Audio has never been hotter, from radio’s dominant position as America’s mass reach media to the rapid rise of Voice AI. Podcasting, a medium that has been around for more than a decade, is experiencing explosive growth and reaching a tipping point fueled by new content and highly engaged, loyal fans. This steady rise in audience has been followed by a sharp increase in advertiser dollars, with many direct response companies using podcast ads to drive sales with great success. All of this excitement has left brands wondering if they should get in on the action, but many don’t know where to start.
America’s largest audio network, Cumulus Media-owned Westwood One, has the biggest radio footprint and the fastest growing podcast network. In partnership with companies like audio agency Ad Results, we’re leading the way in developing podcast advertising best practices. After thousands of podcast ad campaigns, we’ve determined the four pillars of podcast advertising that every marketer needs to know.
Podcast Pillar 1: Use Podcasts to Tell Your Brand Story
The first factor is understanding that podcasts are natively an excellent medium to tell a brand story. All audio is rooted in sharing stories, but podcasting is an ideal environment for storytelling because of the intimate bond between the host and listener. One way to think of it is, the medium is the message. It’s content directed just to you, in the setting of your choice, delivered on demand at a time you find most convenient. This listening experience offers endemic brands a unique opportunity to become part of the show's narrative.
Podcast Pillar 2: Be Part of the Talent and Listener Connection
Choosing the right talent is paramount to podcast advertising success. Marshall Williams, Media Partner and Chief Executive Officer of Ad Results, advises brands to work with show hosts that elicit a strong connection with their listener base, as does Westwood One podcaster Ben Shapiro. “When [hosts] truly connect with their community, trust is built, thus creating less friction with the listeners when an ad spot plays," Williams says. "Less friction, trust and a clear, concise call to action usually equate to good conversion rates. It’s a really effective approach to performance-based advertising, and it’s why we’ve seen the ad dollars flooding into the medium.”
Podcast Pillar 3: Strike a Chord with Your Campaign
Environment and talent trust are the foundation, but making an emotional connection is what brings a sponsor’s story to life. Podcast ad campaigns that evoke feelings create far more memorable bonds and associations with consumers. Podcast listeners, in particular, report a strong affinity and recall for advertisers that support their favorite shows, especially when stories are involved. At Westwood One, we have found emotional campaigns with a storytelling component yield more long-term business effects and, most importantly, engagement. Brand stories can be funny, relatable, happy, etc. They just need to strike a chord and draw in the listener.
Podcast Pillar 4: Be Authentic and Let Talent Lead
Host-read and/or longer-form storytelling ads that mirror the show in content or spirit win the day. Brands should have hosts voice ads and endorse products by sharing experiences and recommendations. This first-person approach, especially when a live read is woven into the conversation, is storytelling gold.
Brands need to keep it real. “Credibility is paramount when a host endorses a product because the relationship between listener and host is partially built on trust, due to the opt-in nature of podcasts," Williams notes. "Thus, authenticity and the personal nature of the spot are the main drivers in how material the host’s influence is in selling a product or service on behalf of clients.”
To learn more about how audio advertising drives ROI visit the Westwood One Blog.
Photo credit: WillSpirit SBLN/Unsplash
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