The podcast industry is growing rapidly — and so are opportunities to reach its dedicated listeners through strategic marketing.

With the emergence of powerhouses like My Favorite Murder, Serial, the Joe Rogan Experience, and This American Life, podcasting is becoming a more significant medium than ever before. Yet popular podcasts seem to be dominated by the same few ads: 23andMe, HelloFresh, and Stamps.com, to name a few.

With a 2017 report showing that 40% of Americans have listened to podcasts, this is a missed opportunity for brands — especially since podcast audiences tend to be exceptionally engaged. Research by podcast advertising network Midroll shows that 67% of listeners could name a product feature or specific promotion mentioned in a podcast. 61% of those surveyed had even purchased a product or service that they learned about through podcast advertising.

Despite this high engagement, many advertisers remain hesitant to market to podcast listeners. To help brands take advantage of this growing medium, we’ve put together a guide outlining the key components of podcast advertising, as well as tips for building a successful podcast marketing campaign.

What Is a Podcast Ad?

One of the most unique and valuable aspects of podcasts is their ability to build a community of invested listeners. Podcasting builds a sense of intimacy, and listeners are inclined to trust a host’s product recommendations, as well as support their work.

The most effective way marketers can tap into this community is by investing in host-endorsed ads. With this format, the host generally reads key points about a product or service, and then adds their own testimonial. This personalized content comprises over two-thirds of all podcast campaigns, and tends to be woven throughout each program.

However, there is still the option for marketers to create non-endorsed or produced ads without a host testimonial. This segment is generally recorded and inserted into the show in a predetermined spot. One benefit of this format is that it allows for dynamically inserted advertising, in which ads are included at the point of download rather than baked in at the time of production. These ads can be served on several different podcasts, and enable more precise scheduling and targeting.

Whether or not an ad is endorsed by a podcast host, it should blend seamlessly into the main content. According to Erik Diehn, vice president of business development for Midroll, these well-made, native ads perform better and are less likely to be skipped than their more generic counterparts.

“Native spots in the style of the show keep people engaged, keep them from skipping, and now we have data that frankly proves it,” Diehn explains, referencing Apple’s podcast analytics service that launched in January 2018. The results proved that most podcast listeners make it through 90% of a given episode, including the ads.

How to Measure Campaign Success with Podcasts

Minimal data and the relatively small scale of the medium have caused some advertisers to avoid podcasts. But as measuring tools have become more advanced, data has shown that podcast audiences both listen to and engage with ads. In fact, global ad revenues are expected to total $650 million in 2018, and projected to grow at a nearly 30% annual rate between now and 2022.

With obstacles rapidly diminishing, there’s no longer any excuse for brands to ignore podcast advertising. It is important, however, for marketers to gain a clear sense of how to measure ad engagement. The path to conversion may be indirect and multi-faceted — including several devices and channels — but tools like promo codes, vanity URLS, and post-checkout surveys allow brands to keep track of their traffic.

The most common way to measure direct sales is through a unique promo code created for each show that is read during ad segments. Another useful strategy is a custom link that leads to a dedicated landing page for each podcast using the ad. Finally, a post-checkout survey asks users to share how they heard about the product or service after purchase.

Podcast advertising is expected to expand in coming years to include major brands and major budgets. As Midroll’s head of ad sales, Lex Friedman, explains, “We’d like to see more major studios on the entertainment side. We’ve only dipped our toes in with automotive. If you hear their spots on national radio, we want them.”

With more industries starting to take notice, the time is now for marketers to dive into this small but profitable medium. Audiences are already highly engaged and invested in the recommendations of their favorite hosts, so brands that use podcast advertising are likely to see an increase in both impressions and conversions.

Author Alexa Kwiatkoski

After studying creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Alexa went on to teach English in France. She then worked as a copywriter for a student exchange company for several years, where she had the chance to lead high school programs to both Poland and the South of France. In her current role at L&T, she writes and manages social media for a variety of clients on topics ranging from healthcare to logistics. When she’s not creating transformative content for L&T, Alexa loves to explore New York City, play board games, and travel to new places.

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