The Secret To Successful Podcast Ads: Be Transparent, Be Real, Be Direct

March 11, 2019 By Tim Sabean

Tim Sabean is the Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Westwood One, helping develop talent and partnerships in the fast-growing podcast space. Tim has an extensive radio career including ten years as SVP for The Howard Stern Channels at SiriusXM Radio and uses his experience to coach podcast talent on how to deliver impactful ads for clients.

Podcasting is more mainstream than ever. With listener popularity comes advertiser attention. More than two-thirds of advertising media decision makers have discussed advertising in podcasts, according to a study from Advertiser Perceptions. Podcast ads are now an important part of the conversation.

Creative is critical to driving sales.

Nielsen conducted an ROI study of 500 advertising campaigns to determine which elements contribute to sales on all major media platforms. By a huge margin, creative was the strongest sales driver.

So what does this mean for podcast ads? Listening to a podcast is a one-on-one experience. The relationship between the listener and the host is intimate, and ads reach a captive, engaged listener. How can podcast hosts ensure a strong impact?

There are audio creative best practices that cover the message, the media, and the tools that apply to podcasting. But there are also podcast-specific strategies that I share with our podcasters that can enrich the effectiveness of a podcast read. It’s what we at Westwood One Podcast Network, the fastest organically growing podcast network in America, look to instill in our talent. Here are a few of those strategies.

Be transparent. Start at the beginning and explain why the ad is being done in the first place.

Start at square one. Hosts should share what made them want to promote the company. Pitches come in frequently. What about the selected ad, product or advertiser stood out? Was there a conversation with the person who created the product or company being advertised? What about that first impression made the host want to get involved?

Pull back the curtain on the reasons for wanting to be a part of the brand. It will give the host read context.

A Nielsen Neuroscience Study with Westwood One found that, “Celebrity [personality] power has a halo effect on credibility and emotional motivation.” Taking the listener through the host’s journey will magnify that credibility and connect the listener to the story.

Be real. Personalize the relationship with the brand. Don’t solely rely on copy points.

For specific information like a web address, legal disclaimer, or specific ordering details, you do need script points. That’s where it ends. Podcasting is about a higher level of personal touch and connectivity with the listener. The voiced reads that make the most impact are rooted in real life experiences, not just copy points.

Hosts should use the product or service and then talk about what it was like. They should answer questions like how did it feel getting the first subscription box in the mail? What did friends think when they saw those sunglasses for the first time?

Advertising can sound dry and soulless if a podcast host isn’t careful. Including more real-life reactions changes the dynamics of the read by making it more believable. The audience is already deeply invested in what podcasters have to say. If hosts sell their own experience with a product, the audience is going to be invested in the personal story.

Be direct. Make the call to action clear and memorable.

Hosts also need to make sure that the call to action is as direct and obvious as it can be. Our data shows 57% of heavy podcast listeners have purchased a product or service online or at a store after hearing an ad for it on a podcast. 54% have used a promotional code from a podcast ad at checkout when purchasing a product or service.

The audience is going to need to know the store they should visit. They’re going to need to remember the promotional code. Be strong in the call to action verbiage. “Visit the website.” “Go to this store.” Leave no room for error. Be repetitive so there’s no question of what needs to be done.

Make podcast reads work by treating them like a conversation.

When talent starts thinking about podcast reads like a conversation with friends, it’s easy. It shouldn’t be complicated, forced, and unclear. Communication is best when it’s transparent, real, direct, and tells a story. Apply that to a podcast ad and the audience will appreciate it. Strong, personal creative translates into growing sales.

Tim Sabean is the Senior Vice President of Digital Content for Westwood One.

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