The power of personality is what is helping podcast advertising grow as marketers increasingly aim to influence consumers in new ways beyond the traditional ad. Lizzy Denihan, Head of Partnership Strategy at Cadence13, said that has led many brands to beat a path to podcasting where they have become aware of the strong connection between hosts and listeners and they are looking to tap into that from a marketing standpoint.
“What brands have been noticing is there is such a power in partnering with these hosts,” said Denihan. “Audiences are pretty religious about their listening. So they're often listening to every episode all the way through. Even when it comes to ads. And so, being part of that association with this really trusted medium and spaces is what we all are seeing is really important and impactful for advertisers,” she said during an Audacy webinar for advertisers this week.
The focus on podcast personalities has benefited Podcorn, the fellow Audacy-owned company that operates a marketplace that connects advertisers with podcasters to create native advertising and branded content. “It’s been very difficult for brands of all shapes and sizes to be able to find the right creators in a very fragmented space. This is why we built the infrastructure to help streamline the entire process and help brands identify the right creators and manage campaigns at scale,” said cofounder Agnes Kozera. Podcorn has more than 50,000 creators in their network from which brands can pick from to do everything from hosts reads and branded episodes to also creating product reviews and how-to episodes.
“We see a lot of creators from other mediums whether it is blogging or Instagram or video moving into podcasting,” said Kozera. “That's because it really allows creators to dive deeper into topics and get even more connected with their audiences than they can on other mediums and for brands that allows for deeper integrations, more real estate to do something authentic and unique.”
Stephanie Seferian, the host of the Sustainable Minimalists podcast, is one example. She previously created a blog but jokes now that it had few readers beyond her mother. Now as a podcaster, she thinks that if the demographic a brand is trying to reach is one that overlaps with her show, there is success to be had. But what she thinks is just as big a factor is whether there is enthusiasm and excitement by the host for doing the live-read.”
“I feel as though a great ad read is very loosely scripted at best, and it has a lot of opportunity for ad lib,” said Seferian. “And it is said with enthusiasm and it's using ‘I’ statements. So we're touching on the personality, the personal life beyond the podcast of the host, it's using the host natural inflections. And it's seamless at the end of the day.”
Michael Ojibway, host of the true crime podcast Invisible Choir, said it’s no surprise to see that podcasters have a tight connection with their listeners. “One of the things I like to remind people of is, every two weeks, we spend about the equivalent of a feature length film with our listeners. Put that into perspective over the case of a year or over several years, and you begin to understand why there's such a trusting relationship between the listener and a specific host,” he said.
Kozera said she is seeing more flexibility in ad formats too. “Even if you're doing like a pre-roll, it doesn't have to be a traditional pre-roll, it could be like a brand shoutout or it could be a brand integration,” she said. Kozera agrees the passion of the podcast host when doing a live read also goes a long way toward an ad’s success.
Ojibway said with true crime shows like his, it can be tricky to work live reads for a product into the middle of a story. He thinks personal endorsements have worked best when hosts are allowed to make an actual endorsement after the brand puts the product or service into the creator’s hands. “The genuine tonality of the voice comes out. Because it's very difficult to fake excitement about a product if you haven't literally held it in your hands and played with it or used it,” he said. “We’ve had the best success in actually getting those products in hand, and being able to be a little more playful with how we cover those.”
Seferian agreed. “It's all about honesty,” she said. “What's so special is that they aren't so polished, it is really conversational storytelling.”
Kozera said marketers’ focus on leveraging host’s relationships is also helping to open up opportunities for podcasters that may not have the biggest audiences, but rather they reach a key demo or target group that a brand needs to reach. “Whether it's a thousand listeners or a million, it’s really about finding the right creators for your brand,” she said.
Kozera said the case of Lumen showed how it can work. Podcorn connected the company with podcasters who were experts with health and wellness to pitch its brand that helps users “hack” their metabolism. “They had a 300% return on their investment,” said Kozera. “And it didn't work with the biggest creators, it worked with creators who were just really well fit for their product and were really passionate.” She thinks advertisers should test different verticals and work with a number of creators to see what works. It can turn up some surprises.
“We had a gaming company that wanted to work with gamers, but they found that true crime actually converts really well for them because it tapped into a female listenership in a really unique way,” said Kozera. “That’s the power of working with smaller and midsize groups and working your way up to larger ones is that you get to see what works.”
Denihan said they measure a campaign’s success with renewals. “We often can determine if it was successful if we see clients coming back not only coming back to the shows that they purchased in but wanting to see what else is included in our portfolio,” she said.