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We’re finally about to get much better podcast ads

If you’ve listened to any podcasts over the last few years, then chances are you’ve heard your fair share of half-hearted plugs for Squarespace, Blue Apron, and Casper Mattress. While appetite for audio content has grown, brands have been slow to embrace the medium, leaving a small handful of sponsors to monopolise the most popular shows.

One obstacle that may have held brands back until now is that typically, ads are recording ahead of time in the studio, meaning sponsored content has to be evergreen (especially as consumers can listen to archived episodes from months or even years ago). And the fact that podcasts are often downloaded through third party platforms means tracking consumption and targeting ads has been pretty much impossible, forcing marketers to rely on listener surveys for audience segmentation.

One thing we do know is that podcast fans, for the most part, don’t mind ads. Research from ComScore indicates that consumers are more receptive to ads in podcasts than other digital ads, and that makes a certain amount of sense; they’re short and tend to be integrated into natural breaks in the podcast’s narrative, so they don’t feel as interruptive as a pop-up or pre-roll. Additionally, the majority of podcast sponsors offer discount codes to incentivise conversions — and out of the 2,000 people surveyed by ComScore, two thirds have acted on these offers.

In other words, ears are the new eyeballs.

A number of corporates have fully leaned into the podcast boom, skipping ad placements entirely and commissioning branded shows instead from studios like Panoply and Gimlet Creative. Tinder’s DTR (short for “define the relationship”), explores the ins and outs of modern dating, GE’s science fiction dramas The Message and LifeAfter touch on some of the company’s technological interests, such as AI, and eBay’s Open For Business functions as a how-to guide for budding entrepreneurs.

Each of these podcasts has found a way to tell compelling stories in a way that reflects the brand’s proposition and values in an organic, meaningful way. Of course, producing and publicising an entire season of content is quite the investment, and one that most marketers will be reluctant to make. Fortunately, the traditional podcast advertising model is getting an update.

Targeted ads are finally about to become available on this medium; podcasting network Panoply is partnering with Nielsen to sell targeted ads to marketers. Nielsen’s data platform can segment audiences into 60,000 different groups, depending on how broad or granular a consumer profile you are seeking.

“The technology that we’ve developed allows us to match the data that Nielsen is collecting from browsers, across the web, from apps that have their SDK installed, and other locations,” says Jason Cox, CTO at Panoply. “We can match that data they’re collecting with server-side behavior we’re seeing.”

According to a new report from PwC and the IAB, podcast ad revenues are projected to grow by 85 per cent to $220 million this year. “This is the first time we’ve been able to crystallize the sense that podcasting is an important and powerful marketing platform,” says Chris Kuist, SVP of Research & Impact at the IAB. “As the medium matures, we’ll have access to better audience demographic measurements to brands can easily see how to access their money being spent… The importance is on clear, consistent measurement paired with excellent content.”

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