For the eleventh edition of the Podcast Download series, Cumulus Media and Signal Hill Insights retained MARU/Matchbox to conduct an in-depth study of 608 weekly podcast consumers in October 2023. The Fall 2023 Report highlights trends from prior studies and examines topics such as co-listening among parents with children, consumer reaction to podcast ads, and perceptions of brand safety and content appropriateness.
A focus on podcast advertising
Previous highlights of the Podcast Download – Fall 2023 Report examined YouTube’s growth as a podcast power player. Today, the focus is on podcast advertising.
Podcast consumers prefer funny and entertaining ads but say they currently hear more ads that communicate dry features/benefits
There is a creative opportunity for advertisers to create funny and entertaining podcast ads. The top two types of podcast ads weekly podcast consumers are interested in are funny ads (71%) and entertaining ads (71%).
However, the top type of podcast ads weekly podcast consumers say they actually hear are ads that communicate features/benefits of products/services (78%). Entertaining and funny podcast ads are only heard by 72% and 68% of weekly podcast consumers, respectively.
Appealing to consumers on an emotional basis is what podcast hosts do best and they should extend that method to their ad reads. According to Howard Luck Gossage, the advertising visionary often referred to as “the Socrates of San Francisco,” “The buying of time or space is not the taking out of a hunting license on someone’s private preserve, but it is the renting of a stage on which we may perform.” Podcast hosts can make use of their time on air by thinking of ad reads as additional time to connect with consumers emotionally.
Paul Feldwick, in his book Why Does the Pedlar Sing? What Creative Reality Means in Advertising, explains, “Advertising builds brands best when it is entertaining, popular, and memorable, when it is not just a pitch, but a performance.”
Brand marketers don’t have to run boring feature/benefit podcast ads
For the first time in the history of podcasting, brand marketers have surpassed direct response brands as the biggest podcast advertisers. The creative and media strategies of direct response advertisers and brand marketers are quite different.
The goal of direct response advertisers is to convert existing demand and make a sale right now. Brand marketers seek to create future demand and build memories.
James Hurman is a globally recognized expert on marketing effectiveness, having spent much of his career researching, publishing, practicing, and teaching marketing effectiveness. Hurman has published the Kindle book, Future Demand: Why Building Your Brand Among Tomorrow’s Customers is the Key to Start-Up Success. You can order your copy here.
Hurman and the World Advertising Research Center have also partnered on a major study, Rethinking Brand for the Rise of Digital Commerce. WARC is the major global organization that devotes itself to the study of marketing effectiveness. Their report describes the contrasting strategies of creating future demand (brand building) and converting existing demand (direct response).
Converting existing demand and creating future demand require different creative/copy approaches and different media strategies
Hurman writes, “Converting Existing Demand is most efficiently achieved by tightly targeting those ‘in the market’ with rational messaging of product and price information that persuades them to choose our product over others.
Creating Future Demand is most efficiently achieved by targeting very broad audiences of ‘all category buyers’ with emotional messaging that is designed to stand out and be enjoyed by consumers, creating positive memories of our brand that will influence future purchase decisions.”
Sales event or promotional copy does not work on the large group of consumers who are not in the market and not ready to buy now. Creating future demand is about creating positive memories.
The podcast creative strategy of brand advertisers does not have to imitate the dry and rational copy approach of podcast direct response advertisers. Les Binet, the godfather of marketing effectiveness, urges an emotion-based approach to “create positive feelings and associations” that are “interesting and enjoyable.”
Podcast consumers like listening to ads to support their favorite podcasts
Podcast consumers are uniquely receptive to ads. The average number of ads weekly podcast consumers think is appropriate has remained stable since July 2017.
Over the last five years, podcast advertising has exploded with many more ads being run. Despite this, podcast consumers indicate they are still willing to hear the same number of ads. For a 60-minute podcast, consumers say 3.8 ads would be appropriate.
Podcast consumers are invested in the success of their favorite shows. Half (50%) of weekly podcasts consumers said they wouldn’t mind a couple of extra ads per show so their favorite podcasts could continue.
Podcast consumers prefer fun host-read ads over pre-produced ads and love when hosts have fun with the creative
Given a choice between different types of podcast ads, the top choice by far for weekly podcast consumers are host-read ads or ads by someone other than the host (62%).
The majority of weekly podcast consumers like when a podcast host has fun with ads they read (68% agree) and feel host-read ads are more engaging than “traditional” ads (57%).
Consumers like when the podcast host recommends a product they use (55%). Heavy podcast consumers are even more receptive to fun host-read ads and recommendations from podcast personalities.
Advertiser Perceptions: Advertiser discussion, intention, and usage of podcasts continue to be high
Since 2015, Cumulus Media has commissioned an annual Advertiser Perceptions study of 300 national marketers and media agencies probing four key measures of podcast advertising engagement:
- Discussion: Have you and your colleagues discussed podcast advertising for potential media investment?
- Consideration: How likely are you to consider advertising in podcasts in the next six months?
- Intention: How likely are you to actually advertise in podcasts in the coming six months?
- Usage: Do you currently advertise in podcasts?
The ninth annual study conducted in June 2023 reveals significant growth in podcast advertising consideration and activation.
It is safe to say podcast advertising has hit the mainstream among national marketers and media agencies:
- Nearly eight out of ten say they have discussed podcast advertising.
- In a first for the industry, those who say they are likely to advertise in the coming six months hit a new high of 58%. Generally, there are more agencies and brands who say they will “consider spending” in a media versus those who say they “actually intend” to spend. From 2015 to 2021, this was the case for podcasting. This past two years, the gap has narrowed. In 2023, 62% of the ad industry says they will consider advertising in podcasts and 58% say they actively intend to advertise, a major sign of a coming of age for podcast advertising.
- A majority (58%) of national marketers and media agencies say they currently advertise in podcasts. This represents major growth from 2021 (45%). From 2017 to 2020, only about a third of national brands and their agencies said they were advertising in podcasts.
- Podcast consumers prefer funny and entertaining ads but say they currently hear more ads that communicate dry features/benefits.
- Brand marketers don’t have to imitate the boring feature/benefit creative of podcast direct response ads. Consider an emotion-based approach that Les Binet says “creates positive feelings and associations” that are “interesting and enjoyable.”
- Podcast consumers like listening to ads to support their favorite podcasts.
- Advertiser Perceptions: Advertiser discussion, intention, and usage of podcasts continue to be high.
Pierre Bouvard is Chief Insights Officer of the Cumulus Media | Westwood One Audio Active Group®.
Contact the Insights team at CorpMarketing@westwoodone.com