Marketing Brand Strategy Influencer Marketing

A little more conversation: how programmatic is driving podcast ad innovation


By Jenni Baker | Senior Editor

August 17, 2022 | 6 min read

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Conversational targeting is the next evolution in programmatic podcast advertising – giving brands a privacy-safe way to reach listeners with greater ad relevance in an identity-less world.

Girl standing in street wit headphones

Podcasts are unique in the way they allow for intimate conversations between host and listener

Podcasts have come a long way since the early noughties. Today, there’s more than two million active podcasts around the world with 424.2 million listeners tuning in, representing 20.3% of all internet users. Increased demand for audio content has driven the explosive growth of podcasts, unlocking new automated opportunities for brands to be part of the conversation.

Audio consumption is changing, and podcasting has become its own channel. This year, podcast advertising is forecast to be worth $1.5bn – but still there’s a huge investment gap between spend and daily consumption. To close that gap and balance out, that figure should be closer to $41.5bn.

As WARC reports, podcast advertising was found to be undervalued by $40bn, relative to the overspending within other mediums such as TV and social media, with the greatest opportunities for advertisers among audiences aged 16–24, middle earners, and those educated until the age of 16, thus showing the power of the medium and the untapped potential it holds.

The programmatic podcast evolution

With both supply and demand growing, automation is changing that. Over the last five years, independent podcast company Acast has been working to educate the industry on the evolution of programmatic podcast advertising and its future potential, learning from mistakes the media industry made when introducing programmatic to display and video.

Just as the digital advertising industry is moving towards contextual targeting as a viable alternative to third-party tracking through cookies, podcast advertising relies on an understanding of the context of the conversations happening within podcasts to be able to serve relevant ads, with minimal disruption to the listener experience.

“This works particularly well in podcasting versus other channels because of the wide range of genres – both niche and mainstream – that are available,” says Joe Copeman, global senior vice-president of ad sales at Acast. “It’s influencer media at its best, and today’s buyers are demanding transparent, contextually targeted, premium supply sources.”

Today, podcast companies like Acast are able to provide more granular measurement than ever - even down to whether a campaign has driven visits to a brand's website or app, through the post-campaign brand uplift reports and attribution reports.

And the clients love them for it. Nathanial Thompson, associate media planning director at Essence Global said of working with Acast: “We’re extremely happy with the success of the campaign we ran with Acast. Not only were we able to see results in product recall, we were most excited by the statistically significant uplift in purchase consideration driven during the campaign. The partnership with Acast allowed us to immerse ourselves within the conversations already happening between creators and their listeners, making the advert feel authentic and relevant to the listener — with minimal disruption.”

Targeted conversations

With the acceleration towards greater user privacy, now there’s a need to move beyond individual user-level targeting. Digital advertising solutions must evolve and innovate for intelligent, privacy-safe, contextual targeting. Enter conversational targeting.

“Podcasts are unique in the way they allow for intimate conversations between host and listener – and that makes it all the more important that we respect this environment when it comes to advertising,” explains Chris Wistow, vice-president of product, advertising at Acast. “We have a responsibility – to both our podcasters and their fans – to help the brands we work with find the best, most relevant conversations to be part of.”

Conversational targeting is the latest innovation from Acast to help advertisers reach the right listeners within the most relevant conversations taking place across its network of 66,000 podcasts. It means that advertisers are targeting conversations – not individual users, dramatically expanding their reach to cover more diverse categories if the subject matter of a particular episode is directly relevant to their campaign.

For example, a food delivery service could target individual podcast episodes where the hosts discuss what they’re having for dinner, or their love of cooking – even if it’s from a different genre. Wistow says: “By targeting individual conversations, advertisers can go deeper into podcast content to position their brand in the most relevant way possible.”

Until now, it’s only been possible to target by category at show level, with each episode effectively categorized and labeled in the same way. Conversational targeting takes this to the next level, providing more sophisticated solutions for advertisers to target with relevance at an individual episode level, in ways that are both privacy-safe and unique to podcasting.

It works by using advanced speech-to-text transcription technology combined with artificial intelligence and natural language processing to analyze hundreds of thousands of individual podcast episodes. Each episode is then categorized according to the industry standard IAB content categorization taxonomy (v2) to ensure that ad campaigns are automatically served against episodes of the highest relevance for their brand message.

“Crucially, conversational targeting offers advertisers greater relevance without targeting individual listeners or using user-based IDs or personal information – maintaining privacy and protecting the listener experience,” says Wistow. “And for podcasters, these new capabilities open up more of their catalog for potential advertising and associated revenue.”

With further innovation in the pipeline, the future for programmatic in podcasting is bright. From more advanced keyword and sentiment targeting to advanced topic and trend analysis, brands seeking contextually relevant, brand-safe, measurable and effective targeting, should tune in to the potential of programmatic podcast advertising.

Interested in working with Acast? Visit the website to find out more, or get started on building your campaign here.

Marketing Brand Strategy Influencer Marketing

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Acast was founded in 2014 and is the world’s largest independent podcast company.

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