Host-reads on podcasts are more brand-safe and effective for advertisers

Audacy study says brands shouldn’t be afraid of advertising on controversial podcasts

More brands should be investing into host-read sponsorships instead of producer-hosted ads as listeners are more likely to trust their recommendation, according to a new study by audio content and entertainment company Audacy. 

The Podcast brand safety & suitability report, conducted in partnership with market research consultancy Alter Agents, looks at how listeners engage with ads and key takeaways on brand safety and suitability in podcast advertising. The data is derived from a survey conducted between 28 July and 3 August with 6,000 weekly podcast listeners aged 18 and above. 

Listeners are more likely to listen to recommendations from their favourite podcast hosts as more than 50% said they would trust them to pick worthy sponsors and over 40% said they would be likely to purchase from host-read ads. Produced spot ads can also still be effective as long as they are reaching the right audience as nine in 10 listeners also said they felt either the same or positively about a brand after hearing a podcast ad. 

Although the report shows that listeners are highly engaged with brands, with 80% of respondents saying they listen through ad breaks, it’s important for advertisers to work with the podcast hosts to deliver a campaign that does not alienate the listeners. Authenticity is key for listeners and podcast advertising campaigns should follow a similar tone and formality to the podcast in order to be effective rather than sounding like an over-produced sales pitch. 

“This study illustrates that with the right mix of authenticity and awareness, brands have an incredible opportunity to foster trust and loyalty with listeners of all backgrounds in the ever-expanding podcast space,” said Audacy executive vice president Jenna Weiss-Berman. “Today’s podcast listener is open-minded and willing to engage with a wide range of brands on multiple levels as they consume content ranging from true crime to investigative documentaries to comedy, sports, entertainment and beyond.”

Brand suitability and safety is a big concern for podcast advertisers as the IAB US Podcast Advertising Revenue Study 2023 reported that the use of brand safety and suitability solutions went up by over 36% year on year. However, Audacy’s study encourages brands to advertise on all podcasts, even ones that may be controversial like true crime shows, as 73% of respondents said controversial content doesn’t impact their opinion of advertisers. 

However, advertisers should be wary of advertising on content that features hosts and guests saying racist statements, focusing on cruel content, and using derogatory language directed at someone else as over 30% of respondents said that would cause them to stop listening. Cursing and sexual content on podcasts would not cause the majority of listeners to tune off and is even expected in certain genres like comedy. 

“Brand safety is critically important, and there’s a perception in the marketplace that certain genres of podcasts may not be as brand-safe, given the free-form host-driven nature of podcasts,” said Audacy research and insights senior vice president Idil Cakim. “In turn, podcast advertisers have hesitated to leverage the reach and scale of podcasts to remain brand-safe.

“While brands are smart to assess the risks and rewards of advertising on podcasts, they may be missing out on reaching critical consumers. That’s because podcasts deliver highly engaged audiences, create prime listening environments, and host authenticity offers a strong personal connection to listeners.”