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Brand Safety Becomes Nearly As Big A Focus As Measurement Ad Pros Tell Podcast Movement.

Brand safety used to mean a test of whether a marketer could stomach being around raunchy humor and language that pushed the boundaries. But what was once the Howard Stern test has turned far more political in recent years, says Stephen Smyk, SVP of Podcast Marketing at Veritone One. And that is playing a larger role in which podcasts get on and off ad buys he told Podcast Movement Wednesday.

“If you would advertise in Howard Stern, you were going to get a different media plan than somebody who said no. But what used to be the primary safety issue has changed – they are far more focused on politics today than they are on comedy,” said Smyk. “We’ve seen far more clients that are more focused on not being the lightening rod.”

Some clients used to be willing to buy middle-of-the-road political podcasts even as they avoided far-right or far-left content, but that too has changed. Now they don’t want to be anywhere near political content. That included pulling ads off of non-political shows where the hosts decided to weigh in on current affairs. “They don’t want to be caught in any entanglement any which way,” said Smyk. “Initially it started with politics, and it has branched out to other cultural issues that we as a country face.”

Worry One: Still Measurement

While brand safety is of growing focus, measurement remains the biggest conversation, and Podsights Product Manager Tomas Rios said the industry getting beyond simply offering things like vanity URLs and coupon codes has helped make podcasting more attractive to bigger brands. Today third-party providers are able to use things like pixel-based attribution and tracking ads to track how podcast ads are working. He told the Nashville conference it allows them to show things like whether someone who heard the podcast spot added something to their shopping cart and then whether they went through with the purchase. “We can follow the user’s journey from the download to the website and all the actions that are taken,” said Rios.

Scott Davis, SVP of Sales at National Public Media – the sales arm of NPR – said tracking return on ad spend has been a very useful metric for them since while direct response advertisers are fine using things like coupon codes, other brands have different ways of looking at things. “Definition of success is not one thing,” he said. “It varies dramatically from client to client.”

Smyk agreed, and said measurement is especially critical when Veritone One is working with a new client to help set expectations in the advertiser’s mind. “Three years ago we did not have a lot of clients interested in awareness, and as the industry has evolved from direct response and has branched out with more advertisers we have seen people look at different ways to measure,” he said.

Rios said Podsights continues to develop new tools for not only advertisers but also publishers. He revealed they are working on a product called Podsights Advisor that will help brands make the decision on which shows are right for their ads. “[It will help} make smarter choice about spending the podcast space,” said Rios.

More Marketers Take Podcasts Seriously

Even as podcast revenue closes in on its first billion-dollar revenue year, Smyk said a gap remains among marketers who “get it” and those who don’t – including some who are buying podcast ads. Yet he said more are realizing on their own it’s a wise choice.

“Over the last year or two, we have a number of clients who have taken it far more seriously and are looking at it – and they’re spending a lot more money because they realize the impact that it can have,” said Smyk. “When we look at clients that are using survey data and they are reaching out to consumers finding out where they heard about them, podcasts are through the roof compared to all other channels. You remember a podcast ad because typically it’s a trusted voice reading it to you – and when clients get that kind of data, they take it far more seriously and see the power of it.” He said that the billions of dollars being spent by large media companies like Spotify, iHeartMedia, SiriusXM and Amazon has also helped some advertisers take podcasting more seriously.

Davis said device convergence is also steering some marketers to trying new things. “As more audio options are available on a single device – radio and podcasting with a device that is with you at all times – that’s a gamechanger,” he said.

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