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May 14, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:17am

Advertising on podcasts: Why it is finally taking off

By Dominic Ponsford

Podcasts are currently booming in the UK and US, and they are providing an audience  for advertising which brands are flocking towards.

The US podcast advertising market is on course to hit $1.3bn, up nearly 40% from $960m in 2020. And the forecasters estimate that total US podcast marketing revenues will top $2bn by 2023.

According to eMarketer forecasting analyst Peter Vahle, this push is mostly down to the industry noticing the huge numbers at play.

“Advertisers have seen it as a bit more of an experimental play,” he said. “So there’s been a little bit of hesitation. It became almost a universal thing pretty quickly where a huge percentage of the population was listening.”


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Podcast commercial opportunities

Out of the 850,000-odd audio sensations available globally, there is immense competition to stand out and be consumed.

The most successful will naturally attract advertisers, with the increase in programmatic ads behind the aforementioned predicted growth in the US.

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So as brands scrap to get noticed via programmed ads top and tailing the world’s most popular podcasts, there is room for the braver businesses to dip their toes in and start producing their own offerings.

There are typically four main entry points for companies.

Branded segments

A section of commercially-minded content within an existing podcast that is in line with the editorial vision.

Example: A TV and film podcast where the weekly guest chooses their pick of the week on Sky.

Branded episode

The brand is immersed in the full episode driven by the normal hosts, and the podcast has full creative control to keep it authentic.

Example: A one-off cookery podcast where the talent eats their way through a company’s menu.

Branded mini-series

A brand owns anything from two to four episodes within an existing podcast. As with the branded episode, it keeps within the normal creative parameters to maintain the existing audience.

Example: A fashion podcast with a brand’s designer being the guest across a number of episodes.

Branded series

An original series created specifically for a brand by a publisher, with the aim of making it as interesting and engaging as possible, and the brand making key decisions on talent and format.

Example: Galaxy’s Sorry, Not Sorry.

Original commercial podcasts

Podcasts should be a marketer’s dream.

While statistics in 2019 from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found the majority of people listen to podcasts at home, nearly all the rest are absorbed commuting, in a car, walking or while exercising.

Similarly, global giants Acast state “90% of podcast listeners do so via headphones”.

That represents a mass market of individuals already engaged with the medium, predominantly free from distractions.

And this final statistic will be left here without comment. Fifty-four per cent of US adult podcast listeners are more likely to consider the brand advertised (PodcastHosting.org, 2020).

The Forbes Agency Council – a collection of respected leaders and executives of PR, media, creative, and ad agencies – did offer some insight into creating the most effective branded podcast possible last year.

“You won’t be able to create a podcast that pleases everyone. Narrowing down and focusing on a specific group of people is the best thing to do for a new podcast,” says Adrian Falk, Believe Advertising & PR.

This quote condenses most of the issues that can arise from brands trying to make their mark on the podcast world; there is a wild amount of competition in mainstream, so go niche.

Advertising on podcasts: What to consider

There are numerous considerations before brands should embark on this audio journey, but three components stand out.

Money

Despite its outward appearance as a couple of people sitting around a microphone and pushing ‘send’, good quality podcasts take a suite of experts who know their stuff.

Some of UK’s most successful podcasts are conversational and recorded in one-take sessions, but that is a far cry from the polished finished product.

Plus, to reach this desired audience takes targeting and distribution – and it ain’t cheap.

Talent

Let’s be honest – it is getting difficult to name a ‘celebrity’ without a podcast.

It is a huge differentiator for a new podcast. It may be tough to admit, but the bigger the name, the more chance of gaining an audience to build upon (not least because of their social reach).

Idea

Very important, but sad to say, probably not paramount. There are so many subjects, notions, topics, messages that deserve thorough investigation, but ultimately the safest option will always be an engaging, meaningful and hopefully funny conversation between talent and a guest.

That said, brands who step outside of this format could kick-start their podcasting career with a bang.

This article was published in association with Lead Monitor, New Statesman Media Group’s AI-driven marketing solution.

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