Podcasters are increasingly turning to continuous shows that publish week-to-week in order to build an audience in a way that seasonal-based shows cannot always deliver. But when it comes to brands looking to make their mark, the message from several podcast pros last month at Advertising Week was that limited-run series still have the power to connect with listeners.
Amy Fitzgibbons, VP of Podcast Marketing at SiriusXM, says listeners are more likely to consume an entire limited-run series than weekly chart shows where they may listen to one or two a month. She said one of the biggest returns they ever had for a podcast was with a show with fewer than 30,000 listeners.
“You can get the impressions from a celebrity-driven chat show, and there are plenty of those out there with very engaged audiences. But what you get from something like a limited-run series, or a smaller show that has a more niche audience, is the engagement of the audience,” Fitzgibbons said. “When you've got a serialized short-run series, they’re engaged, listening from show to show, and I think that brands should really think about that as an opportunity to get that higher touch audience engagement in a way that you can't by just doing audience network or impression buys.”
Audacy Chief Digital Officer J.D. Crowley views it as no different than how they offer limited-run shows where listeners are allowed to binge the entire season in order to build the platform’s audience. “If it works for the platforms, you would think it would work for a brand,” he told marketers at the New York conference.
Yet the high-profile limited-run shows that have dominated the big industry successes during the past five years have become less common. Campside Media cofounder Josh Dean said that is his company’s roots, but he acknowledged they present a challenge. “They win a lot of awards and draw a lot of attention in the media, but they're quite expensive, they take a long time to produce, and only certain type of hosts can do them,” he said. “I just wish that there was a little bit more of interaction with the advertising world about brand sponsorships. It makes a lot of sense if you're strategic about it and you're talking to advertisers in the right way.”
Pineapple Street Studios cofounder Jenna Weiss-Berman thinks there is more that can be done to incorporate brands into the content overall, saying product placement is an especially ripe opportunity. She also thinks studios can do more to produce new ad formats, such as three or four minute documentary series that are advertisements for brands. It’s something Pineapple Street has already done for Chase and Bonobos. “There's just so many exciting ways that podcasting and brands can work together that haven't yet happened,” Weiss-Berman said.
Dean said limited-run series also offer something unique when it comes to approaching marketers. “Almost every limited series presents an opportunity for probably two or three brands,” he suggested. “It just requires more creative thinking, not just from the industry, but from us to the ad industry,”
Knowing When To Say No
For a lot of marketers, the key to a successful brand-backed podcast is working with the same studios that make other hit shows. Weiss-Berman said when Pineapple Street is considering taking brand-driven projects, they consider many of the same factors that go into making any show.
“The main thing for us is that we always want to have a real audience,” she said. “We often will say no to things because it just doesn't feel like there's a great chance for them to reach an audience and we don't necessarily want to waste a brand's money doing something where they have big expectations and we don't really believe in them.”
As brands consider podcasting, Fitzgibbons suggested they view it just like they would any other element on their media plan, recognizing there are different types of campaigns that can be run in the medium depending on the goal. To raise brand awareness, she says host-reads or mini-episodes work well. And Fitzgibbons says the success of direct response advertisers shows that podcast advertising can also result in actual sales too.
Brand safety issues have continued to hang over podcast advertising, but UTA Head of Audio Oren Rosenbaum said as podcasting grows, the more marketers will feel comfortable with what they are buying. “Over time, advertisers have gotten much more comfortable with trusting talent, trusting these studios to tell the brand stories, even in a :30-second commercial spot,” he said.
UTA works with a number of news-based shows and Rosenbaum thinks brands are realizing that hosts that make headlines for their controversial statements are not always the personality they seem to be, with Joe Rogan being a prime example. “Many people are so willing to advertise on his show and have him do personal endorsements,” Rosenbaum said. “There is a very small group of people that I wouldn't want to touch if I was a brand advertiser, and I think the rest is fine.”