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It’s Not Just Radio That’s Used For Reach. Increasingly, So Are Podcasts.

On-demand audio was front and center during this week’s IAB Reach Conference as advertisers repeatedly heard how podcasting is not only growing its media usage penetration, but how it works for clients.

In a conference focused on reach, podcasting may’ve seemed out of place at first. But there is a growing library of data showing it’s not as niche as some think. Edison Research reports podcast fans expanded their listening time to 6 hours and 45 minutes per week on average during the second quarter. And Triton Digital said among its clients, podcast downloads grew eight percent between January and August. “Even during a pandemic where people are not commuting as much, it still increased,” said Triton Senior VP Daryl Battaglia.

Yet many ad agencies are still figuring out where podcasting fits in, and how best to use the medium. Elliott Woodruff, Manager of Integrated Media Planning at OMD, said for buyers conditioned to think of media on an annual basis, the lack of any upfront sales event for podcasts can be a hurdle. “It’s a daunting channel, but OMD is really focused on following where the consumer is and so as more and more people are listening, we want to take our dollars and our efforts and push it there,” said Woodruff.

OMD announced in July that it will spend $20 million on podcast ads this year. Woodruff said the ability to place a pixel into podcast ads to determine whether the spot was heard should get much of the credit for the success of podcast advertising has enjoyed in 2020. “It’s great to be in an emerging platform, but it’s even better when you can show results,” she said.

Conor Doyle, Senior VP at the performance audio agency Veritone One, said he is working to more closely tie host-read and pre-produced ads together to give clients an addressable market at a bigger scale. He said it’s not always a “perfect fit” for a brand to align with a host, but that doesn’t mean host-read ads are in jeopardy since they still have a level of authenticity that podcasting is known for. “The effectiveness really comes with the engagement of the ads, so the more authentic the talent is – that’s where the interaction with the content or the ad is greater, and that’s why we see better performance from those types of ad units,” said Doyle.

Woodruff agreed that for OMD’s clients the need to mix host-read ads and scale is often an objective for their campaigns. That is especially true when the ads are for a new product or a new offering. “Then you want to balance both the host-read authenticity to sell in your product but also to get that reach and engagement,” she said.

Audio Preferred Over Facebook

Third-party attribution tools have allowed podcasters to attract some marketers that haven’t bought audio in the past. “Audio has been a way for us to reach new audiences at a pretty efficient CPM,” said Jami Oetting, Director of Editorial Strategy at the software company Hubspot – a newcomer to the medium. “We’re able to now understand that reach of podcasts, but also how our ads are driving visitors to our website,” she said.

Even though Facebook may seem cheaper than podcasts, Oetting said the audio format is still in the race since Hubspot has concluded a two-second impression while someone is scrolling on social media isn’t as valuable as a :15- or :30-second audio spot. The success of its ads on NPR podcasts opened Hubspot to spending some of its ad budget on broadcast radio. “Adding radio was a way for us to scale the success that we were seeing on podcasts and that we had attribution for,” said Oetting. She said that decision was made easier because they had podcast data to help formulate a radio buy. “With radio we knew we could get those same results, but we could do it at a much more efficient CPM,” she added.

But it’s not always an easy leap. “One of our golden rules is podcasting is not radio,” said Megaphone Senior Director George Gehring. “If you think about those terrestrial ads, they’re usually disruptive. They’re trying to get the listener’s attention, they have loud announcers, music, sound effects, and they’re trying to get you back in. Whereas with podcasting it’s the opposite, listeners are in the zone, they’re dialed-in to these stories.”

Gehring instead views podcasting as complementary to broadcast radio spots. And like radio, podcasting has the ability to respond quickly in a way video cannot. “When COVID hit, we had to pivot quickly and we updated a lot of our messaging for our partners,” he said. “We really leveraged that nimbleness.”

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