Five Ways to Amp Up Podcast Advertising

By Audio InSites Archives
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With podcast listening at record highs, savvy brands are exploring new ways to maximize the opportunity by going well beyond the tried-and-true: ads that are read by hosts.

"We're seeing a huge influx of brand advertisers -- consumer packaged goods, big insurance, big retailers -- that are starting to see the value in podcasts -- not just in host reads, but by extending beyond," said Lizzy Denihan, head of partnership strategy for Cadence 13, a podcast production company owned by Audacy.

"Brands want to understand the value between listeners and hosts, but also understand the best ways to tap into it," she added.

Live reads aren't going anywhere, but Denihan said marketers can activate new options that are equally effective. She made her remarks during a recent webinar discussion with podcasters and sales experts, which was sponsored by Audacy, whose properties include AM/FM radio stations, digital audio and podcasts.

Denihan and her fellow panelist colleagues divulged five key elements that go into effective podcast marketing:

1. Match with the Right Host

It may sound so simple but identifying the right host (or hosts) is critical. When the host is invested and enthusiastic about a product and believes it provides value for their audience, that's the best partnership, said podcaster Stephanie Seferian, host of the podcast Sustainable Minimalists, which focused on sustainable and zero-waste living.

When considering brand integrations, she asks questions, such as: "What's the problem my listeners have and how is this brand, product, service solving their problem?" Only advertisers that meet her listeners' needs and wants will make the cut, Seferian said.

While brands may get excited about working with big-name stars, a host with a small or mid-sized audience might be a better fit, said Agnes Kozera, co-founder of Podcorn, a marketplace and creative agency for podcast hosts and advertisers.

"Influence is not about size; it is about finding the right fit," Kozera explained. A podcaster with 1,000 loyal listeners could be more valuable than one with 1 million users, she added.

2. Sponsored Segments

One emerging alternative is to sponsor a segment within an episode, rather than have a host read copy or ad-lib. Done well, these custom pieces feel additive, rather than disruptive, Denihan said.

When retailer HomeGoods wanted to sponsor segments within Cadence 13's You Can Sit With Us podcast, the hosts were happy to talk about the chain, Denihan said. One host is an interior designer, and the other was renovating their property, so they were genuinely interested. "We created segments that felt natural to the show," she said. "The hosts were enthusiastic."

In another example, car brand MINI Cooper wanted to deploy sponsored segments to promote its electric vehicle. Podcorn worked with tech and financial podcasters that reached young men, including popular host Marques Brownlee, who tested out the car.

Their first-hand experiences resulted in honest, engaging, and informative segments, Kozera said. "When you give creators the power to create things in their own voice and to choose the brands they are passionate about, brands will see great results," she added.

3. Episode Takeover

Want to be the star of the show? Brands can maximize visibility by sponsoring a dedicated episode. This allows a brand to work closely with the podcaster and guide the content.

Sponsored episodes can be successful for listeners and brands because they are the subject and the content, said Michael Ojibway, host of the true crime podcast Invisible Choir. He recently worked with HBO on a sponsored episode that promoted the TV network's five-part documentary series Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children. The special episode included several of the show's directors.

Ojibway said HBO's content was a seamless fit for the podcast."It was a phenomenal episode. We stayed in our lane of true crime and provided a value-add for that particular brand," he noted.

4. Take Advantage of Podcast Networks

The world of host reads is still king in the podcast advertising game. And partnering with a podcast talent for host reads, custom segments or endorsements drive the best engagement by far. But developing a strategy that delivers both targeted engagement and scale is a best practice for advertisers in this space. For brands interested in addressable media, look beyond titles to podcast networks, where you can target custom audiences across shows.

5. Extend the Partnership

Podcaster relationships don't have to end with audio. Brands can engage hosts to promote their brands on social media and YouTube, extending their reach and visibility onto other popular channels.

To generate sales, a brand can create custom websites and then use the podcaster's popularity to drive activation. For a Valentine's Day promotion, Cadence 13 matched Macy's with its popular Pretty Basic and Anything Goes with Emma Chamberlain podcasts. The young hosts, Alisha Marie, Remi Cruz and Chamberlain, selected gift ideas from Macy's, which were featured on custom websites. Then, the hosts encouraged listeners to visit those pages for gift ideas.

Both sides were invested in the partnership, Denihan said, and Macy's saw strong results.

"We allowed [the hosts] the freedom to say, 'Go see my picks, not just Macy's website,'" Denihan said. "They felt very excited and enthused to push their fans to go check it out."

When it comes to podcast integrations with hosts and their shows, there really are no limits. If you can dream up a campaign or integration, chances are there's a podcaster that's a great fit who can make it reality.

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