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Ad Agency Execs Says Clients Are Pushing Them To Audio.

Podcasts remain one of the most in-demand mediums among clients according to ad agency media executives. Marketers are looking not only how they can make the leap into podcasting but also showing a willingness to explore the variety of options available, from host-read ads to creating their own content, execs told the IAB Podcast Upfront last week.

“We’re getting tons of inquiries on how they can use it,” said Jennifer Hungerbuhler, Executive VP of Local Audio & Video Investment at Dentsu Aegis Network. “Especially after the coronavirus hit, we really saw an increase because audio consumption was increasing so we have had tons of brands moving in.”

Chris Yarusso, Senior VP/National Audio Practice Lead at Publicis, agreed podcasting has become one of the main focuses of audio spending, with money coming into the space from several teams inside the agency, including the audio, programmatic, and content integration staffs. “Most of our clients are using it as an influencer strategy and taking their brand tenets and aligning them with shows and hosts,” he said. “That’s the most important piece that we have been guiding our clients on.”

Those sentiments suggest the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s outlook is on solid ground. After seeing podcast ad revenue grow 19% last year, the IAB last week projected podcast revenue will leap 60% this year to top $1 billion for the first time. And then double to $2.2 billion by 2023.

Even though podcasting is now more than a decade-old medium, it is only in the past few years that most marketers have really taken notice. Jen Soch, Executive Director of Specialty Channels at GroupM said that means clients are looking at podcasts as both a branding and as a performance-based medium, as well as a place to innovate. “A lot of folks are coming to us with testing and learning budgets,” she said. “We have a small amount of time in the next year or so for people to get in, test the water, understand the measurement, and really understand if it’s achieving what they need for their brands.”

Podcasting may have grown to more than two million shows, but Yarusso said he still finds himself putting the brakes on some ideas brought to his team by clients. “They want to go big and that’s not really where podcasting is at the moment. It’s still a lot of niche shows,” he said.

Brand safety remains one of the most appealing aspects of podcasting to ad buyers, but Soch thinks it is an area that buyers need “a lot of help in – and quickly” since agencies are mostly forced to listen to shows manually to ensure the environment is right for clients. “It’s probably the biggest problem we have,” said Soch. “It’s like the early days of YouTube.” She expects agencies will look more to digital brand safety vendors in the future to help with that task.

Yarusso said measurement challenges and consistency are other big challenges for agencies and clients. “Clients over the past five years have gotten comfortable with downloads as a metric. And it took a while to get there,” he said, noting fewer clients are using vanity promo codes than in the past. “Obviously, they want more” he said, saying the ideal would be some type of guaranteed digital delivery mechanism. Short of that, Yarusso said many companies are utilizing brand lift studies to help fill the information gap.

Hungerbuhler said she is encouraged to see more third-party data vendors offer attribution metrics. But she thinks it is just part of the solution. “What we do need to do is standardize the measurement. It’s all over the place,” said Hungerbuhler. “If we could crack the nut with listening, it would be very interesting.”

‘The Money Is Available’

As podcasting matures, Soch thinks the industry could benefit from what ad buyers have already learned from digital programmatic sales and that will help accelerate the movement toward standardization. “It’s time to find a way to really start moving forward with it faster – the money is available, brands are anxious,” she told podcasters.

More certain to agency media executives is the best creative to use in the medium. “The live read endorsement is still king, that’s really what podcasting was built on and that’s what consumers of podcasting are used to and it’s unobtrusive to the listener,” said Yarusso. “That’s the most important piece about podcasting – it’s implied endorsements and that’s what our brands are really looking for.”

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