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ANA: Podcast Ads Open New Opportunities For National Brands To Reach Consumers.

The move by big advertisers streaming into podcasting is not going unnoticed by the Association of National Advertisers, which laid out how podcasts can work for brands during its Audio Summit for marketers on Tuesday. For a medium that once solely relied on direct to consumer brands for its survival, the ANA showcased how one of America’s heritage brands – Chevrolet – is helping bring this new crop of marketers to podcasting, leveraging many of the same advantages that the little guys have proven during the past decade.

Chevrolet Media Manager Joe Van Marcke said their use of podcasts to promote electric vehicles not only allows them to expand their audio advertising beyond radio, but it also allows the carmaker to expand on what the traditional spot can offer.

“There are things that you can do, especially within podcasts to tie yourself to more relevant messaging, and really have that content to amplify the message you're looking for,” Van Marcke said. For Chevy, that has meant leaning into comedian Conan O’Brien’s live read talents to promote its electric vehicles on Stitcher’s Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend podcast and build what he says is a “true partnership” with a host by offering talking points for a live read that results in something unique. That included the creation of a bonus episode that was a tie-in for the auto brand. “It’s not so much of you fast forward in the podcast 15 to 30 seconds to get past the commercial -- it becomes part of the show and not so much an ad,” Van Marcke said. “That's one of the things that we look at when we look in into podcasts and audio in general.

Chevrolet spent a lot of time deciding which partners were the right ones to work with. Van Marcke said the brand needs “safe space” for its ads to appear while also realizing the best ads come when they let go of the reins a bit and let the host be themselves so that that the Chevy spot has the same tone as the podcast its ad appears in. He said they also liked the mass appeal of O’Brien. “When you think of Conan and who he is and who he represents, it is something even more immense,” he said.

Juliette Ferrara, who heads automotive ad sales for the SXM Media portfolio, said the brand also benefits from the relationship when the host goes above and beyond the talking points. In the case of O’Brien, that means he will riff on the ad copy and turn it into a funny story. “It just feels like that authenticity is there, as well as you have listeners who are very engaged,” she said.

As they devise a strategy for clients like Chevrolet, Carat USA Associate Director of Media and Strategy Ally Lake said their ad buying teams look for communities and that shared experience when looking for shows for brands to tap into. She points out that auto marketing has long looked to leverage celebrities to drive awareness and brand affinity as would-be buyers related to the pitch person. But she said podcasting also adds another layer.

“I'm really excited about this space, because I think the deeper storytelling moments exist,” said Lake. “With the show’s fans, it's just such a great space for brands to capture and to be spending time with future consumers.”

The bonus episode that was created for Chevrolet was recorded by O’Brien in front of a live audience and Van Marcke said it performed “well above average” compared to its other ads, especially when it was combined with social media. The result is they are currently working on something else with O’Brien that “could be” a bonus episode for his podcast to come out later this month.

Ferrara said that podcast companies are seeing “huge growth” in social engagement with podcast hosts, including with the new reach that YouTube is proving. She predicted that there are going to be some new developments in how advertisers will be able to combine podcasting and social media, creating opportunities for brands to have a deeper relationship with listeners.

“I think we are going to see some new trends in the industry that we see pretty soon, where brands and fans can connect in those new spaces. It gives an incredible opportunity to have a two way conversation,” she said. “It's a really nice compliment to the stories that are told through the podcast and audio content itself.”

The podcast industry is forecast to top $2 billion in advertising revenue and for brands that have yet to come onboard, Van Marcke said that realization that there is an opportunity to leverage those connections made through audio are powerful as marketers face the reality that consumers are multitaskers like never before. “It's breaking through that wall of not having the must-see TV,” he said.

Lake agreed, saying brands need to overcome the fear of not having the visuals. “I think with cars you almost feel like you have to have this visual medium,” she said. “But I still think that you can form that genuine connection, even without the visual medium.”

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