The BBC's branded content offering breaks into podcasts

The BBC's branded content offering breaks into podcasts

BBC Global News hopes that unlocking the full potential of audio will help it deepen its affinity with new and existing supporters while attracting the ad budgets of brands wishing to piggyback off its established platform.

At the broadcaster's Up Front in London yesterday (24 September), the BBC's commercial arm announced plans to strengthen its audio framework with a voice assistant called ‘Beeb’ as well as the roll-out of a new text-to-audio technology called ‘Songbird’ that will allow website visitors to translate text articles to audio files. Both will be available for advertiser partnerships.

However, it was a push into branded podcasts that it hopes will catch the attention of marketers.

“We can see from the industry that there is a hunger for audio,” explained Hamish McPharlin, head of insights at BBC Global News. “And we consulted with the heads of sales around the world and we detected there was an appetite for branded audio, there’s money there - that’s why we’re responding.”

Branded podcasts will soon be developed by the broadcaster's content marketing team, Storyworks. Described as a ‘creative studio with newsroom values’ the team leverages its storytelling capabilities to create branded content for international advertising clients.

“We currently use digital, TV, content, articles to speak to our audience for brands,” explained Warren Harding, vice-president Western Europe, advertising sales and commercial partners. “Podcast was the next step that made sense for us. We have had the audience there and we know they’re engaged.”

To prove to potential clients that branded podcasts are an effective means of advertising, Storyworks commissioned a study that was carried out across four continents by neuroscience researchers at Neuro-Insight. Using neuroscience technology, ‘Audio: Activated’ scanned the minds of audio listeners to discover the unique benefits of this space for brands.

It found that branding did, in fact, stand out from content. When a brand was mentioned in the podcast, it delivered on average 16% higher engagement and 12% higher memory encoding than the surrounding content.

It also found that 94% of listeners consume podcasts while performing other tasks and that this mode of listening actually elevates engagement with the brand. The report also found that branded podcasts achieve unique cut-through with people who avoid ads. It found their engagement, emotional intensity and memory encoding around brand mentions beat TV benchmarks by at least 22%.

Though it's still early days it has already signed on clients, including companies in the finance industry, like money transfer brand OFX and the asset management platform, Blackrock, for which it has already launched a podcast series.

Moving forward, it feels it could work with travel brands or those within the luxury and fashion sector. “There are multiple avenues to peg, but it's about finding the tribe that matches that brand.”

One challenge it has come up against is measurement and at present it has no solution to giving advertisers the deeper ROI metrics they want.

“The worry is measurement because it's a medium that's not really a formalised advertising vehicle yet, so it hasn't got clicks and impressions tied into it,” said McPharlin.

Working out those metrics and how they deliver for advertisers is the next step. He said for branded podcasts to work effectively, it should work as part of a comprehensive media plan. “We shouldn’t say, oh because branded podcasts are here, we need to drop pre-roll video - no more display,” he contends.

Instead, he advises branded podcasts sit within a wider media plan, ideally that the BBC Storyworks team has devised.

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