How is podcast advertising getting to the next level in 2023?

How is podcast advertising getting to the next level in 2023?
Photo: Acast

From predictive trends, to long-term brand partnerships and enhanced targeting, what is in store for podcasts this year?


At the latest IAB Podcast Upfronts, James Chandler, chief marketing officer at IAB UK declared podcast was “no longer an emerging channel”, given its diversifying content and advertising opportunities, growing adspend and audiences across demographics.

The most recent Rajar Midas survey in October 2022 found podcasts had a weekly reach of 19% of the UK population, or 10.5 million people, and globally there are four and a half million podcasts worldwide to choose from. According to IAB Europe, digital audio is on track to become a €1.5bn advertising business in Europe by the end of 2023, and within that podcast adspend is set to hit €207.2m.

The Media Leader spoke to media owners and audio specialists about how the podcast advertising industry will innovate this year.

All stakeholders The Media Leader spoke to called for more standardisation across the board in podcast advertising, whether it be a common vocabulary around advertising formats, to industry-wide agreement on measurement of effectiveness and engagement.

Nonetheless, advertising innovations including conversational targeting, programmatic podcast advertising and pixel attribution measurement have been taking place over the last few years, and as with any maturing channel, more innovations are on the horizon.

Predictive audiences

Matt Rouse, podcast lead at Octave Audio, a joint venture between Bauer Media and News UK, told The Media Leader that one particular innovation he was excited for next year was “predictive audiences”.

This pulls data from people’s listening habits and is able to predict what someone would listen to the next day based on “scaled up” sentiment data.

He said this tool could come within the next six months and has existed previously in digital display and social media for a number of years, particularly on platforms like Instagram.

Rouse said bringing this capability into digital audio would be “really valuable” and “a massive step forward”.

Long-term brand partnerships and micro shows

Katie Bowden, director of commercial audio at Global, and Tony McAllister, head of partnerships at Global, shared that a trend that will become more prevalent with “top tier podcasts” will be advertisers looking for more long-term brand podcast partnerships, more similar to TV or radio sponsorships.

These would last for months rather than weeks. One example is BT Business’ partnership with the daily news podcast The News Agents since it launched in August 2022. The podcast hit 10 million downloads in December 2022.

Bowden and McAllister also spoke about “reframing” host-read ads as “talent-led partnerships” in branded content.

In this vein, the media owner has been trialling “micro shows” with Channel 4 to promote its show First Dates Hotel.

These are post-roll branded content features up to three minutes long, and are teased at the beginning of a podcast as extra must-listen content, similar to the post-credits scene in a Marvel movie.

McAllister said in this specific instance listeners to Never Have I Ever with Joel Dommett and Hannah Cooper and Restless Natives with Martin Compston and Gordon Smart, had to guess if a dating scenario was real or happened on the show, and find out the truth at the end of the podcast.

Interactivity in audio ‘next great frontier’

Rak Patel, head of sales for EMEA at Spotify told The Media Leader interactivity was “the next great frontier in audio” and “an unparalleled opportunity” for advertisers to get creative in communicating key messages and better measure and understand their target audience’s post-ad exposure actions.

He said this is why Spotify launched its “Call To Action” cards earlier this year and that the media industry is still in “the early days of the audio renaissance” which will benefit both small and large advertisers.

Spotify has also introduced “experiences” like “Blend” that enables users to merge musical tastes into one bespoke shared playlist
as well as tools like “Q&As” and “Polls” for podcasters to connect with their listeners directly in the app.

Patel also pointed to ongoing developments in targeting and measurement, through Spotify Brand Lift, a first-party data measurement tool, and the music streamer’s acquisition of podcast measurement company Podsights to bring greater transparency to podcast advertising.

Clickable ads, lookalike audiences, sentiment targeting and programmatic

This focus on interactivity was echoed by Ross Adams, CEO of independent podcast network Acast, who said if he could wave a magic wand and change something about the podcast industry, it would be “exciting” to have more clickable ad formats in all podcasts, rather than just a subset.

He added that Acast was “still digging into a lot of data” following its acquisition of Podchaser, the world’s biggest podcast database, which has been kept independent with both competitors and Acast “plugged in”.

This dataset is “a big area for advertisers” which could help them search for and target “lookalike audiences”, understand listening behaviours, popular genres of the moment, contexts of conversations and industry-wide trends not just from a cost perspective.

Adams said: “It’s an incredible vehicle for giving us data on everything happening within podcasting, as well as targeting and data plus, you understand what the guests are talking about and where else they’re featuring.”

Sentiment targeting is also set to be added to Acast’s current set of targeting tools over the next year, which already include conversational targeting, IAB category-targeting and keyword targeting. This will help advertisers place ads in the most contextually relevant moments in podcasts, and avoid moments which could reflect badly on a brand.

Adams additionally highlighted programmatic podcast advertising was “probably the biggest talked about thing” that is coming into the industry now and that the market is “finally ready for it”.

Acast introduced programmatic advertising to its platform five years ago, and it now makes up 10% of its advertising revenue which he said was “very encouraging”.

He added: “Programmatic buying in an automated way is very scalable, and loss-making businesses like Acast need to show automation and automation at scale. When a medium starts to buy that way, at scale, it becomes a very interesting proposition for investors.”

Movie and TV spinoffs and cost per minute of attention

Fresh Air Productions has focussed on making branded podcasts for the last few years, and now has a slate of 80 different podcasts with brands including the National Trust, Historic England, Kew Gardens, Barclays, Allianz, and Historic England.

Whereas a few years ago Neil Cowling, founder of Fresh Air Productions, and Richard Blake, its director of marketing and growth had to explain to brands what podcasts were, now they say they barely have to do any outreach and brands approach them with ideas they have from their own podcast listening.

Blake said “cost per minute of attention” was “a favourite metric” for Fresh Air Productions for advertisers to “easily understand” engagement in a podcast, alongside other measures like listen-through rates.

Cowling described “companion” or spinoff podcast series from intellectual properties such as films and TV series as having “huge untapped potential” for brands to explore.

Branded podcasts also work well for B2B brands who are trying to speak to a niche audience, like Barclays with The Mortgage Insider and Allianz’ Insurance Tomorrow aimed at brokers in those industries.

Adwanted UK are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine. To access our audio industry directory, visit audioscape.info and to find your new job in audio visit The Media Leader Jobs, a dedicated marketplace for media, advertising and adtech roles.

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