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Podcast Advertising Basics for Ecommerce Brands

Selective podcast advertising combines the power of influence and brand recognition. It can help ecommerce companies, including direct-to-consumer merchants, create demand for new products or the brand itself.

Brands such as Athletic Greens, Four Sigmatic, Helix Sleep, and Magic Spoon are examples of emerging DTC and consumer brands that are regular podcast advertisers in 2022.

These companies and myriad others have learned that podcast advertising is a form of influencer marketing since many shoppers interpret these ads as an endorsement from a favorite host.

Not Programmatic

I’m not referring to programmatic ads that place commercials on podcasts automatically but, instead, host-read spots that connect the advertiser to the podcast.

The ads these brands are using are called curated or selected placement — meant to promote the brand’s products thoughtfully.

This influencer-like approach to podcast advertising is a form of contextual placement and can generate better results than programmatic ads.

Contextual

Contextual targeting has long been a staple of the advertising industry. It is based on a tried and true concept: Place your ad next to relevant content.

For example, Athletic Greens places ads on “The Tim Ferriss Show” podcast. Tim Ferriss is the author of books like “The 4-Hour Work Week” and “The 4-Hour Body.”

While the podcast’s subject matter differs from one episode to the next, the audience is generally interested in self-improvement and personal achievement. So contextually, the podcast is a match for Athletic Greens’ nutritional products.

Screenshot of The Tim Ferris Show home page

“The Tim Ferris Show” generally focuses on self-improvement, a good advertising match for Athletic Greens, which sells nutritional products.

Placement

Quality podcast advertising is typically purchased at a flat rate or cost-per-thousand (CPM) downloads.

In the former, the sponsor pays an agreed-upon rate when placing the advertisement. The rate is often based on the average number of downloads per episode.

For the advertiser, a flat rate offers the benefit of knowing what will be paid.

But for CPM ads, the sponsor pays a known rate per 1,000 downloads over a given period, perhaps a month, after the episode airs.

Finally, while well-known podcasters such as Tim Ferriss or Jordan Harbinger (“The Jordan Harbinger Show”) sell spots directly to sponsors, many podcasts use a placement agency to sell sponsorships.

True Native Media, for example, is a podcast sponsorship-selling agency based in Florida that represents nearly 100 podcasts. Sponsors will typically buy multiple podcasts within a given context.

Copywriting

Since these podcast ads are fundamentally influencer marketing sponsorships, the ad copy is often a collaboration between the sponsor and the host or the host’s agency.

In many cases, the sponsor will complete a “brief” explaining the product or campaign, and the host’s own copywriters will compose the initial draft of the ad. Several iterations of the copy will pass back and forth between sponsor and host.

Assuming the sponsor is placing ads in multiple episodes, the copy may evolve as the copywriters optimize it.

Measurement

Curated podcast placements are measurable, but it is important for sponsors to recognize that these ads may be more akin to top-of-the-funnel brand placements than direct-response performance ads on Meta or Google.

This reality implies that sponsors should have clear goals related to the podcast placements and define measurement strategies ahead of running those sponsorships. Here are some examples.

Measure website traffic. Listeners who hear an ad in a podcast may note the brand and then search Google for it or type the brand’s URL directly into a web browser.

Dozens or hundreds of these listeners who visit an advertiser’s site could create a detectable spike in organic search traffic or direct traffic.

Measure special offers. A common tactic with podcast advertising is to include a special offer or coupon code unique to the podcast. For example, if a furniture business were advertising on the “Decorating Tips and Tricks” podcast, it could offer a code for a free pair of accent pillows with any couch purchase. The business could then attribute the use of the code to the podcast.

Measure vanity URLs. Vanity URLs are similar to special offers and coupon codes. These URLs might include the podcast host’s name, ie, somesponsor.com/hostname,

Often the host is transparent about the vanity URL’s purpose, explaining to listeners that using the URL will give the podcast credit.

Use checkout surveys. Some podcast advertisers ask customers at the checkout how they discovered the brand, effectively attributing the sale to the podcast promotion.

These surveys should be used as a directional indicator and not a definitive count of every sale the podcast ad encouraged.

Conduct brand lift surveys. If a business invests in several forms of brand advertising, including podcasts, it can make sense to run comprehensive brand lift and ad recall surveys. These simple surveys will help identify how brand advertising is contributing to the company’s overall success.

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