Agency Business Agency Models

Brands are still ignoring the potential of podcasts. Can agencies change their minds?

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By Sam Bradley | Senior Reporter

August 16, 2022 | 11 min read

How do you solve a problem like… persuading clients to market around a podcast? We find out as part of The Drum’s Audio Deep Dive.

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How should agencies sell clients on the value of podcast sponsorship? / The Drum

Each week, The Drum asks agency experts from across the world and the ad business for their take on a tough question facing the industry, from topical concerns to perennial pain points.

This week, to coincide with our Deep Dive into all things audio and sound, we turn our attention to podcasts – supposedly some of the hottest media properties around, offering an opportunity to reach captive, engaged audiences.

It seems clients aren’t listening, however, so we asked agency experts how they’ve managed to persuade advertisers to sponsor or activate around a podcast and how they prove the medium’s effectiveness. Here’s what they had to say...

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Aengus Boyle, director of media, VaynerMedia London

While podcasts continue to grow and present an opportunity to reach highly engaged audiences, the relative lack of measurement capabilities compared to more established digital channels prevents some marketers from adopting podcasts into their media mix.

That being said, there are a few main methods through which we can measure the effectiveness of the channel. Brand lift surveys can measure uplift across metrics such as brand awareness and consideration. For those who are more focused on driving direct response, the inclusion of a custom URL (eg, your-domain.com/podcast) or an offer code can be used to measure the actions users are taking after listening. More traditional measurement methodologies can also be leveraged, like pre- and post-analysis or matched market testing.

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Mathew Rouse, podcast lead, Octave Audio

Podcasts need to be treated as a separate medium within a larger media plan, complete with its own nuances. Attributing the success of an ad or host read sponsor is currently an industry-wide issue, but there are already a few solutions in the market that can track a listener’s journey from hearing a brand message through to an online purchase. As the market matures, these solutions will only get better – and more standardized. Currently, the main selling point to brands is that podcasts are an active listen that generate a higher recall among an audience listening predominantly via headphones.

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Kyle Krueger, senior vice-president of media, Big Village

The activation and measurement challenges of podcast sponsorship are real, forcing us to focus on the element of a campaign we should be all along – the audience. We advise our clients that podcasts are the ultimate audience-first tactic. The format lets brands find and scale listeners with a richer composition of their preferred target audience and address messaging against the listener’s interests in a high attention-level environment. Plus, podcast listeners are often highly loyal to the content they choose to consume and the cycle of podcast distribution – all leading to a truly premium and repeatable ad placement opportunity.

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Brian McCord, senior vice-president and executive director of media strategy, RPA

While podcasts aren’t the strategic centerpiece of our clients’ media mix, they can play an important role in achieving their objectives. Simply put – podcasts can deliver KPIs and don’t have to be a ’test’ medium. They place our brands’ message in the midst of content that caters directly to our target’s passions, often in a more intimate setting – whether being listened to in the car, on the go or at home. And we’ve seen business-driving results; for one client, we built a website visitation/conversion study that showed strong results versus alternate media options.

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Lola Neves, head of strategy, AMV BBDO

If podcasts still haven’t been proven effective, maybe they aren’t. That aside, getting the creative right will determine the effectiveness as without it the brand won’t get noticed. So can podcast ads be ‘good’? Do podcasts give a unique opportunity to be promoted by a trusted voice in an entertaining way at a lower cost? Or do forced ‘peer-to-peer’ setups instantly make people disconnect? The other factor is the reach potential, which depends on the audience base of the individual podcast. Maybe podcasts are most effective for newer/smaller brands looking to grow from a small base.

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James Tyrell, audio and digital investment partner, Havas Media Group

Coupled with the right content for the right audience delivered at the right time, podcasts offer exceptional potential for ROI.

Until recently, effectiveness measurement has been lacking and that’s been an obstacle to overcome when trying to convince clients to invest in the medium. However, the market is catching up and there are now more robust solutions in place enabling us to glean deeper insight.

Just as with any other media, we encourage clients to look at podcasts through the lens of the media experience they offer consumers and whether the brand has the authority to be taking part in this space, as ultimately the most meaningful experiences will deliver the greatest returns.

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Joe Box, reservations manager, mSix&Partners

Despite being in its infancy compared with established linear radio advertising, I wouldn’t necessarily say it takes much persuasion to get clients to see the merits of podcast advertising. It’s impossible to ignore the growth of podcasts in recent years with the Rajar Midas 2021 Winter Survey showing weekly reach at 20% in the UK. Compared with other audio advertising, podcasts offer a much more intimate, highly engaged environment where brands can reach a relevant targeted audience.

Research plays a key role when looking to prove the effectiveness of podcast advertising, with the likes of Nielsen and Acast having strong studies showing a hard-to-reach, highly attentive audience with 42% choosing to use ad blockers.

On top of this, the amount of exciting creative executions that can be carried out in this space, such as host reads, allow brands to be associated with high-profile talent, while video content and live shows only help persuade clients that for not a huge amount of spend, podcasts can play a great role in complimenting their other audio advertising.

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Asher Gordon, global digital partner, Dentsu X

As we move into a more privacy-focused industry, measurement is moving away from tracking individual users at every step of their purchase journey and more towards modeling performance. Measuring podcast ad effectiveness is a great example of that – to understand if it is contributing to an uplift in performance, bespoke offers and voucher codes linked to their interests and likely motivations can be used. This means that usage of these voucher codes or increased uptake of these offers can be directly attributed. Alongside this, we can also look at any increases in direct traffic or site conversion rate that coincides with podcast activity, which will show that this medium is effective.

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Larry Fisher, chief executive officer, Rise Interactive

Podcast ads deliver a unique opportunity that allows brands to meet their consumers where they are. We recommend any audio campaign to be focused on upper to mid-funnel objectives in order to take advantage of what podcasts do best – spreading the brand message. When we also reinforce that message across multiple digital mediums, it enables audio to drive a lift in brand metrics across the entire buyer lifecycle. Programmatic targeting helps advertisers effectively reach the right listeners, as well as measure an ad’s success and adjust accordingly, constantly striving and updating to get the best return on investment.

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Michelle McGuire, principal and experience management offering leader, Deloitte Digital

A lot has changed in marketing in recent years. Channels that used to be prevalent – like broadcast – are increasingly being put on the back burner when considering marketing dollars. We’ve seen in recent years that the most successful campaign is a decentralized campaign. The upcoming generation – ie future spenders – aren’t listening to radio. They have dedicated platforms where they consume their news and entertainment; podcasts being one of them. Marketers now need to take an integrated approach. And if you’re targeting an engaged, captive and probably affluent audience, then there’s no doubt that sponsoring a podcast is your best bet.

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Claire Milton, business director, Yonder Media

Podcasts, fluttering somewhere between radio and influencers, are a fantastic way to harness the intimate benefits of audio, combined with digital targeting capabilities.

Podcast sponsorship is akin to a personal recommendation – feeling unique to your individual cohort of people, even if that tribe is actually 500,000 strong...

While I believe the biggest benefit for podcasts lies in helping shift perception of brands through borrowing associations, there are opportunities for seeing direct business results, too. Sharing a discount code referenced by talent can be an easy method for measuring short-term responses, while campaign effectiveness studies can be conducted to measure brand uplifts between exposed and non-exposed audiences.

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David Graham, strategy partner, Wavemaker UK

There are plenty of ways to measure podcast activity depending on the objective – uplift studies, impressions, unique promo codes etc. For us, it’s more about clearly defining the opportunity podcasts offer advertisers to be more relevant in people’s lives. These are self-segmented audiences that have chosen to subscribe to that specific podcast genre, giving advertisers a fantastic way to connect with a specific group of people.

Better still, podcast creators can help deepen that connection with bespoke branded presenter readouts that draw on their own personal perspectives. This is exactly what we did for TfL’s sexual harassment campaign, collaborating with podcasts like Growing Up with Galdem and Homo Sapiens. Between them, the two delivered a quarter of million audio impressions and contributed to an improvement in higher-risk groups’ likelihood to report sexual harassment experienced on public transport (from 77% to 84%).

Want to join in with our weekly discussions? Email me at sam.bradley@thedrum.com.

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