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A Guide to Podcast Advertising


It’s not your imagination—podcasts are everywhere these days. Although podcasts have been around for nearly two decades, the format has recently skyrocketed in mainstream popularity. According to Edison Research, sixty-two percent of the U.S.population, around 176 million people, are now weekly online audio listeners, an all-time high for this category. As podcast popularity continues to rise, more businesses are looking to get in on the action. Whether you’re thinking of jumping into podcast advertising for the first time or upping your spend, here’s a quick guide on how—and why—you should increase your podcast presence. 

Why advertise on podcasts?

While the number of listeners have grown exponentially, the demographics and behaviors of podcast audiences make the format very appealing to brands. Podcast listeners tend to be younger and well-educated—a coveted audience many advertisers want to reach. Half of all podcast listeners are ages 12 to 35, while 61% of podcast fans have completed at least 4 years of college, compared with 44% of the U.S. population.

Listeners are also incredibly responsive to advertisements on podcasts. A poll by Edison Research shows podcast consumers are 54% more likely to consider the brands they hear advertised on their favorite podcast shows. With young, well-educated, highly engaged listeners ready to hear and act on brands’ messages, it’s no wonder advertisers would allocate more of their media budgets to podcasts.

How do advertisers benefit from podcast advertising?

Prominent media companies have been investing in new ways to bring podcasts to audiences. According to Forbes, Spotify, Amazon, SiriusXM, and other big businesses have been continuing to invest in the podcast industry, increasing the accessibility of podcast content. “Brands love podcasting because audiences pay such intense attention and highly value the content,” according to Suzanne Grimes, president of Westwood One and EVP of marketing at Cumulus Media. “Hundreds of brand effect studies from Nielsen and Signal Hill Insights prove podcast advertising generates significant lift in brand awareness, favorability, consideration and purchase.”

Advertising on podcasts is worth the spend because it builds brand affinity, awareness and trust. Aligning with trusted voices (i.e. podcast talent) is an effective way for brands to reach engaged and attuned audiences to further establish brand awareness and loyalty. It offers a greater potential for leads and conversions from new consumers through such methods as special offers, promo codes, and specific URLs that make response easy to track.

How can advertisers reach their target audience and maximize ROI?

The demographics and characteristics of podcast listeners generally make them open to a variety of new ad formats, such as host-read audio ads and even digitally inserted ads. These listeners are tech-savvy, tuned-in and open to new products and brands, but the strategy advertisers use to target a specific audience is crucial. After all, you want an ad to be heard by the right people who will take action and generate revenue. 

Let’s look at each type of ad that can be leveraged in podcast advertising and how advertisers can benefit from using them in their marketing campaigns. 

Types of podcast ads

Podcast ad by placement: Pre-roll, mid-roll, post-roll

Advertisers purchase ad space on a podcast by selecting pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll ads based on their position or placement in a show. 

A pre-roll advertisement is played before the desired content of the podcast. Advertisers select pre-roll ads because they believe that an ad appearing in the first 25% of a podcast is most likely to be heard by the audience.

A mid-roll ad tends to be longer, averaging about a minute, and is typically played near or at the halfway mark of the podcast. Some advertisers prefer mid-roll ads because audiences are likely to be engaged in other activities and won’t take the time to skip through the ad.

Post-roll ads stream after the show ends. YouTube, for example, is the most notable platform that uses post-roll advertising. Their post-content ads are typically 10- to 15-seconds long, but can be as long as three minutes. Post-roll ads can be the least expensive option and can be used for awareness. Listeners can avoid post-roll ads in podcasts by closing the program before the ad is complete, resulting in listener drop off. 

Podcast ad by type: host reads, embedded, and dynamic ad insertion

In addition to when ads are placed in a podcast, advertisers should think about how these ads are recorded. There are two main types of podcast ads: baked-in ads and dynamically inserted ads. Baked-in ads are ads that are a permanent part of the episode’s audio file. They are sometimes referred to as “embedded” or “evergreen” ads. Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) is a server-side ad-insertion technology that enables a seamless placement of your personalized ad as they’re being downloaded or streamed.

Advertisers typically reserve most of their budget for baked-in ads (embedded) versus dynamically inserted ads (server-rendered). However, there’s upward movement in the podcast advertising industry around dynamic ad insertion or DAI. Because this type of ad is recorded and produced separately from a podcast, it’s most effective for time-sensitive events or news.

Three other examples of when DAI would be beneficial to advertisers are:

  • When the audience can hear timely and relevant ads
  • When brands want more flexibility to edit, remove, or replace ads periodically
  • To geo-target an audience with messaging appropriate to their locality  

Host reads (prerecorded or live)

Host reads are exactly what they sound like—a podcast host reads a sponsored message or advertisement to their audience about a product or service. 

Host-read ads have been a longtime favorite for brands. Advertisers have used live reads on the radio for years and easily transitioned to using this approach to market ads on podcasts. So, how do host-read advertisements perform compared with traditional advertising?

A survey from Nielsen found host-read ads outperformed non-host-read ads on several key marketing metrics. Most notably, they were found to produce some 60% higher intent to seek info among listeners, a 50% higher intent to purchase and recommendation intent. Additionally, host-read ads produced 67% higher affinity, and 33% higher familiarity than non-host-reads. Subsequent studies support this claim reiterating that host-read podcast ads were significantly more likely to be described by respondents as authentic and believable and less likely to come across as forced.

Are host-read ads right for you?

An IAB report shows host-read ads continue to dominate podcast advertising, with 56% of revenue. So, while podcast hosts are the (not so) secret weapon for brands looking to gain listener trust through utilizing the audience’s personal connection with the host, they come at a higher price point.

Are dynamically inserted ads right for you?

DAI can be beneficial in combination with baked-in ads or independently, depending on the brand’s goals, hosting platform, talent, and type of content. While it doesn’t look like DAI will be replacing baked-in (host reads) anytime soon in terms of consumer response rates, it’s an option that makes sense in certain scenarios and often compliments host-voiced ads.

How can advertisers utilize podcast advertising to expand their reach?

Podcast advertising, when used strategically with extensive audience insights and reporting, can help brands captivate an engaged audience and grow not only brand recognition but immediate revenue as a direct response channel. Advertisers can create a successful advertising campaign by tailoring their ads to target a specific audience or demographic, or match a product to a podcaster of a similar niche. 

At Veritone One, we work with each client to deliver a custom approach with dedicated experts that focus on data analytics, planning, strategy, buying, messaging, and creative. 

To find out more about how we help you identify the best channels for your brand and work with you to craft the ideal message—one that is clear, memorable, and effective—reach out to us today to amplify your message.

Photo by Will Francis on Unsplash