At this point, it’s been well documented that podcasts are having their moment. As the chief marketing officer of an audio and podcast advertising agency, I’ve seen explosive growth in content, listenership and investments in the medium, as well as the brands that are recognizing podcasts can be a helpful way to sell their products and services. With that, here are a few starting tips if you're interested in advertising in the space:
Create an optimal budget.
Have enough budget set aside to test a wide variety of shows. I believe starting with a budget between $50,000 and $75,000 should get you statistically significant results and a good feel as to whether the medium works for your brand.
Podcast advertising is different than digital advertising in that there might be a bit more testing required upfront to understand which genres, shows, ad formats and listener demographics work, as well as understanding the proper drag analysis, ad frequency, calls to action, etc. The bottom line is: You need some money and some patience to play.
It's also important to understand individual ad pricing when creating your budget. Podcast ads are typically bought on a CPM basis. For context, the cost for a "live" endorsed ad that is "baked into" the episode averages around $25. But, be aware that not every podcast ad is created equal. Things to consider are whether the ad spot is pre-, mid- or post-roll (where it falls in the episode); whether the ad is live, recorded, endorsed or read by the host of the show or others; and whether the ad is permanently baked into the episode or dynamically inserted and pulled after a certain frequency. All of these factors affect the ad's value and should be considered when putting your campaign and budget together.
Check for brand alignment.
Ensure whatever shows you want to partner with are aligned with your brand values and target audience. Know the content of the show, the host and if they conducts themselves in a way that is consistent with your brand voice and ethos. An example of good brand alignment is of one of my company's clients, Stamps.com, and Bill Burr. Burr sells a lot of posters, so uses Stamps.com's mail and shipping services, which then allows him to deliver a great ad read. These types of alignments can create magic, and it shows in the performance of the campaign.
Develop a creative strategy for your ad.
When partnering with a show, choose one where the host will personally endorse your offering, and avoid scripting the entire ad for them. Simply guide the message so you can let their personality shine. Below are three steps on how to structure the advertisement (while encouraging a host's creativity):
• Offer thought starters. Provide jumping-off points that encourage them to talk about their personal experience with your product. Communicating thought starters will help guide them to what you want them to say.
• Next, share the features and benefits of your product with the host. The body of the copy is meant to communicate what the advertiser is offering and why it’s so great. Whether it’s explaining the basics, variety or value, this part of the copy gives them the meat of what your product offers.
• Communicate the offer and call to action.
Hold kickoff calls with every host or producer you're working with. Topics should include your copy points, your brand values, your expectations and what success looks like to you.
Prior to your ad going live, “seed” your product to the host so they can engage with it for an extended period of time. You want them to be able to speak authentically about how the product has improved their lives and how much they love it.
There are a few steps you can take to seed a product effectively. For example, a partner at my company first has podcasters review the advertiser's website to get familiar with who they are. This helps ensure they are excited about the brand and will endorse it passionately to create a positive experience for listeners. We've also seen that seeding the product as close to the campaign's launch date as possible is critical. This way, their experience is top of mind. Last, the partner conducts a kickoff call to continue to onboard them to the brand's values, ethos, etc.
Factor in frequency.
The frequency of your ad is also important to consider. But first, you must understand an ad's "drag." In an article I previously wrote for Forbes, I explained that advertising on a podcast tends to have a longer drag effect because episodes are listened to on-demand. So if someone downloads a new episode, but waits a couple of weeks before listening to it, that elongates the drag curve.
This is an important point because if you advertise too frequently, you could lose out on the free drag orders that accompany a podcast’s initial drop week. But if you advertise too infrequently, you risk not hitting the right frequency to create maximum demand. A general rule of thumb is to test two to four spots over an eight-week period and then optimize frequency from there. The data will lead each individual advertiser to their best frequency for each individual show.
In my experience, the shape of the drag curve varies significantly based on show, genre and season. For example, a football-focused podcast that includes a client’s ad the week before the Super Bowl likely won’t generate any significant drag since the podcast episode will quickly grow stale. But buying ads on episodic podcasts, such as what my company does with Serial, will likely generate significant drag orders based on a stark difference in download-to-listening behavior and a listener base who's introduced to the show years after the show's initial launch.
Although there is a multitude of other factors to consider when campaign planning, these tips are a good starting point for diving in and getting the growth you're looking for.