How to Thrive in Podcast Advertising

By Idil Cakim, SVP Research & Insights, Audacy

Podcast advertising is flourishing. But are you thinking about it the right way?

Podcasting is growing at neck breaking speed. It defied the odds during the pandemic, spiking in listening hours and broadening reach with diverse titles. And the 2021 report from Insider Intelligence suggests things are not going to slow down anytime soon.

Year over year, monthly podcast listenership in the United States will go up by 10%, reaching 117.8 million in 2021. Listenership is especially strong among younger audiences, ages 18-34. Podcast advertising is set to exceed $1 billion dollars this year. That’s nearly a quarter of digital audio ad revenue.1 This has serious implications for your brand. There’s no better time to get into podcasting than right now.

woman with coffee mug and cell phone

Fortunately, you have an opportunity to not only keep up with this trend, but to get ahead of it. In podcasting, and audio in general, advertisers still lean towards broad ad buys – a blanket purchase on a streaming platform or a commitment to a single series or genre. This approach can be appropriate at times, but there are more nuanced ways to think about podcast advertising.

Brands are beginning to recognize the tremendous potential of audience-based ad buys and purchases across a podcast network. Over half of US marketers agree that these methods are the most effective when it comes to achieving your brand KPIs2. This is a step forward from older approaches, where brands partnered with immediately obvious content – apparel brands sponsored a specific episode dedicated to fashion, or tech brands partnering with a series about the tech industry. Buying by audience or partnering with a network, however, enables a brand to reach beyond the obvious and find their audience in unexpected places, getting the most out of their advertising dollar.

Let’s look at a more specific example. Say, for example, your brand publishes cookbooks. Your ideal audience is young and middle-aged men and women who cook at home. Now, your first impulse might be to partner with a podcast about cooking. That’s not a bad idea, but you’re likely to only capture the most passionate members of your audience, the real foodies. They’re important, but your audience is actually so much bigger – instead, you could partner with a podcast network to meet that audience on all of their programming, finding the tens of thousands of at-home cooks that don’t necessarily listen to cooking shows.

You can even reach a more exact group through an audience based ad buy. Now, pretend you’re representing a children’s hospital. Already, your advertising requires a more regional focus – your hospital only serves one city or county. You’re also reaching out to a more specific audience than an age demographic: you’re looking for parents. Rather than blanketing a city with ads, you can instead buy an audience, reaching them with precise programming where your ads will do the most good: in this case, for example, children’s programming and morning talk shows. Read more about audience-based ad buys here.

Both of these examples come from real Audacy campaigns, where brands put audio and audience first. Embracing a holistic view of what audio can accomplish, they wove it into all their campaigns, with podcasts at the center. They reached and engaged their audiences – holding their attention at the highest levels. By tapping into the power of podcasts similarly, you can forge more connections with your audience than ever before.

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1, 2 Insider Intelligence, “Analyst Take: The Outlook for US Podcast Ad Spending in 2021”, April 2021.

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