Highlighting the Effectiveness of Podcast Advertising in 2021

Weekly audio listening has hit an all-time high, with 176M* Americans tuning in every week.  Along with this increased reach, they also added an additional 1 hour of listening time. The average time spent in 2021 with online audio was 16 hours, 14 minutes, up from 15 hours, 12 minutes in 2020*.  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 is also at all-time high, with 116M* monthly listeners.  On average, these listeners consume 8 podcast episodes a week from 5 different podcast shows.

2021 has been a banner year for the increased diversity of the podcast audience.  43% of US men listen to podcasts and 39% of women – which is an all-time high for female listenership*.

And while podcast listeners continue to be predominantly white (57%), both the US Hispanic and Asian populations have made the move to podcasting consumption and now the racial and ethnic make-up of the audience more closely reflects that of the actual diversity of the of US population overall.

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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

2021 Podcast Advertising Statistics

One of the common misperceptions about podcast advertising 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 2021*, there are 116M monthly listeners equating to 36% of the total US population.  In fact, podcast advertising is scaling so quickly that the US user base has doubled in the last 4 years**.

Media spending has begun to shift to podcast advertising as a result of this astounding growth, global ad spend is predicted to double to $1.6B in 2022***.

What are the Benefits of Advertising on Podcasts?

According to the Super Listeners 2021 report****, Podcast ads are the most recalled type of ad – with 86% of respondents saying they remember seeing or hearing an ad.  Social Media has 80% and websites 79%.

Podcast listeners also scored high in terms of engagement with ads, as well as responsiveness with 76% of listeners saying they’ve taken action after hearing a podcast ad, which could include visiting a site, making a purchase, or taking out a subscription****.

With podcast ads, you get more than 3 – 6 seconds to tell your story.  In a recent study of regular podcast listeners****, only 12% said that they always skip ads.  In fact, 33% of respondents said that they “never or rarely” skip ads and 38% said “only sometimes”.  

64% of podcast listeners**** say that they welcome and appreciate advertising on podcasts and are grateful to the brands that support their favorite shows. 

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.

Promocodes 

In order to drive trial, incentivize purchase or enable mass sampling efforts, brands can offer a custom promocode on each podcast they are advertising on.  A podcast host will include mentions of the promocode in the main content of the episode or they can be promoted using more traditional ads and companion units.  Creating a unique promocode 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 promocodes and your sales channels (direct or through a 3rd party) can accept promocodes and provide reporting data on usage. 

Vanity URLs 

Brands who 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 good will by reminding them that your brand is supporting their favorite podcasts with your advertising.  

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

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 for their visit or purchase can prove out the importance or persuasiveness of podcast advertising.

Pixels 

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 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 that 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 and 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: promocodes, 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.

 

The Bottom Line - Is Podcast Advertising Effective?

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.

 

*The Infinite Dial 2021

**Mary Meeker 2020

***WARC: Global Ad Trends – Podcasts

****Super Listeners 2021 report