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Survey Finds Podcast Listeners Want Marketers To Get Personal With Them.

Advancements in ad targeting are creating new opportunities for digital advertisers, but is it more creepy than cool? That is the question that the ad tech company A Million Ads put to Americans, and the findings of its survey reveal an opening for podcasters and digital audio publishers to keep pushing on personalization. Eight in ten listeners say they prefer ads they hear during a podcast to be tailored to them, and nearly 20% say they are open to highly personalized ads that are directed at their individual interests and listening habits.

“Personalized advertising is the future of engaging podcast listeners,” says Steve Dunlop, founder and CEO of AMA. “Our study shows that listeners aren’t just open to personalized ads — they prefer them. This shift is monumental, steering us away from one-size-fits-all generic creative ads towards those that resonate with individual tastes and interests.” He says the results reveal the potential for programmatic advertising to transform podcasting, especially as major advertisers use programmatic placement to reach listeners at scale.

AMA says its survey shows that ad relevance is a key driver in listener response, with a combined 42% of respondents finding podcast ads either very relevant (15%) or somewhat relevant (27%) and acknowledging that such relevance has led to actual purchases. It says those numbers highlight how relevant ads boost listener purchases, demonstrating targeted advertising’s effectiveness in driving consumer action.

“Ad relevance is more than just a convenience; it directly leads to purchases,” Dunlop says. “The study’s findings reinforce that dynamic creative both enhances brand impact and aligns with listener preferences. Given that tailored ads resonate with listeners and benefit brands, the choice for dynamic audio advertising is clear.”

Host-Read’s Advantage Fading?

The survey also offers fresh insights into the ad creative, revealing some of what the podcast industry has come to believe may be evolving as a flood of new listeners picks up the listening habit. The survey shows 38% favor pre-recorded ads recorded by someone other than the podcast host and typically lasting 15 to 30 seconds.

AMA says that data is “casting a shadow” over the belief that host-read ads are the most effective. It also points out that less than a third (31%) of those surveyed say they enjoy host-read ads, suggesting the novelty has worn off as during some episodes every single ad is now host-read.

The survey also finds roughly three in ten (31%) say they prefer branded content seamlessly integrated within the podcast, like a branded segment or episode, rather than a traditional commercial.

“The data is unequivocal: Listeners want advertising that speaks directly to them, not just around them,” Dunlop says. “Our research confirms that when ads are well-integrated and hit that sweet spot of timing and content, they’re not just heard, they’re listened to.”

Regarding ad placement within a podcast, 42% of podcast listeners say they prefer pre-roll ads at the start of the episode, a third favors mid-roll ads, and a quarter prefer post-roll ads at the episode’s end.

AMA says the survey also highlights a risk for ad fatigue, particularly for regular listeners who might encounter the same ad repeatedly, as a third say they are regular listeners and 15% say they never miss an episode. The situation is all too familiar, says AMA, as repetitive ads can become irritating, detracting from the listener experience. 

AMA’s survey, which was conducted in January, also shows a strong link between social media usage and podcast discovery, with YouTube leading at 61%, with 46% discovering new podcasts through Facebook and 43% through Instagram. Other platforms like TikTok (39%), Twitter (20%), and LinkedIn (9%) are also playing a role.

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