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iHeart Has Been Running Lots Of Podcast Ads On The Radio. Here’s What It Discovered.

During the past several months iHeartMedia has drawn attention for the way in which it has leveraged its 850 radio stations to promote podcasts, running thousands of on-air spots to promote on-demand content. Media Monitors reported the company ran more than 82,000 radio promos for just three podcasts last week. The effort has been part of an internal research project, according to the company’s top researcher. Executive VP Hetal Patel told the IAB Reach Conference last week that iHeart has been able to see how quickly a broadcast campaign can translate into podcast downloads.

“We’ve been doing a very systematic media trial at iHeartMedia for the last few months,” said Patel. “What we realized is radio actually drove downloads with 24 to 48 hours of media running.” She said they isolated several aspects to determine what works best, including using different formats of radio stations, and stations with different age demos and in different dayparts, as well as promoting different genres of podcasts and whether the on-air promotion works best for niche shows or mass-reach podcasts. “We’re starting to get to that layer of understanding of what genre and adjacencies work better with what type of podcast,” said Patel.

During the session at a conference filled with many brand managers and ad agency buyers, Patel said rather than having too little data, she thinks most advertisers are seeking a point of view on the data from publishers. That has led the company to categorize its podcast data into insights about consumers, creators and clients. But one stands taller than the others.

“Consumers have always been our compass — and podcasting is no exception” said Patel. She said the real-time data they get about consumers can also be used by creative teams. That came into play during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, when some genres saw listening pop while others softened. That, she said, allowed them to create relevant content in the moment.

Ad buyers can tap into it to develop advertising campaigns too. Patel said the research shows that the less someone watches television, the more likely they are to consume podcasts. That has implications for multiplatform ad buys. “It brings to table an incremental audience that you can’t get with a TV-only campaign,” she said.

“Our competitive advantage is the multiplatform measurement,” said Patel. “We don’t just talk about podcast attribution. We can give a multiplatform evaluation after it has been a radio, digital audio, and podcast campaign and how the success is across different media.”

Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network, said he is still amazed by the various elements at their disposal within the company to promote a project. “It’s a huge amplifier of what we do,” he said.

In terms of content, Bryne said podcasting remains in a “kind of honeymoon” phase of creativity where there are no clocks to follow and no predefined formats for shows or ads. That is attracting big-name talent like Will Ferrell and Shonda Rhimes, who are looking to enjoy a media rarity. “Usually the more creative freedom you have, the smaller the audience,” Byrne pointed out. “In podcasts you get the best of both worlds — total creative freedom and huge audiences.”

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