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Are You a Pod Person? How to Tell if Podcast Ads Are Right for Your Brand

If traditional marketing channels don’t fit your product—or your budget—podcast advertising may offer possibilities you hadn’t considered. And, even if you do advertise through traditional channels, a well-placed podcast ad could augment your brand’s marketing profile. 

In recent years, podcast advertising has been notable as the playground of direct-to-consumer brands, particularly newer companies. At times, it can seem like any podcast you download is likely to be sponsored by a DTC shaving brand (Harry’s, Dollar Shave Club), an upstart mattress company (Casper, Purple), or a meal-prep kit (Blue Apron, Sunbasket, HelloFresh, etc.). It’s also been a fertile ground for products that don’t typically find a home in broadcast media, like personal grooming brand Manscaped. Still, just as it seems like there’s room for everyone to have a podcast, any brand can find a corner of the podcast universe that’s a perfect fit, from web-based therapy and lifestyle coaching services like BetterHelp and Noom to established financial service providers like Lincoln Financial and Amalgamated Bank.

Know your host.

One of the unique characteristics of podcast ads is the lack of restrictions on ad time. You may pay for a 30-second spot, but if a host feels strongly about your product or service, you’re likely to wind up getting a lot more for your money, especially since an enthusiastic testimonial from a trusted host combines the star power of a traditional spokesperson with the authenticity of a traditional testimonial.

On the other hand, podcast hosts may also open the door to criticism of your messaging, from concept to copy. On Cadence13’s Tony Kornheiser Show, the longtime Washington Post columnist and ESPN commentator has been known to call out awkwardly written copy, and his listeners have repeatedly questioned how “two ordinary guys” could buy a German factory to manufacture razors (as Harry’s ads have often told the brand’s story). 

If you’re not comfortable opening your brand up to that kind of criticism, you’ll certainly want to be selective with your podcast choices, and direct in your communication with the shows’ producers.

Integrate where you can.

One of the challenges in podcast advertising—particularly as opposed to radio—is that listeners can jump ahead 15 seconds or more with a single tap or click, so even if a host is enthusiastic about your product, it can be easy for listeners to tune out if they so desire. They can also increase the playback speed of their podcast app, leaving less time for a message to sink in. 

The good news is that podcasts offer significant opportunities for sponsor integration, and when done right, these integrations can be as effective for brand-building as testimonials in ads. Crooked Media’s Lovett or Leave It—a humorous week-in-review show hosted by company cofounder Jon Lovett—has made longtime sponsor Parachute a well-recognized part of the show by presenting a Parachute gift card to the winner of its audience-participation games. The opportunity to compete for the gift card has drawn enthusiastic reactions from live crowds (back when you could have live crowds) and even if a listener skips ads, the enthusiasm for Parachute comes across.

Keep it simple.

Like terrestrial and satellite radio, podcasts are most frequently consumed on the go, whether in cars, on public transportation, or while exercising at a gym or around the neighborhood. If you want to drive customers to your site, calls to action need to be concise and easy to remember, including web addresses and discount codes if you’re offering them. As with your brand itself, it’s important to be memorable. That’s a lesson that’s served Philadelphia-based jeweler Steven Singer well for years: He turned a gripe from a too-satisfied customer’s husband – “I HATE STEVEN SINGER” – into his web address, an indelible part of his brand, and now, his podcast ads. This seemingly counterintuitive branding strategy sticks in listeners’ minds, making it easy to follow him from a podcast to his website.

Want to learn more about how to make podcasts an effective component of your marketing strategy? Contact us.

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Elliot Olshansky

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