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Cue The Host-Read Ads. Forecast Says Influencer Marketing Budgets Are Rapidly Growing.

Updated: Jul 26, 2021

Host-read ads are poised to grow as influencer marketing budgets continue to expand. In its first-ever forecast for U.S. influencer marketing spending, eMarketer projects the segment will grow 33.6% to reach $3.69 billion in 2021, more than twice the 14.4% increase eMarketer says the segment experienced last year. It is forecast to exceed $4 billion next year. A separate forecast, published by PQ Media in September 2020, valued 2020 U.S. influencer marketing at $13.3 billion – more than three times higher than the eMarketer forecast. PQ Media expects to update its forecast in September and Executive VP/Research Leo Kivijarv says it will “discuss how influencer marketing was one of the few industries that posted positive growth in 2020.”

The forecast defines influencer marketing as involving influencers “primarily on social media and other platforms featuring user-generated content” and says Instagram corners roughly half the market. Yet radio personalities have been influencing audiences long before social media became a thing and podcast advertising is largely driven by endorsement ads.

Marshall Williams, Partner and CEO at Ad Results Media, which specializes in personality-driven endorsement audio ads, finds it peculiar that radio and podcasting aren’t always included in the conversation about influencers since audio was the original influencer. “We grew up with our favorite radio shows, believe in our radio news people and loved the connections,” he says.

Gayle Troberman, Chief Marketing Officer at iHeartMedia, says audio influencers – both broadcast and podcast hosts – “are a massive part of our business and yet still underutilized by many brands today.” She says the audio giant’s hosts have twice as much trust as social media influencers and far more reach and frequency with their fans. “That’s why we see such low ad skipping rates and such high ROI for brands when they include a mix of audio spots and influencer spots in their plans,” she says.

Je-Anne Berry, Executive Producer of Branded Podcasts at Pineapple Street Studios, says there is no doubt that host-read ads have an impact. “The answer is always yes, it will always have an impact,” she said during an Audacy webinar last week. But she told marketers that nothing is more important than the ad coming off as plausible to the listeners who are today a lot more savvy about the fact that endorsement ads are paid for. “You want an influencer whose involvement with your product is going to come across as genuine because the audience is discerning,” said Berry.

‘Authentic And Personal Relationships’

Williams says he has found listeners to be “very responsive” to brands endorsed by audio influencers due to the authentic and personal relationship developed between brands and show hosts. “In most cases, if an audio influencer is going to recommend that brand to my listeners, it’s because they use the brand, are aligned with the brand’s ethos and they feel comfortable putting their name alongside of it,” he says. “This has translated into great performance for advertisers and a symbiotic relationship that is rooted in a genuine affinity and trust of one another.”

Troberman believes the brands that get the best results from audio influencers understand the power of conversation planning. “They provide access to their products and services, their company spokespeople, their insights and data and then they let our personalities do what they do best – weave the brand’s messages authentically and organically into the conversation in ways that will make sense for each show and every fan,” she says.

A study conducted by Veritonic found 64% of podcast listeners trust recommendations shared during a program. “It’s really about driving intent,” said Audacy Executive VP of Marketing Solutions & Strategy Jenny Nelson, who said similar numbers have been recorded for over-the-air radio advertising.

‘360-Degree Campaign Approach’

While it remains the biggest arrow in their quiver, audio influencers today are able to use much more than just audio to share recommendations. Most have a portfolio of other touchpoints to help drive results for a brand. “Our broadcast and podcast influencers have massive followings across platforms that ensure multiple touchpoints and maximum engagement,” says Troberman. “For example, you could work with ‘The Breakfast Club’ and reach your audience with maximum cred on-air, via social, on their YouTube channel and in their podcast.”

As audio influencers have grown, so have their brand extensions, “reaching out to digital platforms such as Instagram and Tik Tok where advertisers can now take advantage of a 360-degree campaign approach with their partners,” adds Williams.

While influencer marketing spending is climbing, eMarketer says it is remains tiny compared to the $58.66 billion that it estimates will be spent on social networks this year. Even so, it says both are expected to continue to grow in tandem as marketers allocate more of their budgets to social media.

While the growth of influencer marketing is encouraging news, the figures suggest audio continues to get a disproportionately lower share of ad dollars compared to other media. “Audio frankly has greater reach than the social media platforms in terms of raw audience,” says Williams. “It’s just not as visible.”

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