Podcast ads allow brands to access the intimate connection that audiences have with podcast hosts. Ed Couchman, head of Northern Europe sales at Spotify, said the platform understands this attraction.
Speaking at a panel session at the Podcast Advertising Summit, Couchman said that successful authentic hosted sponsorships start with an understanding of the campaign objectives, combined with the right podcasts on Spotify.
“Listening to a podcast, you feel like you're having this conversation in the pub with your great mates and they help you navigate the world. And that's really what brands and advertisers are trying to tap into to build that association and trust,” he said.
Tech inserts your ads in the right place at the right time
Asked how brands can ensure they are meeting the right audiences, Steven Dunlop, founder and CEO at AMA, stated that podcasts usually discuss quite specific topics. There are also technologies that can auto-categorise podcasts into minute-by-minute categories.
“So if you start off talking about a football story, but then end up talking about a business news story, you can target within the minutes of the podcast content itself,” Dunlop said.
He added that using technology such as AMA’s allows brands to change the messaging within the advertising that is being inserted into the podcast to fit the context. For example, to make the voiceover faster and more upbeat in a football podcast or slowing it down to strike a more serious tone in a business news show.
It makes them more interactive
On the topic of how technology is changing podcast advertising, Dunlop said that AMA is using three categories of AI, including smart algorithms and machine learning, voice synthesis, and generative AI.
“We’ve used voice synthesis in our creative for years, and we now use generative AI more and more for idea generation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Couchman said Spotify is focused on interactivity and listening to both consumers and advertisers.
“Most advertisers understand that podcasts are great at driving awareness or consideration, but we also needed to add a layer of interactivity,” he said. Explaining that the platform’s Call to Action Card lets listeners find out more about a product being advertised.
What about measurement?
According to Couchman, Spotify also wants to drive sophistication when it comes to measurement, which he said is one of the barriers to marketing investment in podcasts.
Ed Birth, head of brand marketing at Hiscox UK, called on the industry to make measuring effectiveness easier. “You're competing for budget against channels which have been around for a long time. I look at TV advertising and all the work that Thinkbox does on creating easy to digest effectiveness stuff. That's got to be the trajectory, make it easy,” he said.
Victoria Handley, brand communications lead at Lloyds Banking Group, said the bank sees podcasts as an important part of its media mix because it’s the only medium that audiences give their full attention to.
“When people listen to linear or digital radio, they’ve still got a lot of other stuff going on in their surroundings,” she said. “But listeners are making time to listen to that specific podcast and they're tuning out from everything else that's going around them and that's absolute gold dust.”
She added that podcasts also allow brands to be authentic and relevant because listeners have built up trust with the presenter.
Moving on to discussing creativity, Birth, who comes from a creative agency background, said the industry has work to do.
He said: “I see so many rational messages without that sense of storytelling, which all the effectiveness evidence tells you is what unlocks performance. You can't take anything for granted, you've got to work really hard to offer some value back and I don't always see that with other advertisers.”
…and brand safety?
One big concern for advertisers is brand safety. Handley pointed to the importance of evaluating the hosts of a podcast before investing in a host read.
“You've got to make sure that who you choose is going to support your brand, because they are effectively the voice of your brand in that particular time frame,” she said.
Couchman encouraged the audience to work with a trusted partner. “At Spotify, we've invested in human beings and technology to make sure the platform is safe and only vetted content is on the platform,” he added.
What’s next for podcast advertising?
Asked how advertisers can be reassured that podcasts will deliver success, Dunlop said podcast advertising should move to the next level to catch up with other digital channels. Programmatic and other ad tech features such as dynamic insertion, dynamic creative, brand safe targeting would be a big part of that, he said.
Dunlop added: “The beauty of the host read is definitely podcast advertising 1.0, and it’s challenging to scale that. If you wanted to spend more money, you’d have to speak to more podcasters and test them all, so we've got to get technology in there to help scale to 2.0.”
He stated that the AMA is innovating around the creative format to fill the gap between spot advertising and host reads without disrupting the listener’s experience.
“There's definitely an allergic response when people talk about putting radio advertising onto podcasting and I think that's right, the podcast atmosphere that the listener is in is completely different to listening to radio and we should respect the format that the listener’s in,” Dunlop said.
Handley said bridging the gap would help brands work with smaller podcasters.
“We have to sign off all the scripts, so we can only do a maximum of ten podcast reads within every campaign,” she said. “We need to look at how we can be smarter with technology and creative and make it easier to work with those smaller podcasters.”
This panel was sponsored by AMA and those in attendance were:
Steven Dunlop, founder & CEO, AMA
Ed Birth, head of brand marketing, Hiscox UK
Ed Couchman, head of Northern Europe sales, Spotify
Victoria Handley, brand communications lead, Lloyds Banking Group