While host-read ads started at radio and continue to be one of the medium’s most sought after ad units, they’re getting their biggest uptake at podcasting, where endorsement ads form the very foundation of the channel’s monetization strategy. Agency Veritone One places roughly 50,000 talent endorsement ads in audio a year for more than 100 clients, from sports book Draft Kings to audio book publisher Audible.
“Host-read ads have a good reputation with these brands. It’s on their roadmap when they start to tap out on Facebook or search-based ads,” says Conor Doyle, Senior VP at the San Diego-based shop, which specializes in helping brands use audio in their marketing mix. For example, Honey, the deal-finding software that keeps shoppers updated on potential bargains and coupon opportunities, is endorsed by syndicated radio personalities Elvis Duran, Bobby Bones and Dave Ramsey. “Aligning with Dave Ramsey, who is all about personal finance, is a natural fit,” says Doyle. “It’s sort of an endemic message for his audience.”
Live reads have become so indispensable to direct-to-consumer brands that they’re listed in the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s playbook as a media channel DTC companies should explore. And as podcast consumption continues to rise, last year it surpassed radio as Veritone One’s largest media channel.
Successfully executing an endorsement campaign at scale with hundreds of local air talent is a complex undertaking that can be fraught with risk and pitfalls. To improve its success rate with large scale host-read campaigns, Veritone relies on sophisticated technology to track the tens of thousands of host-read ads it places a year. “We immediately locate the reads, we verify they took place and evaluate them,” Doyle explains. “We built that agency work flow because we recognize that it’s challenging to our clients. They want to know what’s being said and how the campaign is doing.”
Each individual endorsement is rated on a variety of criteria and the information is aggregated and used to optimize the campaign. “If we start to see a talent whose reads are getting shorter or their ratings are going down, we need to get on the phone with them,” Doyle elaborates. “It’s a relationship and we need to make sure that we’re setting them up for success.”
Just like a program director understands the need to give the talent creative leeway, so do agencies like Veritone One, where the motto is no two reads should sound the same.
“The reason they are effective is because you are getting the talent’s point of view on your product and hopefully their use of your product,” Doyle contends. “They know how to position things and when you let them do it, it can be very effective.”
Over the past year a parade of studies have shown host-read ads out-perform produced ads by often staggering margins. A survey of 412 podcast listeners conducted by audio researcher Signal Hill Insights for Stitcher found host reads produced 91% more lifts than the announcer reads. Presented in October at the IAB’s virtual 2020 Reach Conference, the study found host-read ads generated greater lifts in top-of-mind awareness, brand familiarity and total awareness than the announcer ads for both established and emerging brands.
At this year’s Podcast Movement online conference, Nielsen aggregated 250 different podcast brand effect studies, finding that host-read ads drove 71% higher recall, 60% greater intent to seek information about the advertised product, 50% more purchase intent and 50% higher recommendation intent than non-host read ads. The host read ads also tended to yield higher brand fit scores.
Host read ads are nothing new. Snapple famously partnered with Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh in the 1990s to help propel the tea and juice brand to national success. More recently, scrappy DTC brands have used host read ads to evolve their business from operating out of a garage to million dollar companies, although the process doesn’t happen overnight.
Now some of those brands need to layer on big reach vehicles like broadcast radio. Says Doyle, “As you start to show these guys that partnering with talent and audio can drive the business, it then becomes, ‘How do we do that and get more reach, how do we expand the channel?’ And usually radio is an avenue to do that.”