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No Brand Backlash From Listeners For Putting Ads In Controversial Podcasts.

If an ad runs in a racy podcast, will it alienate consumers and cast the brand in a negative light? That is the question Audacy set out to answer in research newly made public. It surveyed 6,000 frequent listeners and the bottom line is that podcasters can “rest easy,” according to the report. It says three-quarters (73%) of listeners said controversial content did not affect their purchase decisions. And about half would think more positively of a brand after pairing with controversial content.

“Audiences respond favorably to almost all podcast genres and topics, and that glow extends to the brands that support them. They listen intently, with 80% listening through brand messages,” the report says. And controversial topics do not hurt their view of brands. “Listeners like a good debate and intense conversation, highlighting the quality and intent of the podcast audience,” it says. Fewer than one in four may find “foul language” a reason to turn off a show, while just eight percent said they steer clear of controversial topics.

But there are lines that listeners do not want podcasters to cross. Audacy says 61% of listeners surveyed said racism is unacceptable. And more than a third say that derogatory language directed at someone is unacceptable.

Idil Cakim, Senior VP and Head of Research & Insights at Audacy says what advertisers think of as controversial may not actually be seen as controversial by podcast listeners. She says that non-listeners see true crime podcasts as frightening while listeners of those podcasts associate true crime with words like “thought provoking” and “stress-reducing.” She said they found other such positive associations among listeners of each genre.

“When we exposed survey respondents to podcast clips with test advertisements, their perception of brands and hosts remained the same or became positive,” Cakim says in a blog post about the research. “This opens up incredible opportunities for advertisers to target their ideal customers.”

The research is meant to help advertisers feel more comfortable with placing their ads on a wider range of podcasts and genres. The report says that if brands stick to only the genres they view as safe, they could be missing out on valuable audiences that could be bundled across a network to increase a campaign’s reach and scale.

Based on the data, Cakim says that a female-heavy podcast genre like True Crime could be a good place to reach Millennial and Gen X moms who make large purchases for their households. “If you’re avoiding advertising among true crime podcasts because they’re seen as too controversial, think again,” Cakim says. “This could be your opportunity to get in front of a demographic with strong buying power.”

The research did show that listeners do care about ad style and suitability. It points to listeners wanting relevant ads to feature a similar tone, formality, and believability. The good news is most think that is already being achieved, as three-quarters (76%) of listeners who took part in the survey said brand spots fit well in the podcasts they heard.

“Instead of worrying about whether the advertisement fits thematically, take a second look at the production,” says Cakim. “Spend the time and energy developing high-quality promotions that match the podcast style.”

Download the Podcast Brand Safety and Suitability report HERE.

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