What's the deal with podcast advertising?

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Podcast advertising spend is expected to double to $1.6 billion by 2022.

So it’s 2019 and we’ve come to the point that the question is no longer, ‘Do you listen to podcasts?’ but more ‘What podcasts do you listen to?’ Their usage is increasing year-on-year, which means one thing - so does the advertising opportunity. But is it enough to make it a part of your marketing plan?

Podcasts have been around for more than a decade now, starting as a way to catch a radio show after it had aired, and growing from there. From how to start your own business, to solving real-life murder mysteries, podcasts have come a long way, steering interest not only from consumers but from marketers too. After all, podcast advertising spend is expected to double to $1.6 billion by 2022, according to a study by advertising research firm WARC. But what exactly is it about this medium that makes it so alluring?

Acast published a study that revealed a staggering 76% of UK podcast listeners say they have acted on a podcast advert or sponsorship message. Actions include: looking for more info online, visiting a brand’s website, and sharing information about a brand online. Could it be that because there are fewers ads in podcasts that listeners are able to maintain their focus during the ads? Or that consumers have a unique relationship with a podcast, being that they spend thirty minutes or more simply listening to one voice entertain them, that the consumer is inclined to develop trust quicker, and be more likely to take action?

Who knows? It would take a bucket-load of science to prove or disprove the endless number of possible theories behind why podcast advertising is so successful, but the point is that 76% taking some sort of action is a lot. So as marketers we should be taking note, and we should be investigating further. Let’s start by taking a look at who the UK podcast listeners were in 2018.

Firstly, 35% listened to podcasts while driving or travelling - so it’s almost as if it acts as a radio, except it’s a radio show you’ve chosen, on something you like. Therefore it’s more like personalised radio. From understanding that 30% listen to podcasts when travelling or driving, we know that we don’t have their full 100% attention. Nor are they likely to be able to action something from an ad in that exact moment. From this we can calculate that when it comes to podcast advertising, you’re more inclined to use it for brand awareness.

What is also very interesting is that there is a steep growth in podcast usage for ages 15-24 year olds. This stat will get marketers’ heads to turn, of course - we are always looking for ways to target those younger than eighteen, and here we have it - as long as the show is age appropriate, of course. But with traction from both older and younger listeners, we have ourselves some wonderful targeting opportunities. Especially as 67% of listeners are listening on their phone.

The stereotype that only wealthy, successful forty-somethings listen to podcasts is long gone, and the realisation that you can reach people across various different age segments is part of why so many marketers are flocking to the medium.

Just as any new channel to our industry however, targeting capabilities in podcast advertising are a challenge. Generally across platforms the measurement is impressions, except on Apple where you can measure when someone skips your ad or not. But one thing is clear, podcast advertising still has a long way to go. In fact, the lines are so blurry and muddled that in 2017, the IAB created the ‘Podcast Playbook’ to help advertisers understand how to tackle podcast advertising.

However limiting the measurements are currently, there’s no denying that podcast advertising is a unique medium in finding an engaged audience with a high percentage of listeners who enjoy the ads almost as much as they enjoy the show. This in itself should be a big enough incentive to add it onto your brand awareness marketing plan.

Lisa Sajwani is strategy and planning executive at Croud

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