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Hear me out: the future of creative is sound

Podcasting is home to an incredibly diverse array of creators, who all have a close bond with their audience

A colleague said to me recently, “you can close your eyes, but you can’t close your ears”. You can shut out the visual world with a quick flex of your orbicularis oculi muscles, but audio is omnipresent.

Think of birdsong, rolling thunder, the roar of a crowd (remember those?), a newborn baby crying, an unexpected phone call in the middle of the night, or that album you still remember every word of decades later. Sound evokes the widest spectrum of emotions.

We’re in the midst of an audio revolution – and podcasting is leading the way. Imogen Watson, a senior reporter at The Drum, myself, and audio supremo Dr Rupy Aujla, founder and host of The Doctor’s Kitchen podcast, will be talking all about it at The Drum’s Creative Transformation Festival.

I won’t spoil too much of our conversation here, but one thing is clear: listeners are flocking to podcasts. Acast recorded a 68% increase in listens to our 28,000-strong network of shows in 2020 – and brands followed suit, with advertiser investment continuing to grow every year.

While access to well-known talent in a unique, high-trust environment is clearly a big pull, it’s by no means the only draw. Podcasting is home to an incredibly diverse array of creators, who all have a close bond with their audience that they’ve worked hard to grow.

Podcasts are also an active experience for the listener; a ‘lean-in’ moment and a choice they’ve consciously made. Rarely is a podcast simply background noise that someone else in the room has put on – in fact, more than 90% of listening happens via headphones, making it an even more intimate audio environment.

And that gives brands unbeatable levels of engagement.

Acast offers more traditional audio ad spots and host-read sponsorships, as well as branded content – which includes the creation and launch of fully-branded podcast series through the Acast Creative team that I lead.

One of the most compelling stats I like to use is that the average listening time to an episode of a branded podcast hosted by Acast is 28 minutes. There is simply no other media channel where dwell time or engagement with branded content comes close to that, and we find that the majority of people are listening to multiple episodes.

Most excitingly from my perspective, the growth of podcast advertising is being led by bigger, creative campaigns from world-renowned brands like Microsoft, Waitrose, Heinz, Sky and Apple TV, as well as the entry of brands that traditionally lean on visual advertising, such as fashion and beauty, who are understanding the power of sound and the creative opportunities it can bring. Creative campaigns made up 24% of Acast’s total revenue in the UK, representing more than 70% growth versus the year before – and there’s much, much more to come.

To hear more about branded content in podcasting, including Dr Rupy talking about a recent campaign with Sainsbury’s, tune into Acast’s session – Hear me out: the future of creative is sound – at The Drum’s Creative Transformation Festival.

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