Podcasts have enjoyed an explosive growth in popularity over the past few years. Listenership is way up, yet few companies even think about utilizing the platform for advertising purposes. Marketing professionals should take heed; podcasts offer an impressive ROI when utilized properly.
The Benefits of Podcasts
Podcast advertising has some important pros and cons. If you’re considering investing in the format, take note of the following:
- Podcast advertising works well as a direct-response channel offering customer acquisition costs similar to other media.
- Podcast reach is very good; 51 percent of the U.S. population aged 12 and over listens to podcasts every month.
- Ads read by podcast hosts are more effective than canned ads.
- Tracking is more difficult and costlier compared to other digital channels
Podcast audiences are an in-demand group as listeners tend to be better educated early adopters with high incomes. Yes, there are other media that attract similar groups, but podcast listeners choose to consume this content regularly. The host becomes a trusted source of news and entertainment, helping boost the credibility of new and upstart brands. Podcast ad revenue is projected to top $1 billion by 2021; that fact alone makes it worthy of serious consideration!
Podcasts started out as niche programming with a very narrow focus. “Serial,” a true-crime podcast launched in 2014, changed all that; its popularity exploded, and advertiser MailChimp reaped the rewards thanks to a clever sponsorship campaign that made the company a household name virtually overnight. “Serial” also had broad appeal with female listeners, helping the space to diversify.
If you’re considering taking the plunge, experts recommend doing a test spend with a budget that is high but won’t break the bank and compare the results with your other customer acquisition efforts. If you’re gun shy over the idea of committing large dollars to a new channel, try other spaces such as social media before committing to podcasts. While the cost of producing ads is low, it’s a more manual and labor-intensive process than other digital channels and can take weeks to put into place. Sales involve communication with show representatives or the network and orders must be set in advance. You’ll have to plan on extensive research and outreach efforts and content evaluation before moving forward in order to ensure your ads are placed on podcasts most suitable for your target audience.
Prepare to spend a lot of time on this aspect of the process—and even then, you might still be surprised. Choosing podcasts to partner with is an inexact science at best; often, the most successful ads have little or nothing in common with the content in a particular show. For example: suburban moms enjoy true crime, so an ad for beauty products—while not an obvious choice—might do well on a podcast devoted to this subject matter. And food products might unexpectedly bomb on cooking podcasts. This is why testing across various genres is so important! Often, the results will come as a surprise.
One of the key considerations to keep in mind with podcast advertising is the importance of the show’s host. People form strong attachments to the host, especially when they find them relatable. Host-read ads, it has already been pointed out, perform better than pre-scripted, programmed efforts. Podcast hosts are comfortable with the medium and are experts at reading ads; they are able to make even uninteresting products sound enticing based purely on their delivery. While you might initially balk over handing over the reins to a host, letting them be themselves almost always pays off. It’s a trust unique to this platform, but in the end, when the host injects his or her personality into reading an ad, they build in authenticity that resonates with their audience. That casual, unscripted, conversational tone so popular with podcast advertising is what makes the medium unique. Worried about measuring response rates? Most ads conclude with a call to action such as a podcast-specific promo code for discounts. This is an easy way for a show to receive credit when their listeners buy a product related to an ad, and gives marketers the data they need to accurately track direct responses and determine whether their investments are paying off.
Podcasts shouldn’t replace other advertising platforms but, when done effectively, can help complement your efforts elsewhere.