The podcasting landscape has grown exponentially in the last decade. Ofcom figures show that the number of weekly podcast listeners in the UK has grown from 7% of adults in 2013 to 11% in 2019 – 5.9 million people – and amongst 15-24 year-olds, that number grows to 18.7% (up from just over 12% in 2017). With audience numbers rising and podcasts becoming a firm part of the UK’s media mix, should you consider the format?
Podcast advertising statistics
Before we explore the pros and cons of podcast advertising and whether you should use it, let’s delve into the stats to understand the market.
- Comparatively, podcasts generate around four times better brand recall than scroll, pop-up and static ads (Midroll 2018 and NORC 2017).
- Compared to traditional advertising, 10% more listeners are likely to buy after exposure to podcast ads (Midroll, AP, 2018).
- 80% of listeners can recall a brand advertised in a podcast (Midroll Recall Survey 2016).
- 67% of listeners can recall specific product features or promotions (Midroll Recall Survey 2016).
- 51% of listeners are somewhat or much more likely to buy from brands that advertise via podcasts (Midroll Recall Survey 2016).
- 51% of Americans have listened to a podcast (Statista 2019).
- Podcast advertising is growing fast – according to WARC’s 2019 Global Ad Trends report, podcast ad spend is currently worth $855m globally, and set to rise to $1.6bn by 2022 (4.5% of global audio advertising spend).
- 53% of listeners choose YouTube, 28.8% Apple and 28.3% Spotify (WARC, 2019).
- Significantly, WARC research shows 78% of listeners do not mind podcast advertising as a means of supporting free content.
Why is podcast advertising effective?
Intimate, accessible and creative, podcasting has taken the world by storm. This is partly down to the spread of advertising within the format – allowing hosts to make a living from podcasting and advance production values in kind. Looking at the stats above, the formula also works well for advertisers, but why is podcast advertising so effective?
At its heart, podcast advertising is a form of influencer marketing. The relationships built between presenters and listeners across multiple episodes and countless hours mean audiences trust their favourite podcasters.
When presenters recommend a product or service, they put that trust on the line. This is a double-edged sword, of course, as the advertisement needs to properly gel with the tone and subject of the podcast and the character of the listening audience – if it doesn’t, trust may be lost, and audiences driven away. Canny podcasters are deeply aware of this, so it’s on advertisers to match their ad with the correct platform.
The podcast world is a perfect example of the growth of content niches. Practically all audiences and topics are catered for, which means brands can get in front of theirs with laser-accurate precision.
They’re (best when) native
There are three main types of podcast advert. Host-read ads that are spoken by the host, flow seamlessly with the episode’s content and remain part of the show indefinitely; announcer-read ads that are pre-produced and not delivered organically, but offer more measurement and targetability, given they are usually delivered via ad servers; and brand-supplied ads, which are very similar announcer-read ads, except they are 100% brand-created, with nothing tieing them to the podcast they’re hosted on.
In terms of industry-wide revenue, host-read ads come out on top – IAB’s 2019 Podcast Ad Revenue Study showed them commanding a 63.3% market share compared to 35% for announcer read (with brand-supplied ads making up the rest).
We recommend host-read – they take advantage of the attention-gripping nature of spoken word and the creativity and presenting style of the host; the main reason why the audience is listening in the first place. Produced correctly, they’re lightly scripted, respect the style of the podcast and are informed by the host’s actual experience of the product or service. Important, since audiences are adept at sniffing out insincerity.
They’re listened to
Podcasts are long and conversational, which makes skipping through them a complicated and inefficient way to listen. It makes far better sense to listen through the whole show, including your advert. This is compared to TV or radio advertising, where consumers can quickly switch between channels to avoid ads.
They perform well compared to other formats
Traditional display and banner ads aren’t doing too well. There’s the well-trodden Display Benchmarks Tool stat noting 0.06% click-through rates, the fact that audiences are experiencing banner blindness (see this interesting article by the NN Group), and the skyrocketing use of Ad Blockers. Compare these negatives with the podcasting stats above, and it’s easy to see why companies are committing ad spend to podcasts.
They’re easily measured
Working out ROI can be tricky with audio ads, but with podcasts there are plenty of ways you can quantify their impact. This includes promo codes, promotional URLs, checkout surveys and social media monitoring. What’s more, if you choose dynamically inserted podcast ad delivery mechanisms, you can benefit from rich measurement features (but with the trade-off of not being an organic part of the show).
When not to choose podcast advertising
Podcast ads aren’t for every brand. So, when should you avoid the format?
First, you need to ask yourself whether podcasters will put their authenticity and audience trust on the line for your business. Are you, your products and services properly aligned with the presenter, content and audience? Do your research and be prepared to sacrifice a degree of creative control over the ad content.
Next, while monthly global podcast penetration stands at 33.5% (WARC, 2019), podcasting listenerships are still quite uneven. Countries such as Spain (40% of adults listen once per month), Ireland (38%) and Sweden (36%) have the largest audiences, compared to 20% in Belgium, 18% in the UK and 18% in the Netherlands. That’s not to say you shouldn’t podcast advertise in the UK, but to ensure success, research the size and composition of your target podcast audiences before you commit ad spend.
Lastly, podcast advertising can be time-consuming. You have to find brand-appropriate podcasts that have ad time available, engage in toing and froing to work out prices and terms, then finally develop the ad itself (including waiting for the host to ‘have a go’ with the product to make sure they give an informed view on it). Podcast ads are an interesting reminder of what life was like before Facebook and Google’s ad managers came along and massively simplified the process.