As a medium, digital audio — more specifically, podcasts — continue to experience meteoric growth. According to Edison Research, podcast growth is strongest among the 18-34 demographic, a historically difficult age group for marketers to influence. That same study reveals audiences tend to listen to episodes for their full duration.
Such a captive audience enables podcasters to cultivate connections with listeners, which can lend a level of credibility to the brand associations advertised during the content.
According to Anu Verma, head of marketing for wellness brand and frequent podcast advertiser Care/of, “I know how engaging they are, and part of that has to do with the connection listeners feel with the podcasters. They’re often weaving their own personal stories into the content they create, [which is] part of what makes the shows so successful. There’s a level of trust there, so when podcast hosts talk about the products being advertised, you tend to listen and value their testimonies.”
A highly engaged audience sounds like a marketer’s dream, so what’s the catch?
This medium is thought to create upper-funnel brand awareness, and metrics are difficult to come by. The standard podcast ad format is via host-read ad, so unless a conversion takes place via verbal offer code for a digital engagement, there’s no way to tie back an impression to the ad spend.
Per Verma, “It’s hard to fully quantify the impact and ROI of podcast advertising — since it’s an offline form of marketing, you don’t have access to the level of tracking that comes with digital forms of advertising. It gets even trickier to measure when we are also working with a podcast host on another one of their platforms, like on Instagram.”
Podcasts are delivered via app, and traditional metrics associated with digital are not available, since the user’s mode of engagement with the content is passive. For businesses trying to justify ROI against their ad spend, this can be a deal breaker.
Should you make the leap?
First, it’s important to set your expectations. If you aren’t selling something direct to consumers via ecommerce where they can instantly realize the benefit of the offer, it will be hard to capture engagement metrics. And the offer must be compelling to drive a listener from the podcast app to take the next step.
Next, the content and the host of the show should align with your brand’s message and values.
Mark DiCristina, senior director of brand marketing at marketing automation vendor Mailchimp, one of the earliest brand adopters of podcast advertising, advocates that brands find content that aligns with their identity versus the size of the audience.
Per DiCristina, “Invest your time into finding podcasts with a point of view your brand can champion. Rather than choosing the most popular show, find one that’s less cluttered with advertisers and become its patron. When you’re an active supporter of the people producing these shows, it comes through in how they talk about your brand.”
Similar to traditional digital ads, wider audiences don’t always correlate to better engagement. Relevance does.
Lastly, even though podcasts lack success metrics, you can still employ a test and learn approach by trying the fit of different shows, so don’t settle on just one.
Verma advocates, “For an advertiser who is just getting started with podcast media, we’d recommend starting with a few shows and seeing how different audiences react. Test a few different brand narratives and see what sticks. From there you can scale with those incremental learnings.”
Podcast advertising isn’t right for every brand, but, if you approach the medium with measured expectations and align to the right content, it can be a truly connective marketing experience with your prospects.