There is a growing trend of advertisers investing in the world of podcasting, and it seems Serial, the podcast released in October last year, was the cause of this intrigue. This project, born out of NPR in the US, has quickly become the most famous podcast in history. Within its six-month infancy, Serial has amassed more than 68 million downloads of its first ten episodes. It’s great content but, to be honest (and with no spoilers), it’s not that good. There is much better content out there – it just hasn’t had the right platform to surface on. What Serial has done is put the spotlight on a platform that has been quietly growing for some time.
The ending of Serial was a memorable part of the series, but the brands that sponsored the show – namely, MailChimp (or "Mail… Kimp") – also stood out and became a viral success. The ad for the e-mail marketing service is short and sweet. It uses the host’s interviews with regular punters on the street to deliver the message in their own style instead of using a professional voice actor and scriptwriter. The ROI for MailChimp was beyond any other single marketing investment it has ever made.
The ad industry is now, more than ever, looking for more innovative and effective channels to reach their customers in a more targeted and informed way. Mobile is the buzzword and the platform advertisers need to use – despite limited (if not poor) formats and options to buy on this medium, mainly due to mobile screen size. This is where audio comes into its own and thrives, immune to the effect of screen size.
There is much better content out there than Serial - it just hasn't had the right platform to surface on
With 70-80 per cent of all podcasts now being consumed via mobile devices, and therefore listened to predominantly through headphones, advertisers are realising that they are buying into an engaged potential customer. Forty per cent of podcast listening comes from the back catalogue as users binge on content when they find a show they like. And now we can monetise this traffic with relevant ads, introducing "dynamic sponsorship" that inserts and replaces sponsors week on week in current and back-catalogue shows.
The most popular podcast advertising format is the host-read sponsorship. These are integrated into the script and can be delivered by the host in any creative way they want, at no extra cost to the advertiser. Roman Mars from 99% Invisible delivers his supporter messages (not sponsors) in such an irreverent way that I wait to listen to them even after the content is over.
Try his episode called "Under the Moonlight" for a mattress company called Casper. It’s a beautiful ad that you’ll simply fall in love with, delivered in a style we’ll be hearing much more often as marketers catch on to the growing power of the podcast.
Ross Adams is the UK country manager at Acast