Shopping Habits Changed In 2021 Holiday Season. Here’s How That Affected Podcast Ads.


The holiday shopping season began early and ran into rising omicron numbers during its final month. Those two factors may have been responsible for an unlikely trend in how the gift industry spent their ad dollars on podcasts in 2021, according to Magellan AI.


“The gift industry spending tapered off in December. Previously in 2020, we saw a steep increase from October to November to December. In 2021, we saw a big increase from October to November, but December was a little bit shy of the November totals. The gift industry spend actually decreased by 12% month over month,” said Magellan founder Cameron Hendrix. He said during a webinar last week that advertisers such as Etsy, Sugarwish, and Legacybox pulled back in December, which Magellan estimates led to $852,000 less being spent by the gift industry on podcasts in December versus November.


“Despite that, year-over-year December spend in the industry was close to double 2020 – it was up 72%,” said Hendrix. “It was a really strong year overall for podcasts and the gift industry.”


One ad category that helped fill the gap was the pharmaceutical industry, which increased its combined spend by 63% or $1.1 million from November to December. And Magellan says it was more than triple (+363%) what drug companies spent a year ago.


“We saw pharma ramp-up spend heading into the year-end,” said Hendrix. “They’ve been spending consistently on a year-over-year basis each month.”


Driving the increase were companies such as Pfizer-BioNTech, a big broadcast radio advertiser. It spent $722,000 on podcast ads in December, after the FDA granted full approval of their coronavirus vaccine. With the greenlight, Pfizer-BioNTech gained the ability to advertise the vaccine. Magellan says Pfizer promoted their drugs Eucrisa and Ibrance in 2021 but Magellan AI first detected Comirnaty and the joint Pfizer-BioNTech branded ads last month. The brand awareness ads were most concentrated in the sports genre and can be heard on Irish Breakdown and Jim Cornette’s Drive Through.


The pharmaceutical company Nurtec was also a strong performer for podcasts last year. In 2021, Magellan estimates it spent $1 million on the medium – or nearly four-times the $224,000 it invested the year before. Magellan says 83% of Nurtec’s advertising was concentrated in the fall and winter months, when migraines are worse because of the cold weather and seasonal changes. Its most-used genres were Society & Culture and TV & Film.


Drug stores were also active. Walgreens was on Magellan’s monthly movers and shakers list after it shelled out $195,000 on podcasts last month, compared to $35,000 in November.


“For the last couple of years, they’ve spent the most during the month of December,” said Hendrix. But the retailer came on strong throughout the year. “Walgreens spent more than twice as much in 2021 as it did 2020,” Hendrix said. In both years, he said Walgreen’s top genres were Society & Culture and Comedy.


Magellan says Better Help was the biggest advertiser on podcasting during December. It was followed by Amazon, SimpliSafe, ExpressVPN and HelloFresh.


Overall, Magellan estimates the top 15 podcast advertisers spent a combined $35.05 million in December. That compares to the $40.59 million that the top 15 advertisers spent in the medium in November, or a 14% decrease month-to-month.


Magellan analyzes podcast advertising data from the top 3,000 podcasts in the U.S., as ranked by Apple Podcasts. Magellan’s proprietary model is used to estimate advertising spend. It includes factors such as the number of ads and variation in ad load detected for a given episode, number of downloads for each episode, and estimated CPMs as reported in select media kits and estimated based on popularity.

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