Podcasting’s challenge for 2024: winning share of voice on brands’ media plans

Industry aims to get beyond 1% share of adspend for its “highly engaged audiences”

It's no secret that the ad industry is going through a certain amount of instability right now, with brands and agencies across the spectrum battening down the hatches, tightening media budgets and pulling back on costly investments. The toxic cocktail of high inflation, increased cost of living and the lingering spectre of Covid-related disruption has sent ripples across the sector, and marketers and media planners have been racing to keep up.

Broadcast TV viewing is in steep decline, according to Ofcom’s Media Nations report from last year, with 79% of the population tuning in on a weekly basis, and a daily watch time of less than three hours. Meanwhile, Short-form social video platforms are gaining increased traction, with a growing number of young people spending time on platforms like TikTok and YouTube. Although these can be useful creative tools, they're transient mediums, based around shorter attention span.

While all of this is going on, brands and agencies are trying to find new ways to explore creative storytelling and deliver purpose-driven campaigns with measurable results. For marketers seeking to address these challenges, podcasts are an ideal solution, offering a rich, longform media channel for advertisers. 

To help brands and agencies explore how they can leverage the power of podcasts to create deep and impactful advertising strategies, PodPod and Campaign are hosting the Podcast Advertising Summit on 25 January at London’s Barbican Centre. Highlights will include panel discussions on various aspects of podcast advertising, as well as case studies from brands who have successfully run campaigns across a range of formats, explaining why they found the medium appealing in the first place.

Around a quarter of UK adults listen to podcasts once a week or more, according to Ofcom’s 2023 UK Podcast Survey, and what it lacks in scale on an individual per-channel basis, it makes up for in the engagement of the audience. 88% of listeners between 13 and 17 report that they binge-listen to podcasts, for example, with an average listening time of over 10 hours per week.

“I know stats will vary, but maybe about 80 percent of people that listen to [a podcast] will still be listening after 20 minutes,” says Jon Evans, chief customer officer for ad effectiveness company System1 and host of The Uncensored CMO podcast

“You're talking about a hugely engaged audience. If you're going to download a podcast and listen to it on your commute into work, you're committing potentially 60 minutes of your time to engage with that person on a topic that you care about. It is not comparable at all, even to cinema advertising. If you took the most engaged paid for advertising, it doesn't get close to podcasting.”

One of the factors that may initially put brands and agencies off from investing in podcasts is the fragmentation of the medium’s audience. While there are only a limited number of TV channels that audiences can choose from, meaning that advertisers have access to a large potential percentage of the overall total audience with a single campaign, the podcast audience is split between thousands of individual podcasts, if not more. 

However, this should be seen as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Rather than applying a broad-brush approach to their campaigns to appeal to as much of a mass audience as possible, marketers can instead be much more specific in their targeting, identifying podcasts with extremely high brand fit in terms of tone and audience interest and leverage these existing audiences. This approach, combined with the increasing plurality of AI-driven, keyword-based targeting tools, allows for granular, contextually-relevant targeting without reliance on cookies.

Audiences also respond better to podcast ads than they do to traditional forms of media advertising. Data from podcast platform Acast shows that 64% of listeners pay full attention to podcast ads and 95% of regular podcast listeners have taken action after hearing one. Compare that to TV advertising, where only around a quarter of British viewers said that were “fairly likely” to pay attention.

On top of that, according to a study from Magna Global, almost 50% of UK podcast listeners trust podcast hosts more than traditional media hosts across formats like radio or TV, and research from ARN Neurolab indicated that podcast advertising is 30% more trustworthy to consumers than social media advertising.

“That's what's really got to be promoted to clients,” says Matt Rouse, podcast lead for Octave Audio; “you might not necessarily be buying into a medium where you are just deploying an ad on a radio station and you're shouting about that; you are tapping into talent that has a direct connection to the eardrums of an audience and people that would then more likely to take actions after the fact, because of the trust and the emotional connection they have with that personality.”

Podcasts are among the most flexible mediums from an advertising perspective, offering a huge range of potential ad formats to suit a variety of budgets, media mixes and campaign needs. This includes widely-deployed the spot advertising popular with performance marketers in the US - where podcast ad spend hit $1.8 billion in 2022, according to the IAB’s US Podcast Advertising Revenue Study from last year - as well as more bespoke partnerships with individual podcasts as seen with the likes of BrewDog and Peter Crouch. It even includes wholly-owned media in the form of branded podcasts, which has proven successful for brands including Wendy’s, Boots, Auto Trader and more. 

The measurability of podcasts is improving too; thanks to continued developments in the AdTech space from platforms like Spotify and Acast, as well as third-party measurement providers such as Comscore and Claritas, advertisers are now able to track the performance of their campaigns with increasing accuracy, including subsequent actions taken by listeners after hearing an ad.

Despite the benefits of the medium, however, podcasting remains a media channel which is comparatively under-invested in by marketers, making up less than 1% of the UK’s total digital ad spend according to the IAB UK’s latest report on the subject. This represents a perfect chance for brands and agencies to plant their flag in an engagement-rich media channel with minimal competition and without risk of unwieldy ad load, leveraging a format that is ripe for creative experimentation.

All these topics, as well as the strategies that can be deployed by marketers and media planners to most effectively take advantage of these opportunities, will be discussed at the Podcast Advertising Summit on 25 January. For more information, visit the Podcast Advertising Summit website.