If you ask the average advertiser what their views on podcasts are, generally speaking, you’ll get a positive reaction about the space. That’s not surprising; podcasts are high-quality and high-engagement, both of which are always a winner for advertisers.
That said, what we’re starting to see from the advertising side of the fence is a general feeling that we could be doing more. Podcast reach has grown and is now somewhat stable, but advertising solutions haven’t really evolved in the same way. Programmatic is becoming a key buzzword, but all that really means is that the process of buying ads is now more automated, and it’s simply an extension of what has been happening in the wider digital and digital audio advertising ecosystem.
Presenter reads or sponsorships for the bigger podcasts shows are still where the lion's share of spend and investment goes, but the somewhat formulaic distribution of these ads is making it easier for switched-on listeners to skip ahead. And then there’s the hybrid model, with a presenter popping up in other shows to promote a brand to an audience who might not even know them.
None of these approaches are inherently flawed, and all have their place within the advertising mix, but as the market begins to stabilise, we need to get more creative in how brands and podcasters work together to help fuel the next era of growth.
This can be achieved through closer collaboration between brands and creators, deeper utilisation of opportunities in spaces beyond audio, and a greater level of flexibility in the approach to advertising formats and products.
The key to this, whether you're a brand, an agency or a creator, is to proactively reach out to the organisations or individuals that you think you should be working with, and have a conversation about what’s happening and how you might work together. This doesn’t necessarily mean the current process has to change, but it does mean understanding more about upcoming plans or ambitions earlier in the planning process to help fuel the best possible collaboration.
In a similar vein, the ability for creators to be flexible and think about ways they can work with brands and agencies across different channels or avenues can lead to new innovations and longer term relationships. It also means brands and agencies should look at podcasters as cross-platform brand ambassadors rather than simply focusing on the reach of the audio show.
The biggest stumbling-block for podcasts that want to be included in advertisers’ media plans is their scale relative to other channels like TV and radio, and by growing their video content, social media following, mailing lists and live events, podcasters will be able to demonstrate they can serve the needs of companies that are always looking for more eyeballs for their brand. This can lead to more holistic brand integration that will deliver greater value for brands and creators and provide a more sincere reaction from the audiences that all parties wish to benefit from.
Innovation can also be applied to the way advertisers leverage podcast content. There are a number of established routes available to advertisers, but they can all be adapted to provide a greater diversity of solutions, enabling more brands to enter the space and allowing existing podcast advertisers to keep their campaigns fresh. For example, there’s no rule that says a host read needs to be 60 seconds, a show sponsorship doesn't necessarily need to include every episode, and ad breaks don't always need to be the bookends of a show.
It could mean developing more bespoke branded segments or fully-sponsored episodes, and providing greater brand exposure via live events. For example, a drinks brand might be happy to be the official beer of your live show, even if they don’t want to sponsor everything you do. For podcasters, it’s about understanding the context of what the brand is trying to achieve, being flexible, and building that initial campaign as a basis for a great long term relationship.
We can already see these principles in practice. The collaboration between Brewdog and That Peter Crouch Podcast is an example of all three of these things, and earned a nomination for best use of audio at Campaign’s Media Week Awards for its trouble.
Additionally, the deeply-integrated sponsorship of The News Agents by BT Business outlined a brand willing to take a good punt on something destined for success, and BT reaped the benefits of that, becoming ingrained in the minds of listeners. Zenith Media has also done some great work with Lloyds Banking Group and podcasters over the past six months that have pushed the dial on long term collaboration, including consistent presence on Jessie Ware’s Table Manners and Happy Baby, Happy Mummy, where we have rotated messages based on the product area of focus at that time.
These examples need to be driven by creators, advertisers and agencies who are actively seeking better ways beyond existing solutions, and relying less on the existing options. With any luck, these trailblazers can inspire the next wave of growth in the market and not only take advantage of the roughly £800 million audio ad market, but start claiming some of the £27 billion that flows through the overall UK advertising market.
There are so many different methods of collaboration between advertisers and podcasters that are still yet to be explored, so agencies and advertisers need to let their imagination go to work and find the ideas that work for them and their brands.
We’re entering an exciting new period, and it’s the perfect time for everyone to come together, proactively seek out new opportunities and help take the market to the next level.