Avoiding brand risk in podcast advertising

During the pandemic, more consumers turned to music and podcasts for entertainment from the comfort of their homes, driving exponential growth in audio media.

In fact, eMarketer estimates that U.S. radio and digital audio services will pull in $16.8 billion in ad spending this year. While audio’s speedy uptick in popularity provides advertisers with a much larger audience to reach, it may also introduce new risks for brands when it comes to safety and ad fraud.

With audio advertising on the rise with no signs of slowing down, here’s what brands need to consider when diving into the growing audio pool.

Turning up the volume on measurement

Entering a new space carries uncertainty, and for brands, the most common concern with audio ads is measurement. Some digital platforms, including audio, have been slow to adopt programmatic technology and the tools to track ROI that come with it.

In part, that’s because audio platforms originally focused on growing their total number of paid subscribers, rather than investing in freemium models that are primarily supported by ads. Yet with more consumers opting for free, ad-supported services, it’s time to solve those measurement issues.

When Advertiser Perceptions surveyed U.S. advertisers last year, more than half of those polled bought podcast ads by audience segment or across a podcast network. Yet a much smaller percentage of those advertisers said these methods actually worked best for meeting their key performance indicators. Audibility, rather than viewability, has become a key metric of measurement for advertisers considering additional audio spending.

Research shows that consumers are willing to listen to ads on audio platforms, especially when it comes to podcasts. In fact, podcast ads are viewed as one of the top five most trustworthy formats on the market.

However, another hesitation advertisers have about entering the audio realm is the wide range of content on podcasts, plus issues of brand safety and suitability. While there are many genres of podcasts, the content can and does change from episode to episode.

For example, if a feature-style podcast covers a range of news-driven topics — from consumer privacy on social platforms one week to renewable energy the next — brands need the tools to identify the right fit for their ads alongside that. With the variety of content from episode to episode, brand safety and suitability capabilities that extend to a very granular level are critical across digital audio platforms.

Fine-tuning audio ads

As audio advertising gains momentum quickly, there are best practices we can leverage to navigate the space.

One of the strongest opportunities in audio advertising is the granular level of measurement and the ability to operate at the show level and beyond. With the right tools, advertisers can have incredible control over where their ads run and the listeners they reach. This means advertisers will also be able to enjoy better brand safety and contextual capabilities to isolate a singular show, episode topic and ad pod placement.

The industry can leverage lessons from brand safety and suitability capabilities developed for video ads and translate these to audio-only environments. There is an opportunity to cut to a granular level with audio and bring contextual targeting to audio much faster than the years it took to develop this for video.

It’s clear that audio advertising is here to stay. However, bringing programmatic capabilities to audio will help this medium leapfrog in terms of growth opportunities.

Nearly half of Spotify subscribers are expected to use the platform’s free, ad-supported services by 2022. Advertisers should be demanding greater programmatic capabilities in digital audio. Radio has always been viewed as a great channel for creating awareness at the top end of the funnel, but digital audio platforms have the capacity to drive direct conversions if they adopt greater targeting.

Ultimately, digital audio is expected to top $1 billion in programmatic ad spending this year. As technology advances, audio advertising will continue to rise and present bigger opportunities for brands.

While advertisers may be hesitant to test the waters on audio, it’s opening up new ways for marketers to make their mark across the industry. Even as we return to a new normal in the months ahead, audio is not an opportunity that brands can afford to overlook.