes, ranging from brand perception to purchase intent. These surveys most often use either a “pre/post” or “controlled exposure” methodology.
A pre/post survey measures the impact of the ad exposure on desired outcomes by surveying both exposed and control groups and calculating the incremental lift of the exposed group. With pre/post surveys, the primary criteria for recruitment is whether or not you have been exposed to the ad. These surveys are excellent tools for measuring ROI or ROAS.
A controlled exposure study generally measures specific aspects of ad effectiveness against a defined audience who has been conclusively exposed to an ad. When a consumer is served a controlled exposure survey, they are asked pre-qualifying questions to ensure that they fall within the correct audience segment(s). They are then asked to respond to a survey on their impressions of the ad including message, relevance, creativity, and resonance. These surveys are great tools for refining your ad strategy for your target audiences.
The future of audio advertising measurement
As brands face incremental restrictions and reductions to data traditionally used to scale and measure campaigns, privacy-safe, sustainable solutions like digital audio and podcast advertising are a godsend. The channel’s significant growth, available inventory, and diversity of content make it much more than a flash in the pan. In fact, it is a foundational piece of any privacy-safe advertising future.
Audio ad tech is evolving rapidly to meet new demand in audio advertising —and it's being developed with a data-private future in mind. That, however, doesn’t make it any less robust. Measurement that leverages contextual data such as time of day, weather, and content category are already making measurement in audio advertising more efficient.
As marketers, we all strive to achieve full-funnel measurement that helps us understand the impact of our advertising on the consumer journey. At Ad Results Media, we’re proud to be part of the next wave of audio advertising solutions and innovate alongside creators and advertisers in this exciting medium. Our measurement specialists work with clients to develop measurement plans that utilize one or more of these methods to get a full-funnel picture that delivers results and peace of mind.
Ready to dive into audio? Let’s talk.