Why are podcast advertisers so afraid of being creative?

A lack of precedent is an opportunity to think outside the box

There are no rules in podcasting. Many creators have said this before, and yet instead of embracing the freedom from convention and history that this offers, most advertisers apparently still see this medium as a risky investment that needs to be carefully calculated and analysed in order to determine the potential ROI, rather than allowing themselves to spread their wings and think outside the box. 

When you look at advertising in traditional media formats like TV and radio, there’s decades of history in the space that provides a template for what works and what doesn’t. Even social media, which was still considered a new and evolving medium up until the early 2000s, has become a fixture in advertising with brands and agencies of all stripes recognising the influential power of online content creators. 

Podcasts, however, are still seen as lagging behind when compared to other media formats, and advertisers have yet to unlock their full potential. Although this medium has grown significantly over the years, there’s seemingly still a lack of education for advertisers about the value of investing in podcasting, and many would rather go down the more familiar route and spend their money on programmatic advertising rather than pursuing something that’s more long-term and creative. 

While programmatic advertising does have its advantages and can be effective in raising brand awareness and trust, the common consensus is that the most effective podcast advertising campaigns are ones that engage directly with the listeners of these podcasts and curate content which is personalised for them. That could be through host read sponsorships which incorporate a personalised touch from the hosts or something that’s more multi-format, like branded podcasts and episodes. 

My personal favourite podcast advertising campaign is the partnership between Brewdog and That Peter Crouch Podcast, in which the pub chain actually brewed a custom beer called the ‘Laout’ that Crouch dreamed up on his podcast. The entire campaign incorporated suggestions and contributions from listeners of the podcast, and the product sold out in just two days after its release - which allowed the company to leverage an already-engaged audience before building an even bigger campaign for the next phase of the partnership. 

Other creative podcast advertising campaigns I’ve seen include The Burger Files; Fresh Air’s branded true crime podcast series with fast food chain Wendy’s. This twist on a true crime podcast isn’t something that an audience necessarily expects to see from a brand, but it works perfectly because it’s tapping into one of the most popular genres in podcasting while also showcasing a more fun side to the brand. 

These types of campaigns do admittedly take more time to plan, and need a more creative touch but they are effective because podcasting is built on authenticity, and when a brand incorporates that into its podcast advertising campaign, they’re able to gain the trust and attention of the target audience they’re looking for. 

It’s also worth noting that podcasts are much more cost-effective than advertising on TV so they can fit within a brand’s budget more easily, especially during a time when brands are already starting to reduce their costs due to macroeconomic conditions. In podcasting, you don’t need a product which is super high quality in terms of production if the message and idea are great to begin with. 

In fact, the IAB reported in its Digital Ad Spend Report that podcast investment proves to be a huge area of growth as it has continued to go up year on year in the UK by 32% while the overall digital industry grew by 11% despite economic challenges.

There is no predefined playbook for podcast advertising, and comparatively few universally-known examples to take inspiration from. PodPod is aiming to showcase more podcast campaign case studies, as well as hosting the inaugural Audio Advertising Awards next year in partnership with Campaign, to help brands learn more from these examples, but they should also have the courage to try something that’s new and creative, and see what works for their audience. 

When you’re advertising on podcasts, you’re working with a blank canvas and although that can seem intimidating and risky, I see it as an opportunity to be creative and think outside the box by testing new formats and campaigns. After all, how often do advertisers get the opportunity to work in a space that’s filled with such highly engaged audiences and still be able to have this much freedom to test the limits of their creativity?