SXM Media has a new mission for its advertising partners: Go explore the vast podcast universe. The virtual journey is actually a new interactive website, aptly named the Podcast Universe, where brands and media agencies can investigate the company's vast podcast library, and then filter the audience by genres and demographics. It is designed to give users a better understanding of the ever-expanding podcast marketplace, as well as SXM Media's advanced targeting and creative opportunities.
"We wanted to create an experience to show advertisers that when you work with us, the sky is the limit," said Jocelyn Hudak, SXM Media's associate director for B2B content. "The way you explore the universe is [through] the ways that you can target your different audiences or podcasts by advertising with us."
Rather than a standard text-based website with research and lists, Hudak said SXM Media wanted to create a lean-in experience. Users start by selecting their desired audience, like parents, teens or African American or Hispanic/Latinx listeners, and then see podcasts that are popular with that group of listeners, and it is reminiscent of a Star Wars movie's opening credit sequence. Click on a podcast title, and the site serves up detailed information about that show, its hosts, and the audience demographics.
The Podcast Experience is an innovative way SXM Media, which represents ad sales for Pandora, SiriusXM and Stitcher, is helping its brand partners better understand podcast advertising and creative solutions. The IAB predicts podcast advertising will top $1 billion this year, and more and more advertisers want in. The challenge is that advertisers and their agency partners can be overwhelmed by all the choices and miss opportunities.
In some instances, brands default to wanting to buy the best-known podcasts, like Office Ladiesor Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend. SXM Media can oblige, but that might not be the best match for their ad budget or campaign objectives. For instance, Hudak said if an advertiser wanted to reach comedy fans, there could be other comedy podcasts that could be packaged together for a more effective and efficient buy.
"Everyone really wants to go to the most popular podcasts, but that isn't necessarily the best option for them," Hudak said. "That's not to say it's not worth it, but you're spending a lot of money and putting your eggs in one basket, and you're reaching every single person who's listening versus your specific audience."
By using the Podcast Universe website, a brand could uncover all the comedy podcasts, as well as other genres and shows, that deliver their intended audience. From there, SXM Media can create a customized package of advertising. "We can make sure we're effectively reaching your target consumers," Hudak said.
The website's second feature is intended to help advertisers understand the creative options. Titled "Explore Our Solutions," this interactive tool explains the type of ads to reach the 44 million users listening to more than 5,000 podcasts off and on platform. Users can sample audio clips of announcer read ads, client-provided or pre-produced ads, host-read ads, or custom integrations.
As brands look to maximize reach, announcer read ads are gaining traction. Carefully cast to match the sound and tone of a host voice, these ads are cost effective and can be inserted dynamically, at-scale, and across entire networks targeting a specific listener. Studio Resonate, SXM Media's in-house creative consultancy, avoid sound effects and boisterous voices and design all podcast ads to naturally blend into the space.
"We know podcasts are a very intimate experience and the ads we produce are reflective of that," Hudak explained. "They fit the environment and sound like they belong there."
For brands that want deeper engagement, SXM Media can create customized integrations, including branded episodes, vignettes or segments that can be inserted into a show, or host-read campaigns voiced by popular hosts. (Check out SXM Media's recent branded pisode of The Office Ladies with Buick.)
"Once again, the idea is that, when you work with us, you choose your own path and your own journey," Hudak said.
Going forward, Hudak said SXM Media plans to add more shows, genres and audience targets to the universe. Plans also call for adding audio clips from shows and messages from hosts, so advertisers can sample the sounds and voices firsthand. Hudak said it has the most time spent per page on SXM Media's website, a strong indication that advertisers are finding the tool highly engaging.
"It is going to be there for a long time, and we hope people will continue to explore it," Hudak said.
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