Which podcast ads work best: live reads, talent pre-recorded ads, or pre-produced programmatic executions? A new study from Tom Webster and Bryan Barletta of Sounds Profitable called After These Messages looks at these ad formats and answers the question.
Sounds Profitable podcast ad format study: All perform well while talent-read ads (live or recorded) do the best, justifying the premium nature of podcast host reads
In a newly released study from Sounds Profitable looking at three versions of ads (a live read, a scripted pre-recorded talent read, and an announcer version), the results revealed that among podcast listeners, all three ad formats performed very well.
- All three performed equally well on overall appeal, fit with show, interest, and likelihood to learn more.
- The live read did best on unaided ad recall, a crucial measure of brand equity, supporting the premium nature of the live read format.
- The power of the talent voice is reflected in the strong “likelihood to purchase” scores, which were identical for both the live read and pre-recorded talent versions. Sounds Profitable noted, “Performance scores for all three ads were significantly higher with existing listeners to the show, which reflects the power of the relationship and trust listeners have with the host.”
Debating the merits of podcast ad formats is like trying to pick the best player on an all-star team
While there are differences in podcast ad format performance, it is important to put this in the context of the superior engagement of podcasts versus other media content.
A few years ago, an IAB study revealed of all ad platforms, podcasts generated the highest levels of consumer concentration. The IAB found social media ads had very low levels of audience engagement.
Last year, Signal Hill Insights and the Cumulus Media | Westwood One Audio Active Group® replicated the IAB study and found identical results.
Podcasts have the highest levels of consumer concentration. Social media has one of the lowest levels.
Debating podcast ad formats is like arguing over who the best player is on an all-star team! All forms of podcast ads outperform other media due to intense levels of consumer engagement and concentration.
The podcast ad frequency problem: “Remind the many, don’t lecture the few”
Podsights, the podcast attribution firm, recently released their Q3 2022 Benchmark Report, and while podcast ad frequency levels improved in Q2, they are still a concern, negatively impacting conversion rates.
In Q2 2022, podcast conversion rates improved slightly but are still below recent quarters.
An easy fix to improve conversions: Prioritize reach over frequency
Podsights recommends increasing the number of publishers purchased to grow reach and improve conversions.
Three strategies to grow podcast campaign reach:
1. Buy more shows and genres than the “obvious fit” podcasts
Consult Nielsen’s Scarborough Podcast Buying Power study or MRI to find additional shows and genres to purchase. Many brands buy just the shows that seem immediately logical. Online therapy ads run in mental health shows. Online sports betting apps run in Sports podcasts.
Only placing ads in “obvious fit” podcasts and podcast genres misses 80% to 90% of category buyers. Consider this Nielsen Scarborough ranker of the podcast genres listened to among sports bettors:
Just buying Sports podcasts for a sports betting app would miss 88% of sports bettors. As the Nielsen Scarborough ranker indicates, sports bettors listen to a wide variety of podcast genres.
Use the MRI or Nielsen Scarborough data to run podcast genre listening among category buyers. Allocate share of buy based on share of genre category listening. A far more diverse media plan is generated with greater reach.
2. Purchase genres and shows based on reach among category buyers, not index
Planning tools like MRI and Nielsen Scarborough Podcast Buying Power report the number of category listeners to a podcast or podcast genre as well as an index. Beware of the index!
An index compares purchase behavior in a purchaser segment to the total U.S. An index does not report audience volume, only likelihood to purchase.
Consider a marketer seeking a female skew for their brand. Podcast A with one million impressions over indexes on women. Podcast B with 5 million impressions under indexes with women.
The simple decision would be to purchase Podcast A due to the female skew, but here is the issue.
Podcast B has triple the female impressions of Podcast A. Podcast B would not be considered due to “low female index.” Index is destructive to reach as it is blind to audience volume.
Selecting podcasts and genres based on index can result in tiny audiences. It is better to rank shows and genres for a product category based on actual listeners in the purchase category.
3. Spread impressions further down the ranker and buy more than just top shows
The same impressions spread over more shows grow reach and results.
Edison’s Podcast Metrics audience service is the only measurement service that reports people-based reach and duplicated and unduplicated audiences between podcasts.
Edison’s data reveals just buying top podcasts misses huge amounts of audience. According to Edison, two-thirds of podcast reach occurs to titles outside the top 10.
The top 500 podcasts reach one out of five Americans weekly, double the number reached by the top ten shows (9%).
Taking the same impressions and buying deeper down the ranker grows reach impressively. Per Edison, the top 100 titles have a 67% greater reach than the top ten podcasts. The top 500 titles have 122% more reach than the top ten podcasts.
Erwin Ephron: “Remind the many, don’t lecture the few”
Erwin Ephron, the father of modern media planning, famously said:
“Most advertising usually works by reminding people about brands they know, when they happen to need that product. Ads work best when the consumer is ready to buy. Reminding a lot of consumers is better than lecturing a few.”
- Sounds Profitable ad format study: All perform well while talent-read ads (live or recorded) do the best, justifying the premium nature of podcast host reads
- Debating the merits of podcast ad formats is like trying to pick the best player on an all-star team
- Three strategies to grow podcast campaign reach: Buy more shows and genres than the “obvious fit” podcasts, purchase genres and shows based on reach among category buyers, not index, and spread impressions further down the ranker and buy more than just top shows
Pierre Bouvard is Chief Insights Officer of the Cumulus Media | Westwood One Audio Active Group®.
Contact the Insights team at CorpMarketing@westwoodone.com.