By Chris Feo, CRO, Tapad
The number of people who listen to podcasts in the U.S. is expected to reach over 105 million this year, eclipsing the 100 million mark for the very first time. Podcasts have become a popular escape during the pandemic, offering listeners a wide array of topics to choose from; and podcast popularity has been a boon for hosts and publishers. Brand marketers have also taken to the medium to gain access to loyal, highly captive audiences. However, the proliferation of platforms for streaming podcast content has surfaced several obstacles that advertisers need to overcome in order to ensure their ads are an efficient part of their media mix.
Podcasting began alongside the launch of Apple’s iPod (yes, there is a connection in the name), and Apple iTunes was America’s go-to hub for about a decade. But the immense popularity of “Serial” drew other players into the game, as the audio format showed potential to be lucrative. Today, there are an estimated 1.5 million podcasts in the market catering to every listener’s virtue or vice, and a growing variety of organizations that have a role in driving the industry forward.
The evolution of podcasts as part of the marketing mix
When podcasts first emerged as a viable advertising option for brands, methods for ad placement were clunky, with embedded ads often providing little relevance, repeated throughout each episode. For marketers looking to measure their ads against KPIs and understand podcast advertising’s role within an advertising strategy, there were few options for measurement and attribution.
With time, there had been strides made to improve ad placement, measurement and attribution, but the medium continued to present challenges to marketers who have become increasingly reliant on data. As consumers used more devices that yielded even more data, podcasting’s place within attribution models remained foggy. After all, understanding where along their journey the consumer is listening is very different from simply knowing that they’re there.
Now there is a new breed of platforms that specialize in podcast analytics, empowering marketers with data that can easily be translated into action as part of a brand’s omnichannel advertising strategy. These companies – in tandem with the emergence of podcast-specific planning teams within media buying agencies – are helping the medium work up to its promise by improving efficiencies for marketers across the board.
The fight for ad relevance within podcasts has also seen significant improvements. What started as those irrelevant ads that were served upon download eventually gave way to progressive downloads and podcast streaming, both enabling the placement of ads closer to real-time. As a result, consumers benefited from ads served with more clear contextual alignment to the podcast, as well as the listener.
Ensuring podcast ad relevance as part of a larger campaign
Although there’s a clear solution for assuring podcast ad relevance at a single point in time, there is still an important piece of the puzzle that’s missing. Ultimately, a brand’s podcast advertising does not – and cannot – exist in a silo. There must be a way for marketers to integrate these ads into the aggregate omnichannel campaign.
The answer lies in digital identity resolution, with technology that facilitates the connection of a digital ID to other devices and IDs with the same owner and user. It can also associate those same devices and IDs to others within their household. Each means of identification serves as an audience that marketers can target, or use to establish scale, for their campaigns. Further, this allows the full customer journey to come into view, creating the framework required for accurate attribution and measurement.
Because podcasts can be downloaded or streamed, there is an extra wrinkle not present when it comes to understanding consumers of other types of media, where marketers can easily discern a location or timestamp. This makes knowing who the audience is even more critical, and with that information, marketers can know whether ads have been placed in front of that consumer on other screens, enabling the use of tactics like ad sequencing and frequency capping that will make the listener experience more enjoyable.
Although predicting the future under today’s circumstances is certainly a challenge, podcasts are positioned well to experience continued growth in the coming years. As marketers continue to make podcasting a part of their omnichannel campaigns, it’s vital that they are equipped with the right technology to provide accurate measurement and productive spending.