3 Reasons Podcast Advertising Could Boost Your Marketing Strategy in 2022

/ Thoughtspace - Programmatic, Strategy

“The growth of podcasting has brought a massive opportunity for advertisers to reach highly engaged, niche audiences.” – Arica McKinnon, Vice President, Client Consulting at Nielsen.

Podcasts have been around for nearly 20 years, but only recently have gained mass appeal among both audiences and advertisers. With their growing audience numbers, loyal listener behaviors and new advances in targeting and reporting options, there has never been a better time to explore this high-potential advertising medium.

Not sure if it is the right tactic for you and your brand’s bottom line? Here are three reasons that may change your mind.

Reason #1: The audiences are there…and growing

It is estimated that 120 million Americans listened to podcasts in 2021, with a projected growth to 160 million listeners in 2023. Despite a short flatline in listenership in 2020 due to shortened or non-existant commutes (a highly-popular listening time for the avid podcaster), podcast engagement increased notably this year with no signs of slowing down. Furthermore, according to a survey done by NCS Solutions, 88% of current listeners maintained or increased their listening time over the past year. This increase can be attributed to several factors including the return of standard commuting time, increased word of mouth recommendations from avid listeners, new shows being developed for specific niche audiences, and an influx of influencers, celebrities and brands developing their own shows to flesh out revenue streams and reach their audiences in a new way.

With this growth trajectory, it is no surprise that advertisers are increasing investment in this lucrative channel. According to IAB, podcast ad revenue in the US increased by 19% in 2020 and is predicted to exceed $3B by 2023. These numbers clearly indicate that brands are seeing success with this tactic and competition for reaching these audiences will continue to build over time. Jumping into the pool of opportunity now will allow you to expand your reach and effectiveness alongside the growing medium itself.

Reason #2: More options and flexibility

Podcasts have held the attention of highly-engaged, niche audiences for years. Historically, due to limitations in technology, the only option for brands to advertise in this space was to purchase expensive, inflexible and hard-to-measure direct buys negotiated with the shows themselves. In recent years, however, the growing popularity of podcasts has created a demand for an updated, more flexible and measurable system for reaching these audiences.

The industry recognized this opportunity and began developing alternative ways to monetize it. The result? A programmatic option called dynamic ad insertion (DAI) has now entered the market, making it easier and more affordable to incorporate this tactic into your media mix.

This biddable technology allows for new audience targeting options, including listening habits, geographic region and weather conditions. Due to the nature of podcasting and the recency of programmatic technology in this space, the current options for targeted demographics are somewhat limited. However, as the technology continues to develop, there will likely be more targeting options on the horizon and therefore should not keep you from investigating this tactic as an option for your strategy.

Reason #3: Listeners are ad-friendly

Not only are the audiences growing, they are receptive and responsive to the ads they hear while listening. A recent study on podcast “super listeners” discovered that 48% of listeners pay more attention to podcast ads than any other media and that 71% of those surveyed say they never, rarely, or only sometimes skip the ads they hear while listening. The study also found 54% of respondents are more likely to purchase a product after hearing an ad for it on a podcast, up from 46% in 2019.

There are a few surface-level reasons for this acceptance. Firstly, most podcasting platforms are free to use and audiences understand they trade the ad for the content. There is also the fact that most listeners tune in while doing other activities – driving, cleaning their house, walking their dog, etc. Their hands are not free to access their phones during these activities and therefore they are more likely to listen through the ad, unlike many other ad formats that are easy to scroll by or tap the skip button.

The primary reason audiences are receptive and responsive to podcast advertising, however, is trust and authenticity. Listeners often feel like the host is directly speaking to them and, before the introduction of DAIs, all ads on podcasts were read by those hosts. Because podcasts tend to attract highly engaged, niche audiences, the hosts became their own breed of influencer, making trusted recommendations to their highly connected listeners. This has set the stage for advertising to natively work its way into the expected user experience. Host-read spots are still the most highly trusted advertising spot in podcasting, but they have conditioned podcast listeners in general to be more receptive to advertising.

Recommendations

With the growing audience sizes, ad-friendly listener behavior and advancing technology options, reaching your ideal audience in the podcast space has become easier than ever. However, the unique channel constraints may require different strategies than what is successful for your brand on other channels. Here are a few recommendations for how to get started:

  1. Be creative with your targeting strategy. With limited out-of-box options for DAI placements, hyper-targeting will likely lead to overly expensive and minimal scale results. Instead, research the audiences that are already listening to podcasts and find a happy medium between niche and broad targeting options. What podcasts would your target audience be listening to and engaging with? Use interest and affinity-based audience insights to inform your targeting strategy.
  2. Consider the user experience when creating ad content. Like with all advertising mediums, your ad will perform better if it blends into the user experience of those being exposed to your ad. Since podcast listeners are used to more conversational, one-on-one listening experience, ads that feel more organic, informal and relatable are more likely to keep the listener engaged with the ad.
  3. Experiment with programmatic and traditional direct-buy placements. If there is a podcast whose audience perfectly aligns with your target audience, it may be worth the direct ad buy. But also experiment with more flexible DAI purchases to find the most successful shows and targeting combinations for your brand.
  4. Stay on top of technology developments. As more opportunities become available, being well-practiced in these platforms will allow you to take advantage of the high value podcast audiences before your competitors.

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