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As analytics make podcast advertising more formulaic, brands are increasing their advertising spend on on-demand audio. According to audio platform audioBoom, 93 percent of brands have increased their podcast advertising spend from 2016 to 2017, and per the latest Bridge Ratings forecast, ad spend is expected to hit $534 million in 2020.
Now with new analytics coming to Apple’s podcast app, many are eager to learn more about listener behavior — and to better target their growing budget for podcast ads.
But while metrics such as completion rate and ad-skipping are able to answer some questions about why certain podcast ads are so successful, many additional factors come into play when deciding where to place ads. These can include the endorser’s authenticity when delivering the ad, it’s length, it’s delivery tone and certain copy points that are communicated.
And while many brands judge the success of podcast advertising based on pure conversions, the most effective advertisers rely on intangibles to measure their success.
What NFL Players and Podcast Ads Have in Common
In its reliance on intangibles, podcast advertising is similar to the National Football League draft. During the draft, team analysts and statisticians use a prospective player’s career stats to determine his worth to the team; but despite the numbers, it is extremely difficult to predict whether a player will ultimately be successful in the long run. Success depends on talent and in-game execution, with split-second decisions during a game, and not stats on a scorecard.
Similarly, brands won’t be able to use analytics alone to determine which podcasts will be the most effective vehicles for their ad buys. While podcast metrics might help shed light on podcast listenership and how podcasts are consumed, determining which ads will be successful, and where, is more of an art than a science. And it requires all players to be on the same page internally in order for a successful ad campaign to go off without a hitch.
Ad Results Media, of which I’m the owner and co-founder, has been a pioneer in the podcast movement over the last decade, placing nearly 40 percent of the $220 million ad spend in podcasting in 2017. This makes us the largest purchaser of podcast advertising in the U.S, and as a result, we’ve been able to pinpoint some best practices for brands looking to improve their bottom line through this medium – helping them to find the most effective podcasts on which to advertise.
How to Set Up Your Podcast Ad Efforts for Success
While many podcast advertisers believe that they can determine the success of their podcast advertising efforts by comparing conversions from show to show or platform to platform, or by benchmarking brand awareness, the truth is that gauging the success of a podcast starts before analytics even enters the conversation. Following are some ways that podcast advertisers can set themselves up for success.
1. Set clear internal goals. What does success look like at your organization? While podcasts affiliated with well-known platforms that offer dynamic insertion offer important branding elements to advertisers, there will be less conversion from listeners to paid users. So while there are some podcasting networks, like AudioBoom, that perform well for brands; others that do dynamic insertion are better for brand awareness than anything else.
Both use cases have a place in podcast advertising, but it is important for brands to truly understand their goals before moving forward with an ad buy to ensure the network they choose will help them to meet their specific requirements.
2. Diversify your podcast “portfolio.” Even if you’re paying attention, it can be difficult to predict which new podcasts will gain a loyal following soon after their debut — and to plan your advertising spot accordingly. Some of the more successful genres include storytelling podcasts, comedy and true crime, and within those genres, podcasts about certain topics and featuring certain hosts rise and fall in popularity.
But there are also surprises. For example, in 2017 Missing Richard Simmons became a favorite of listeners quickly and unexpectedly. Simmons is a popular figure across certain types of audiences, but it would have been difficult to look at the show and say with any certainty that it would become so successful. On the other hand, podcasts like Drink Champs and It’s Happening, which feature more mainstream celebrities talking about everyday topics over drinks seem poised for success from the start.
As a brand, look for a healthy mix of podcasts on which to advertise. Similar to your 401(k) portfolio, you’ll want to choose shows (like funds!) that have proven success, as well as shows that you believe have potential. And the exact mix depends on how willing you are to take risks that may pay off big-time, or not.
3. Be creative, but know what works. At Ad Results Media, we’ve tested thousands of podcasts, looking at the previous performance of podcast personalities and other indicators of potential success. We’ve learned that if a show or podcast host is successful for one client, it will most likely be successful for another; effective podcasts are almost always effective no matter what is being advertised, or for whom.
That said, some obscure shows have elicited surprisingly effective results for brands. Podcast advertising involves a lot of trial and error, but a tried and true way to understand if a specific podcast will be effective for your brand is to look at the success of similar brands on that show, or on shows like it.
In some cases, the success of podcast advertising for a certain show depends on where the ad is placed in the podcast, the content of the ad, or other factors. But in many more cases, we’ve found that success centers around intangibles like the host’s tone during an ad read, the host’s relationship with their listeners, and more.
Analytics will be an addition to the toolbox
At the end of the day, metrics can tell us a lot about our audience’s past behavior, but they cannot predict what future results will be — especially if we don’t have a solid plan in place to put this information to good use. The most important thing that brands who are looking into podcast advertising can do is to determine their goals, try new things, and rely on what’s worked in the past as a guide.
To date, podcast advertisers have been given a wide berth to experiment. And now we must be careful that the allure of metrics does not put an end to this creativity. That’s a road that leads to disappointed listeners and an overwhelming sameness that is bad for brands and podcasters alike. Instead, analytics should be one of many tools in an advertiser’s toolbox to assess – and improve – their podcast advertising efforts.
Russell Lindley is the owner and co-founder of Ad Results Media, which has offices in Houston and San Diego. Ad Results Media specializes in live radio, podcast, streaming audio and YouTube endorsement advertising in which products or services are recommended by credible personalities.