The Outlook
Perspective: Amelia Coomber

Podcast Advertising

It’s marketing best practice to A/B test things, look at creative, see what performs best, and have the data to back it up. At the end of the day, however, what the consumer sees is going to be creative focused, and that's why videos perform so much better for Facebook ads. Everyone in marketing knows that one of the most important things to focus on is creative.

When I went into the podcast advertising space, I realized that podcast ad reads are not being treated that way. When the host comes on halfway through the ad and they start talking about, say, a coffee company, that’s the podcast version of “creative,” right? It’s the same as what you would look at in a Facebook ad. The ad is what the user or the listener is hearing, and that's going to be the reason why they either go to the website and purchase or they don't.

When we're running podcast ads, we find the shows that we think align with the target audience, we look at the demographic information, and we assess the cost of it. But, no one is looking at what the actual host is saying, especially in the most successful podcast ads, which are the integrated and live host-read ones. 

Podcasts are so essential to unlock that incremental revenue you may have capped off in Facebook. Maybe you go on and you listen every Tuesday to Joe Rogan because you respect what he has to say and you find it interesting– you trust him. So, when Joe comes on, and he's like, yo, you've got to try this coffee product, well, it has a really big impact. It's similar to word of mouth marketing. So while they can be hard to start, podcast ads are really, really effective.

Listen to the Host

The most important component, in my opinion, is how the host is talking about the brand. When you run podcast ads, you don't just do a one-off, right? You'll sign with the show and you'll do, say one ad for the next four weeks or something. Each time if you're doing live read and integrated the host might say something different, you might as a brand give, say Joe Rogan, a one-pager about the company. But, he isn't going to read from a script. He's just going to get on and talk about it improvisationally. 

Having consecutive ads across multiple weeks means that what he says might change. So, maybe the first time he talks about his problem, finding the right coffee, etc. maybe the second week he dives into more of the features about the product and the discount code and the free shipping options. Maybe the third time he goes off on a tangent about why this company is doing really good things. Each one of those touchpoints are sort of improv, yet they’re shared directly from him, which is important to capture because they can help the user or the listener walk through that customer journey. 

What many podcasts advertisers aren't doing is looking at what that host is saying about the brand. One of the reasons for that is because it's an audio channel, so it’s harder to assess creative performance as opposed to going into Facebook Ad Manager and seeing the success levels of different creative ads. You have to go back and relisten to it. For podcast advertising, compared to other forms of advertising, it just makes it that much more intangible. 

I wanted to be able to see what the host was saying so then I could iterate off of it, test on other channels and see if I could improve that. We A/B test everything: subject lines, newsletters, Facebook campaigns. But we largely don't A/B test what the host is actually saying. 

For instance, if we were like, whoa, we got a huge amount of discount code usages when Joe talked about his personal story, then let's make sure that every single time we launch with a new podcast, we make sure to include that sort of thing. But, you can't get that information unless you're going back and finding the ad.

There's plenty of transcription stuff out there, but that technology had never been directly integrated into podcast testing. 

Unlocking the Power of Podcasts

The ad is so important, and the context of what is included in the episode is important too. It would be really awesome if I were a coffee company and I know there’s an episode where the host talks about coffee so I could integrate my product into that epsiode’s context. We do that for sponsored articles. We do that for affiliates. It's just not being applied to podcasts. 

It's so important to actually focus on what the host says about your brand. There are lots of different types of ads, and sometimes they actually do hand them a script. Those don't perform as well, because it's better when it comes from the host’s actual feelings, personality, and emotions. There are other podcast ads where they just integrate a random, irrelevant person who just talks about a product, and everyone skips through those. 

Unlocking the power of podcast ads is making the ad and the context of the ad fit naturally into the podcast, and then allowing the host to really do their thing and be able to share the product and its features naturally and effectively. 

See It and Believe It– It’s That Simple

You’ve probably listened to shows or episodes where all of a sudden, you see that they’re talking about a discount code and you're like, I had no idea that this was an ad! It’s still just as engaging as the normal podcast content. That aspect of marketing is something that really can define the success or the failure of podcast advertising.

To solve that, you have to be able to see what the host is saying. That comes down to the most mundane and unsexy thing, which is transcription. All there needs to be is a piece of technology that isn't new, not revolutionary, but is integrated into the marketing channel so it can improve and optimize the way in which you are running these podcast ads. 

Outside of just advertising in general, there are benefits to having your full podcast episode transcribed. For SEO reasons and it can be important for people who are deaf or don't have the accessibility to listen to have that online. It can also provide an avenue for podcast hosts to offer space to their advertisers; for podcasts, sponsors are one of the main revenue streams they have, if not the only revenue stream. So, it's just as important for them to be able to nail down what works in terms of an ad read so they can share that success to the client.

At Lopa, we're a podcast advertising analytics company that works with clients to transcribe their podcasts and podcast ad reads. Outside of just getting the full text of that ad, there are best practices in terms of what works. So for instance, a really effective way to do it is a problem-solution story arc that's compelling in all different marketing channels. 

One of the things outside of just transcribing that ad is actually annotating it. If we were transcribing a coffee company’s ad, let’s say, we would highlight how many times the brand name is mentioned. It's really important to include at least three or four, just mentions of the name so that you can get that recognition. 

Additionally, another thing we look for are things such as discount code mentions, which should be mentioned about twice on average. For our listeners and potential customers, it’s important to make sure the host includes the sponsorship information (discount code and URL) in the description so they can easily purchase from the brand if they want to. 

Furthermore, we highlight areas of great storytelling. For instance, we’d say, hey, this was a great introduction. Below that, the host dived into the free shipping aspect… and we could provide recommendations based on those best practices, such as a free shipping callout should appear later in the ad or further down the funnel.

Exponential Solutionizing 

Podcast advertising is growing at an unprecedented rate, and that's COVID-related in addition to so many other things. The impact, especially now with iOS 14 and Facebook, means expanding into other channels like podcasts are going to become very important. Podcasts were already growing, and they're now going to start growing even more exponentially, which is not going away.

It's really important for brands, whether they're large or small to unlock incremental audiences or incremental customers, which means being able to really effectively run these podcast ads. There are a couple of tools out there that do help with the transcription, and some of the analysis, but they're expensive. So the barrier to entry for a young brand that needs to unlock more customers is spending a really large amount. 

I think there need to be other solutions, such as Lopa and Podscribe, that help these earlier stage companies that don't have all of the bandwidth run effective podcast ads. And that just makes sense, right? If I'm going to run podcast ads,  I want them to start out being as effective as possible.

If you can start iterating off of what the host says when you’re early in the podcast game and then improve, that’s when you’re going to improve conversion rates, improve that customer base, and then eventually grow to the point where you could afford one of these larger more expensive tools.

Positive Podcast Feedback Loop

I think one of the things that’s really going to change the industry is when smaller companies have the ability to optimize their podcast ads and find the shows with listener demographics that fit best with their audience more easily, which is one of the things Podscribe does really well. They can then start to improve those podcasts ads and really see that effectiveness.

And then it starts this awesome feedback loop, right?

Because then more brands can get into the podcast advertising game. That's going to fuel the podcast shows that can then produce more content and produce even better content. It just grows from there. 

Right now it's only the big players, and that's all great. But there is so much opportunity, especially in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) and direct to consumer (DTC) space, where these smaller brands can begin to see a return.