Native Ads a $mart Strategy for Podcasts

Podcasts are reinventing audio advertising by putting an emphasis on impactful and measureable ads that ignore broadcast radio’s attachment to standard length (:30/:60), prerecorded units. While radio broadcasters have been trying to minimize the negative impact that ad units have on listening for years, the relatively nascent podcast industry has come up with a formula that does that, and it’s bringing in lots of new advertisers.

Possibly because of podcast programming’s roots in public radio, the medium has dedicated itself to native advertising, largely in the form of live reads by podcast hosts. In fact, whereas the idea of having a newsperson deliver a live read is generally taboo on broadcast radio, it’s often the podcast journalist that delivers these ads – think Serial’s Sarah Koenig beginning every new show with a shoutout to sponsor MailChimp.

Podcast advertising’s live-read, native advertising approach, is integrated into the programming and less intrusive. Since they are basically endorsements by the host, they’re also more impactful. According to podcast advertising network Midroll, 63% of podcast listeners say they have purchased a product they heard advertised on a podcast. That’s good news for the advertiser who often knows exactly how effective their ad campaigns are – because they include a unique url or coupon code for each show which enables the advertiser to track results.

So why does native advertising work so well in the podcast format? By their nature, podcasts are a lean-in listening environment, consumed by folks that have gone to some effort to select the program, and download or stream it. Talk programming is by nature very foreground, rather than background. Podcasts’ approach to talk, which is often more like storytelling, on topics selected by the listener, creates an enhanced audio environment for the advertiser.

It helps if the ads are well done, and placed in suitable podcasts. Mack Weldon mens’ underwear’s native ads were so funny, and so well placed in the podcast Comedy Bang Bang that listeners started listening to hear the ads. The brand is really happy with their podcast advertising, and now assigns 25% of their ad budget to the medium.

Midroll says that 89% of their advertisers consider their ad campaigns in the past 12 months to be a success. Lots of advertisers are online businesses. Most of us are familiar with the early adopters – native podcast advertisers like Mailchimp, who broke away from the pack with their sponsorship of the enormously popular Serial in 2015, and Squarespace, which seems to be sponsoring just about every podcast I listen to these days. But the extraordinary name recognition achieved by those businesses hasn’t been lost on bigger brands like General Mills, Proctor and Gamble and Ford, all of whom are investing in the space.

The podcast space is reaping the rewards of a dedicated effort to reinvent audio advertising. Advertisers are showing their interest with continued investments and meaningful, effective and interesting ad strategies untethered from the :30 or :60 unit. It’s great to see the shift to emphasis on an approach that enhances the listeners’ experience proliferating in the podcast marketplace…

Here’s a video of the Mack Weldon ad, during a live recording of the show Comedy Bang Bang at SXSW:


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