As podcasting has gone mainstream, it has allowed the industry to attract some of the biggest brand advertisers in America. Molson Coors, the second-biggest brewing company in the U.S., is already buying podcast ads and is looking to grow its investment in the industry. It is also looking to pour dollars into live events as podcasts have proven to be a good fit for the brand’s personality-driven marketing strategy.
“As a company, Molson Coors’ marketing vision is to build brands that people want to hang out with,” said Kevin Welsh, Senior Marketing Manager at Molson Coors. During a webinar Friday, organized by its podcast ad agency Ad Results Media, he shared some insights into the brand’s growing use of audio beyond traditional radio ads.
“We’re trying to find more ways to break through because this young legal drinking age consumer that we’re after is harder to reach and media is more fragmented,” said Welsh. But more than just growing listening numbers, he said the host-driven nature of podcasts has appeal. “We feel that personality-driven media is the way to connect with consumers,” he explained.
The Molson Coors media plan is 70% of “tried and true” media it knows works. Another 20% is made up of media that it has previously tested and is in the process of scaling up, with the remaining 10% being new and different media. Welsh said podcasts have graduated into the middle group, and the company is looking to spend more on audio advertising.
Even though it has major beer brands, Molson Coors is not solely focused on the podcasts with the biggest audience. Instead, Welsh said as they draft their 2021 media allocations and they evaluate podcasts on metrics such as how strong an endorsement would be, where a podcast is placing a spot and how long it lasts, and whether downloads are growing. “We definitely look at podcasts on a spectrum,” he said. “We’re going to have a mix of large podcasts, more middle of the road podcasts, and we definitely see podcasts as a space to reach niche interests.” He said that niche play has become especially useful as it launched the Vizzy Hard Seltzer brand.
Ad Results Media Chief Revenue Officer Steve Shanks said their work picking podcasts for Molson Coors relies on what a show does with the audience that it does have, not how high it is on the Apple Podcast ranker. “It’s definitely not something you should be relying on,” he said.
‘Leap of Faith’
Molson Coors’ long list of podcasts, and a heavy use of live-read ads, require some extra scrutiny as well as a trust in the hosts and shows selected. “When you talk about personality-driven media, you have to have the understanding that you need to push your boundaries a little bit,” said Welsh. But the brand also avoids talk of binge drinking, alcohol abuse, drinking and driving, and under-age drinking. At the same time, Welsh said when they are targeting podcasts in show categories like comedy, it requires some carefully built guardrails. He also credited Ad Results with helping navigate their brands away from shows that would not be the right fit.
Shanks thinks one of the most important elements is a common understanding across the brand, ad agency, and media vendor of what those guardrails are. “If you don’t want to be in politics, have strong language in something, or have violence, the teams need to understand that before diving in,” he said. Once that is in place, then the targeting tools that podcast networks have at their fingertips come into play.
The use of live-read ads also means letting go of control said Welsh. “There is a little bit of a leap of faith and you understand that you are going into a little bit more of a riskier content,” he said. “One thing I always think of is that the people who are tuning into that content are opting-into it. They are used to the way a podcaster might talk or jokes they might make.”
The Promise Of Pixels
While it may be willing to take a leap of faith with creative execution, results matter and Molson Coors is working with third-party analytics companies like Podsights to measure how well its podcast advertising performs. It is also integrating podcast ads into the company’s media mix modeling to calculate the specific ROI it gets on podcasts versus other media.
“The gold standard is pixel-based tracking across all of our buys,” said Welsh. He said the ability to filter that data into its multitouch attribution studies and be able to optimize in real-time will allow the company to direct more dollars into podcasts. It would also help reallocate money within the medium to the shows that perform best.
One thing Molson Coors will not be buying is post-roll ads. “I would never pay a dime for those,” said Welsh. “You can give it to me as added value, but I don’t think they’re very valuable.”
Serving A Cold One
Beyond spot advertising, Welsh said Molson Coors likes the idea of sponsoring podcast-driven live events and even planned to back some this year until the pandemic wiped the calendar clean. He sees those events as not only a place to connect and build a tighter bond with the podcast audience, but also an opportunity for a brand to put the actual product into listeners’ hands. “They really connect with consumers in an in-person manner and our brands want to be there when those type of things happen,” he said.