Highlighting the Effectiveness of Podcast Advertisements in 2024

Weekly audio listening has hit an all-time high, with 200M Americans tuning in every week and 214M monthly*.  Along with this increased reach, they also added an additional 1 hour of listening time. The average time spent listening continued to grow in 2022, with a 20% increase in downloads. The average download hours per listener per week has also increased by more than one hour from 2.7 hours in 2021 to 3.8 hours in 2022. This increase in online audio consumption is demonstrative of a move away from terrestrial radio to brands like Spotify and Pandora; which are the brands preferred most by almost half of all online audio users.

Podcast listenership has also risen sharply, with 120M* monthly listeners.  On average, greater than 50% of podcast listeners consume 9 podcast episodes per week*.

Also notable in 2023, is the significant penetration of listeners within each age demo:  55% of 12-34 year-olds, 51% 35-54 year-olds, and 21% of 55+ year-olds*. 

For brands looking to effectively drive consideration, podcasts are far and away the preferred channel by consumers.  68% of consumers are more willing to consider a product or service after hearing about it on a podcast.  This is more than YouTube/Online Video (62%), Social Media (61%), Live or Recorded TV ( 54%), and Am/FM Radio (49%).**

[Download: Podcast Advertising E-book]

[Download:  Podcast Advertising Whitepaper]

What is Podcast Advertising and How Does it Work?

Podcast advertising is the ability for brands to pay for placement of their advertising within various podcast shows.  Podcast ads can be bought directly from podcast show hosts or programmatically using an audience-based buying approach.

  • Audio Ads (pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll)
  • Host Reads (pre-recorded or live)
  • Endorsements
  • Custom Segments
  • Branded Series
  • Presenting Sponsorships

[Read More: Podcast Advertising Types & Examples]

2023 Podcast Advertising Statistics

One of the common misperceptions about advertising on podcasts is that the inventory is limited and it is difficult for brands to achieve meaningful scale.  While this may have been true several years ago, the rapid growth of the podcast listener base and overall increase in the number of shows, has made that a thing of the past. 

Based upon the most recent research study conducted by Edison Research, The Infinite Dial 2023*, there are 120M monthly listeners equating to 38% of the total US population.

Media spending has begun to shift to podcast advertising as a result of this astounding growth, global ad spend rose 72% from 2020 to 2021 to $1.448B.  The IAB predicts that it will continue to grow at a rapid pace and reach $4.3B in 2024****.

What are the Benefits of Advertising on Podcasts?

Podcast buys reach net-new consumers when added to TV or Radio buys. For adults 18+, there is an incremental reach of 12% over AM/FM Radio and 11% incremental reach over TV**.

Podcast listeners feel significantly more positive towards the brands that support the medium than they do of Radio listeners or TV viewers**• There is a halo effect of positive brand association just by advertising on the medium.

The Sounds Profitable team surveyed consumers of several leading US advertisers to understand the impact that Podcast, AM/FM, and TV advertising had on full-funnel metrics.  They found that the leading advertisers in podcasting perform significantly better in lower-funnel metrics with podcast listeners than the leading advertisers in TV and Radio do with their consumers. 

As well as the addition of podcasts to a multichannel media mix shows significant mid-funnel effects**.

How Do You Measure the ROI on Podcast Advertising?

With recent advancements and new capabilities offered by 3rd party providers, virtually any business model can structure an effective test-and-learn campaign to begin to establish a baseline ROI for podcast advertising.

Promo codes 

In order to drive trial, incentivize purchase 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 or they can be promoted using 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 who is more efficiently driving sales.  In order for this to be effective, it is critical to make sure your technical infrastructure supports the capability to create and track multiple unique promo codes, and your sales channels (direct or through a 3rd party) can accept promo codes and provide reporting data on usage.

Vanity URLs 

Brands that are trying to drive immediate conversations or generate more broad-based consideration and engagement can measure their success using vanity tracking URLs.  This tried and true direct response measurement tactic is just as relevant today for podcasting as it has historically been for DRTV.  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 will reaffirm to the consumer that they are in the right place as well as generate a little goodwill by reminding them that your brand is supporting their favorite podcasts with your advertising.  

Similar to making sure your technical infrastructure supports unique promo codes, the same rules apply to vanity tracking URLs.  You need to be able to generate and track these URLs with ease and granularity.

Post-Conversion Surveys

“How did you hear about us?” surveys are an excellent way to augment automated tracking data with self-reported responses from consumers.  When a consumer looks to make a purchase directly from a brand or through one of their various 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 your full attention and an advertiser’s message is often more salient and memorable than on other channels.  Asking a consumer which channel they attribute to their visit or purchase can prove the importance or persuasiveness of podcast advertising.

Pixel-Based Attribution

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 our ads.  While this can be very frustrating, there are several 3rd party measurement partners that are generating technical solutions to pixeling the RSS feed that is used to download the podcast file and then tracking the user’s resulting visits to your site.  While this is by no means perfect, the important benefit it actualizes is 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. 

At Ad Results Media, we believe that the best measurement solutions capture the signals from one or more of the four measurement methods and analyze the results in the context of your business model, technical capabilities, and campaign objectives.  We work with all of our clients to create a custom measurement plan and model their brand’s ROI.

How to Create a Successful Podcast Advertising Campaign

Finding & Vetting Shows

There are a lot, and I mean a lot of podcasts to choose from.  When a brand sets out to find shows that will resonate with their target audiences, the prospects may seem endless.  In the same way, finding the perfect influencer partners on social media can seem overwhelming and manual, now imagine doing that without the functionality of the social media platforms and the additional benefit of hashtags.  

Once you make a list of potential podcast advertising partners, you need to begin vetting them for campaign fit by downloading and listening to at least two or three of their episodes.  This will help you get a feel for the content and tonality of their show and what type of ad creative may resonate best.   This is also far more arduous than simply scrolling through an influencer’s Instagram feed to get a sense of brand fit and content style. 

When you partner with a specialty agency that has successfully run tens of thousands of campaigns, they have proprietary tools that assist with the selection process as well as historical knowledge and relationships with the top-performing shows by genre to reduce vetting time.  For example, at Ad Results Media, we leverage our granular level of expertise, built over 20 years, 1000’s of touch points, 6,000 individual podcasts tested, and performance data collected.

Buying the Media

Once the podcast partners have been selected and vetted, it’s time to actually buy the media. There are a number of networks and marketplaces that can simplify this process significantly, but they can’t fix the underlying inconsistencies.  Rate cards and metrics may not be uniform or even IAB compliant for that matter. And due to the high degree of creative customization often required to do host-read ads or brand integrations, you run the risk of miscommunications and unmet expectations. 

A specialty agency provides its clients with a uniform view of planning KPIs and ad optimization metrics.  They leverage their experience and relationships to secure the right placements for the campaign goals, help produce traffic and verify all ad creative.

Ad Verification

Due to the fact that there is no universal buying platform or industry standard 3rd party verification provider, verifying that your ads ran and ran correctly can become a very manual and time-consuming task for brands looking to navigate the space on their own. Some shows will simply send a link to the episode and require you to listen to it in its entirety to verify the ad placements, others will provide actual airchecks or snippets of the show for verification purposes.  Expect a number of different reporting formats with little standardization if placing your own podcast ads. 

At Ad Results Media, we have developed a proprietary ad grading system to address the lack of standardization.  All spots are evaluated based on specific requirements and endorsements are graded on several components using our proprietary evaluation system.  We evaluate the following:

  • Placement – Where did the spot run?  A spot run within the show’s content or first in break receives the highest grade.
  • Duration – How long was the spot?  Spots receive a passing grade if they are greater than 58 seconds.

Measurement & Attribution

As with any relatively nascent media channel it comes with some measurement and attribution challenges; namely the same fragmentation that complicates the entire ecosystem compounded by the requirement that it works across all placement types:

  •   Audio Ads (pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll)
  •   Host Reads (pre-recorded or live)
  •   Endorsements
  •   Custom Segments
  •   Branded Series
  •   Presenting Sponsorships

At Ad Results Media, we believe that the best measurement solutions capture the signals from one or more of four measurement methods: promo codes, vanity URLs, surveys, and pixels. We work with all of our clients to create a custom measurement plan and model their brand’s ROI.  This helps to create an apples-to-apples comparison from which to make future planning and buying decisions.

[Read More: How to Measure Podcast Ad Performance]

[Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Podcast Advertising]

The Bottom Line - Does Podcast Advertising Work?

We believe that podcast advertising is the ultimate driver of brand marketing success, but don’t take our word for it.  Our clients have been able to demonstrate impressive and meaningful results.

Interested in creating your own podcast?  Check out these great resources.

How to Start a Podcast at Home

How to Start a Podcast, According to the Pros at NPR

How to Stand Out and Build an Audience


*The Infinite Dial 2023

**Sounds Profitable Medium Moves the Message 2023

***WARC: Global Ad Trends – Podcasts

****IAB U.S. Podcast Advertising Revenue Study 2021