High ROI and bold innovation propel podcasts into the marketing mix

There are few stories in the media more compelling than the recent rise of podcasting. Support is so dynamic that conversations with friends now often involve listing favorite audio downloads before songs or TV shows.

There is also a serious side to this for advertisers. In a time of economic uncertainty, when brands seek increased evidence of effectiveness, studies show that podcasts offer healthy returns for those who commit to spending on the medium.

Advertising in digital audio, such as podcasts, offers a 60% higher return on investment (ROI) compared to other media channels, according to a recent study commissioned by Acast and Spotify in Sweden.

Advertisers turn to podcasts for innovation

To reflect this strong return on investment, as well as the opportunities and innovation that exist in audio for brands, The Drum has teamed up with Acast, the home of podcast advertising, for a video discussion titled “Podcast downloading – an essential part of the marketing mix in any budget climate.

Joe Copeman, Senior Vice President of Advertising Sales at Acast, and Elli Dimitroulakos, Global Head of Advertising Innovation at Acast, joined Jenni Baker, Associate Editor, for a session on The Drum’s Audio Deep Dive.

High level creators

Copeman set the scene with the “how and why” podcasts that have had such a boom. He described the impact Covid-19 has had on the entertainment industry, with a slew of new creators entering the space during lockdown, including high-profile celebrities. This, combined with the rise of accessible technology making it easier for podcasters to host their own shows and reach large audiences, has led to the medium’s massive popularity.

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Advertising revenue also helps attract and retain podcast talent, which attracts new and diverse audiences. About 45% of listeners are new to podcasts in the last 12 monthssays Copeman, and the audience spans a range of age groups – 65% of over 55s started listening to podcasts in the last few years. Millennial audiences grew by 113% and Gen Z audiences by 175%, he added.

High levels of attention

The discussion then turned to how much time listeners actively choose to spend on podcasts. As brands increasingly focus on the benefits of the “attention economy,” 64% of podcast listeners are giving their full attention to listening, and 68% agree that podcast ads “are stand out” and have more “clarity” than in music or radio, according to a recent study by Acast.

Copeman added, “Advertisers know they’re going to grab a listener’s attention. And that means a lot because it’s great for brand recall. And it’s not just about remembering the ad, it’s also about how you feel about the ad.”

He argued that when celebrities and podcasters endorse products that are right for them, it resonates with listeners: “It’s the attention, it’s the authenticity. And it’s the fact that you’re in a positive mindset when listening to these podcasts as well.”

New levels of innovation

Advertisers are also turning to podcasts for innovation. Dimitroulakos explained that Acast is working on “creating products and targeting capabilities that bring conversations closer to you without losing the intimacy that is created between listener and podcaster.”

She described how conversational targeting, a proprietary technology that takes artificial intelligence and transcription data from 66,000 podcasts in the market, surfaces specific data signals that allow brands to understand conversations taking place at the the episode.

“Advertisers can now look through a lens of what those conversations are and decide if that conversation makes sense with what they’re promoting or the service they’re offering,” she said. “So it’s in alignment with the purpose of their brand, but also with the listener themselves.”

Products and services that allow advertisers to be more targeted and protect their brand in the podcast environment are also emerging. These include a partnership between Comscore and Acast that judges the brand fit of podcasts, based on the specific conversations within each podcast. It can also be used to encourage diversity and inclusion initiatives by ensuring that words used in context by specific groups or communities do not lead to unintended blocking of content.

Dimitroulakos said: “It’s our way of protecting brands, making sure they’re aligned with content that makes sense, but also keeping in mind the center of the conversation in terms of categories of appropriateness to the brand in which they are located.”

Large Scale ROI

The discussion moved to cover the ability of advertisers to scale audiences and create greater levels of targetability by combining the reach of podcasts with that of, say, connected television (CTV). And Dimitroulakos noted that Acast is working alongside the IAB on standards around brand safety and effectiveness for advertisers.

Copeman then mentioned specific brand podcast campaigns, including Klarna’s recent “Money Talks” activity, a brainchild of Acast’s in-house creative team, Acast Creative, which involved collaboration with podcasters such as Kate Thornton and Ralph Little, who got candid about their financial decisions, breaking the taboo of talking about finances. He also referenced an approach for Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ range, which leveraged a rich range of media including video content, social feeds and 360-degree camera work.

But what’s next for brands in terms of digital audio innovation? Dimitroulakos said the focus is on working with advertisers for “more scalable, more effective and smarter campaigns as well.”

And are there clear tips for advertisers on how to achieve this? Dimitroulakos added, “Go in with a fresh eye and let the experts show you. For example, what KPIs should you measure? How do you effectively reach the listener? How do you connect them with a creative that has makes sense, because trying to mirror KPIs or media execution from display or video, or other media like even radio, they don’t translate naturally.”

Watch the full discussion above.

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