Listen to podcasts while commuting, working out, or in your downtime? You’re not alone. Podcasts reach 120 million Americans every month, a figure that’s grown in spades since lockdown. There are podcasts for just about every vertical and niche and of all sizes. But one thing most of these podcasts have in common is that they’re supported by advertising.
Here’s what to know about podcast advertising trends and how to get in on the ground floor.
Podcast Advertising: A Unique Beast
Podcast advertising is all about trust. Podcasts listening is personal and curated in a way that mass media isn’t. The breadth of podcasts available and the DIY nature of the medium means that users get a one-on-one listening experience in the niche of their interest. The show’s host acts as the face (or voice) of the show, and as a social media influencer, there’s a parasocial relationship in play that means the audience expects ads on the show to be approved or endorsed by the host.
In fact, a solid 50% of listeners believe that podcast hosts actually use the products advertised on their show.
This expectation is evident in the kinds of ads we typically see on podcasts:
- The read-aloud. The host themselves reads these ads during the podcast. They might be scripted, but they’re read live and are unedited. They feel dynamic and “real” and come with the implicit endorsement of the host.
- The discount code. Usually read by the host, these provide a personalized review or explanation of a brand or product and are accompanied by a discount code unique to the specific podcast you’re listening to. These are either read during the podcast or inserted at the beginning or the midpoint of a podcast.
- The preroll and postroll. These 15-second ads at the beginning or end of a podcast tend to name a show “sponsor” and may include a website, CTA, or discount code. They may be read by the host, a “friend” of the host, or a brand rep. They tend to be personal in nature.
- The midpoint ad. In contrast to the shorter 15-second ads usually heard at the show’s beginning, midpoint ads tend to be much longer – around a minute – and act as an “intermission.” They might feature a host review, a personal story, or an interview.
But not all podcast ads follow this ultra-personal format. Here are a couple of other ad types:
- The legacy brand ad. These are usually traditional ads made by a major brand dipping their toes into the podcast niche – think insurance companies or fast food. There’s less alignment between the host and the ad, and these might not have the first-person speaking style you tend to find in other podcast ads.
- The sponsored show. Sometimes a brand might pay for a podcast to cover a specific topic or theme relevant to the brand – and name themselves as sponsors. This can be a great content marketing approach that leverages someone else’s audience base.
- The paid interview or product placement. Similar to the sponsored show format, these involve a guest who has paid to be on the show or a product the host has been paid to chat about. The goal is to make these sound like organic recommendations, not ads.
- Website or social media ads. While you might access your podcast through Apple Podcasts or another aggregator, most podcasts have their own websites and social media presences. These are ripe for paid ad opportunities.
Creating Killer Podcast Ads
So you want to try tapping into the earbuds of the loyal consumers in your specific niche. Here’s how to create a podcast ad that showcases your brand in the right way and converts as well.
- Know your audience. As a marketer, this is always the most crucial step. Who are you trying to reach? What do they need? Which podcasts and podcast hosts do they support? Knowing this will help you pitch the right podcast host.
- Know your podcast host. Some podcasters might be okay with running pre-recorded ads. But often, they’ll want to do their own reading or even write their own script. It’s their show, after all. Invest in your relationship with the host, help them understand your product, and try to transform them into a superfan. If they’re believers, their audience will be as well.
- Provide detailed notes. Even if the podcast host is going to write their own script about your product, you can prime them to hit on your key differentiators. Provide notes that highlight the problem, the context, your solution, and your product or service’s benefits.
- Make it personal. Whether you’re providing a script or hoping the host will create one, make sure your ad is personal, relevant, and valuable to listeners. Think about the individual listeners of the podcast and how you can make their lives better. Start with a hook, tell a great story, and end with a CTA (and discount code).
- Track your performance. Those discount codes are popular because they’re easy to track back to a particular host. If you’re not using these, use other metrics like downloads and streams to gauge your campaign’s performance.
- Don’t just think big. Sure, This American Life reaches a ton of people. But you might get better results seeding ads with several smaller, more targeted podcasts in your niche than going straight to the biggest names in the game.
- Explore podcasts within a network. Often podcasts exist within an ecosystem of “sister” podcasts run by the same network. Take the Gimlet podcasts, for example. There tends to be a lot of overlap in listenership here, so leverage that by purchasing ads across the whole network.
- Invest in the back catalog. People binge-listen to podcasts the same way they watch Netflix. Talk to a podcaster about buying ad space in their back catalog. They might be able to insert a pre-recorded ad – or record and insert their own – for a lower rate than they’d charge for new episodes.
Ready to Put Your Brand On Air?
Podcasts aren’t going anywhere. Their market share is growing, and audiences are impressively loyal. Plus, the sheer variety of podcasts out there means that no matter where your brand belongs, there’s a podcast that serves the interests of the consumers in your niche. For help finding those outlets, approaching hosts, and creating powerful podcast ads that convert, talk to the team at StellaPop. We’ll help you create a podcast ad campaign that gets people listening.