From targeting and creative development to measurement, we offer the most advanced solutions to make your podcast campaign a success.
There are no two ways about it: podcast advertising works. And, whether you’re looking for bang for your buck, listener attention, or to follow in the footsteps of household-name brands, podcast advertising has it all.
Since many brands and marketers are looking to add podcasting to their digital marketing strategy, we’ve written the ultimate guide to help those new to the space understand the fundamentals.
Podcast advertising is simply a type of advertising that takes place within a podcast episode. Podcast ads can take the form of a pre-recorded message, a message read by the host, or even longer-form branded episodes or series.
There are over 3 million podcasts out there covering all topics, interests, and passions—meaning there’s a relevant podcast audience for every business to advertise on, so it’s becoming an increasingly popular way for companies to reach customers.
Podcast consumption has continued to increase over time, which has led to ad buyers and marketers from brands of all sizes increasingly tapping into podcast advertising. According to Insider Intelligence, podcast ad spend is expected to grow to $3.53 billion by 2026.
Here are some of the key benefits of media buying in podcasts, and why advertisers should continue to invest:
Podcast ads are consumed in the same effortless way as the actual content of a podcast episode: simply through listening. Unlike ads on many other mediums, they require no additional input from listeners like scrolling, clicking, or even moving your eyes — factors that cause friction and render ads less effective.
They also leverage the listener’s trust in the host or show they’re listening to. Host-read ads, for example, speak to listeners in the same voice and tone that they’re hearing throughout an episode (more on that later). They provide a seamless shift from editorial to commercial and back.
Podcasts also tend to have a lower ad load than similar mediums, so there’s far less competition for share of voice, and ad breaks usually focus on a single brand, which means an advertiser doesn’t need to fight for their message to be heard. At Acast, we recommend a maximum of three ad breaks per episode, at an average of around three minutes per hour of podcast content.
Advertisers can also make their own ad creative that’s not read by the podcast host, which can then run across a whole catalog of shows. Dynamic ad insertion, which Acast pioneered, allows custom ad creative to change based on location, time of day, or other signals, which means advertisers can serve limited-time offers and plan for seasonal changes.
While video ads can be expensive and time-consuming to create — not to mention difficult to customize—audio is far simpler to produce and easy to iterate on.
With the use of 3D audio, which is spatial audio that is recorded to mimic the listening experience that happens around you when you hear in the real world, podcast ads can provide a unique, intimate listening experience that remains memorable to the listener. In a study conducted on OnePulse by our Acast Intelligence team, 48% of weekly podcast listeners are likely to pay attention to 3D ads and 28% said it’s a ‘fun way to advertise’.
Unlike other mediums where eyeballs need to be fixed on the screen to guarantee viewers are paying attention, audio leaves the listener free to do something else at the same time—such as going for a walk or cleaning the house.
And, instead of ads being a hindrance or distraction, such activity is actually proven to make listeners more receptive. Keeping the brain occupied enhances the brand’s ability to cut through, according to a BBC Global News study.
In a study conducted by Spotify and Magna Global, it was uncovered just how much attention is paid to podcast ads vs other mediums, as well as using it to combat screen fatigue. They found:
There’s plenty out there that explains exactly how effective podcast advertising can be. Here, we’ve collated the most important learnings we’ve found while working with our research partners — outlining how podcast advertising can be one of the most effective mediums for brands and advertisers:
The level of attention podcasts attract is even more impressive when you compare it to another, more traditional audio medium: radio. In our research with Mumbrella, respondents said radio is more likely than podcasts to be listened to as “background noise”, while podcast listeners are more likely than radio listeners to actively try to reduce distractions before hitting ‘play’.
It’s the same when it comes to some of the other traditional mediums too. While many consumers face ad fatigue across music streaming and television, the same can’t be said for podcasts. The same report from CUMULUS MEDIA found that, of 10 tested advertising mediums, podcasts were the one where consumers were least likely to avoid ads.
In Acast’s own research with Nielsen, 60% of listeners said they pay attention to the ads in a podcast, and 25% said they pay attention to every or most of the podcast ads they hear. Podcasts also rank second — and first versus all other forms of audio — when it comes to how immersed listeners are when engaging with the medium, showing the engagement, attention, and focus this medium can bring.
Podcasts offer advertisers one of the most engaged audiences available, and we have the data to prove it. Key takeaways of our research with Nielsen highlighted that there was a significant increase in the number of listeners taking action after hearing an ad:
Luckily for advertisers, podcast advertising is considered more trusted than other media channels. A Magna Global study illustrated that 48% of UK listeners said they trust podcast hosts more than hosts of other traditional media, including radio or TV shows. A recent Guardian study also found that trust levels increased from 45% to 63% when podcasts were added to a brand’s media mix.
One of the most important learnings from our research with Nielsen is just how much our listeners trust podcast advertising. 63% of respondents said the host of the podcasts they listen to are trustworthy, and 80% said they trust recommendations from hosts they currently listen to.
In fact, podcast hosts are almost as trusted for recommendations as family (85%) and friends (84%) — that’s understandable, because podcast hosts build authentic relationships with their listeners over weeks, months, or even years of weekly episodes.
YouGov research also found that UK listeners are more likely to “feel deeply connected” to a brand when they can hear “a voice” — and, more specifically, their favorite host’s. Brands should tap into this ready-made authenticity and trust, to help consumers further connect with their brand.
Many people think that you need to be a large, established business to even start thinking about advertising on podcasts, but that’s not the case at all. As the medium has grown with new technology available, podcast ads are accessible to all types of businesses, organizations and people.
Sponsorships and advertisements on podcasts offer the opportunity for brands to connect with an attentive and engaged audience. It’s also a less saturated commercial environment, leading to heightened brand awareness, increased customer engagement, and potentially, greater sales.
If you are a podcaster, incorporating podcast advertising into your promotion strategy can supercharge your growth. The best way to reach podcast listeners is through podcast advertising, so there’s no better place to introduce your show to potential new listeners. By targeting shows with similar interests, you can drill down into your perfect audience.
Podcast advertising can be a valuable tool for influencers and content creators to connect with a devoted and engaged audience who share an interest in their content. This strategy can lead to more brand partnerships and sponsorships, along with increased engagement on their other platforms.
For startups, advertising through podcasts can prove to be a differentiator as it allows them to target niche audiences that may be interested in their products or service. Podcast ad campaigns don’t require huge budgets either, with campaigns using Acast’s self-serve platform starting from $250.
Podcasting offers various ad placements and formats. There are two main ad types in podcast advertising - host-read sponsorships and pre-recorded ads.
These are incredibly effective as they tap into the influence of successful podcast hosts, acting like personal endorsements. Advertisers will usually provide a script or talking points, and podcast hosts will record the ad in their voice and tailor the content to their audience.
These are 30-second ads produced by the advertiser, but not featuring the podcast host. These are usually dynamically inserted into either pre, post, or mid-roll ad slots within a podcast episode.
Adding a combination of ads and sponsorships to your marketing mix achieves even more effectiveness - which we break down in this blog post.
When it comes to ad placement, there are two methods used to fill the ad slots in an episode - ads can either be baked in or automatically inserted using a technology called Dynamic Ad Insertion:
Baked-in ads are added to the audio file itself, making them permanent - that means that all listeners will hear the same ad when they listen to the episode. These can appear anywhere in an episode.
On the other hand, dynamic ad insertion stitches ads into chosen ad spots (pre, mid, or post-roll) which can be targeted to the person listening. This allows advertisers to get more value as their ads are heard by their target audience at the right time. It also allows podcasters to keep the advertising on their shows fresh, helping them to monetize their back catalogs.
Here at Acast, our podcast advertising campaigns are focused on using dynamic ad insertion, so we can maximize the effectiveness of our client’s campaigns, and provide a better listening experience for our show’s audience. Say goodbye to out-of-date ads in a podcast’s back catalog.
One of the reasons why podcast advertising is so effective is that podcast listeners can be reached across many different platforms. Once your ad is added to an episode, it can be heard on podcast apps like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, Audible, and many others. Acast supports the open ecosystem of podcasting, which means our podcast network can be heard across every listening app, and the same goes for our advertiser’s commercial messages.
There is also the opportunity to target contextually, as customers are moving more and more towards craving a more personalized approach to their marketing. Using our conversational targeting, advertisers are able to match brands within our podcast category collections or identify specific episodes they want to insert themselves into using our IAB episode targeting, inserting an ad within relevant topics or conversations. If you want to know more about the offering, take a look at this blog post breaking it down even further
Both ad types can appear in designated ad spots (also known as ad slots or ad space) within an episode:
These are played before the start of the podcast episode
These are played in the middle of the podcast episode
These are played after the end of a podcast episode
If you’re ready to take advantage of this medium, you’ll need to know how to actually setup a campaign. Here are the main routes for buying podcast advertising:
The most popular podcasts are often represented by a podcast network that has a dedicated sales team, like Acast or AdvertiseCast. Working directly with a podcast network’s sales team can deliver bespoke campaigns that include a custom selection of shows, a combination of ad formats of sponsorship, ads, and even branded content. They’ll also provide a PCA (post-campaign analysis) to report on the results of the campaign. These campaigns can require budgets to be a minimum of $10,000-$15,000, although this can vary.
Smaller and mid-sized podcasters are very open to working directly with advertisers. If these shows are not part of an ad network, advertisers will likely only be able to purchase host-read sponsorships, and often these will be baked-in rather than dynamically-inserted. With millions of podcasts available, it can be tough to find shows that are the perfect fit. Platforms such as Podchaser offer excellent tools to help brands identify the best podcasts to work with.
This is by far the easiest and fastest way to buy podcast advertising. You can set up a campaign that runs across multiple shows with the option to target your audience by gender, age, location, Nielsen Audience Segments, and other demographic categories. Unlike working with sales reps or the podcaster directly, the self-serve platform does not involve any back and forth or negotiating CPMs with multiple shows - it's a fully automated solution and available at any budget level, with campaigns starting at $250. You can read more about Acast’s self-serve podcast advertising platform here.
Advertisers are often tempted to purchase show-by-show basis, looking at a small pool of top-ranked shows with a large number of listens and downloads. In the US, for example, this results in about 44% of advertising dollars going to the top 500 shows- but those shows only reach 12% of the total podcast audience. That means advertisers are missing out on reaching 88% of podcast listeners. That’s why Acast recommends purchasing advertising based on the audience you want to reach, rather than on a show-by-show basis. Mid-sized and smaller shows with niche audiences can offer advertisers the reach they need but at much more affordable pricing.
Regardless of the type of podcast ad format you want to purchase, whether it's a sponsorship, a regular ad, or a branded episode—focus on the audience first.
An affiliate or commission scheme in podcast advertising is a way for advertisers to pay or incentivize podcasters to promote their products or services. When a podcaster participates in an affiliate scheme, they receive a unique link or promo code that they can share with their listeners. If someone from the audience clicks on the link or uses the code to make a purchase, the podcaster earns a commission or a percentage of the sale. This allows podcasters to monetize their content and earn income based on their ability to drive sales or conversions. It's a win-win situation where advertisers only pay for the conversions they want.
Podcast advertising costs can vary depending on several factors. The prices typically range from $18 to $50 for every 1,000 listeners, also known as CPM. However, renowned podcasts with a larger audience may charge higher rates. Some podcasters opt for sponsorship packages that include multiple ad spots within a specific time frame. These packages can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per episode. It is important to note that podcast advertising rates are influenced by factors such as podcast genre, audience demographics, and the popularity of the podcast host. Considering these factors will help advertisers make informed decisions when budgeting for podcast advertising campaigns.
Commonly, podcast advertising is sold to advertisers in two main ways which are by CPM and CPA. There’s also the option buy at a flat rate. We’ll explain what these are and how they work.
Podcast advertising is most often sold on a CPM (cost per mille) basis, which means costs per a thousand impressions. In podcasting specifically, it means the advertiser will pay a set price per 1000 ads served. So the cost of a podcast advertising campaign totally depends on the number of downloads or listens you’ve booked for your advert to be heard.
Podcast advertising rates vary, so while host-read sponsorships and regular ads are priced by CPMs, various formats, and placements have different CPMs based on their value and effectiveness.
Podchaser detailed average podcast advertising rates for host-read slots as follows:
A CPA cost model in podcast advertising is a method that determines the pricing structure based on the number of desired actions, such as sign-ups or purchases, rather than the traditional method of paying for impressions or downloads (CPM). With this model, advertisers pay only when listeners take specific actions that align with their marketing goals. This approach allows for better cost control and ensures that advertisers are only paying for the desired outcomes. By focusing on performance-based metrics, the CPA cost model provides a more effective way to measure the success of podcast advertising campaigns.
The CPA model is often used by affiliates and direct response (DR) where unique promo codes used in the campaign can be used to accurately track conversions.
A flat rate cost model is a method of pricing podcast advertising where a fixed fee is charged for a specified duration or number of podcast episodes. This means that advertisers pay a set amount regardless of the number of listens or downloads the podcast receives.
This is very uncommon for established podcasts so usually only applies to niche, smaller shows with a limited audience. Although it’s straightforward for both the advertiser and the podcaster, it lacks transparency of how many impressions the advertiser is paying for.
If you’re new to podcast advertising, you may be tempted to use the same performance metrics as paid search and social media, such as CTR, CPC, or CPA. But podcasting is a cookieless, audio-based medium that requires a different approach to measurement. The podcast audience is mostly listening, not scrolling or clicking. For a full breakdown of how to measure the impact of podcast advertising, you can take a look at our full article on it here.
So what metrics should you look at?
At the most basic level, start with reach. For podcast ads, reach is defined as the number of unique people who listened to your ad at least once, including streams and downloads. This metric is especially important for brand awareness campaigns, where the goal is to reach as broad an audience as possible. Always look for IAB-valid reach, like the one provided by Acast, to make sure your numbers are accurate.
In this case, reach is similar to what you’ll see with search and social - it’s the summation of how many people were exposed to your ads. Now comes an important part: how to measure results for a call-to-action (CTA).
This is where podcasting’s unique attribution requirements come into play. How you measure attribution depends on the content of your ad and the structure of your funnel. Popular ways to measure podcast advertising include:
Remember that since the audience is hearing your podcast ad, a clear & memorable call to action is absolutely necessary if you want to bring them into your digital marketing funnel.
Looking for guidance on how to create an audio ad using one or more of the attribution methods above? Check out our guide to creating the perfect audio ad here. Generally, along with strong content and a clear call to action, you’ll also want to make sure your ad sounds great. The higher quality of your ad—the better the conversion rate.
Podcast listeners are less distracted and more engaged, making them a more receptive audience for advertising. According to the Edison Super Listeners report, podcast ads are the most recalled type of ad – with 86% of respondents saying they remember seeing or hearing a podcast ad. For social media, it was 80% and for websites 79%. So how does this translate metrics-wise?
According to the podcast attribution platform Podsights, the average conversion rate for podcast ads to website visit events is about 1.32% across industries*. If you wanted an equivalent conversion rate for social media, you could compare this to the average click-through-rate for Facebook and Instagram ads, which is currently 0.90%
Using some quick back-of-napkin math, you can estimate the required ad spend and CPC based on these benchmarks. Let’s say you run a podcast ad with 200,000 impressions at a $15 CPM. This works out to be a $3,000 ad spend. If you set your frequency cap to three, this means that about 66,700 unique listeners will hear your ad a maximum of three times. We can use the 1.52% conversion to estimate around 1,014 visitors, which equates to a CPC of $2.95. Keep in mind that this is a very broad estimate and actual performance depends on a mix of factors like creative quality, ad spend, and total unique impressions.
Like any new media channel, you’ll want to test and learn how podcast ads can work for your brand and customers. The good news is that podcast advertising offers something for everyone - whether you’re running a brand awareness or direct response campaign, and whether your budget is $100,000 or $1,000.
You can start a podcast ads campaign with Acast today, just head to our website. There you’ll find more information about advertising with Acast, get started building your first podcast ad campaign using our self-serve platform, explore the different podcasts on our network and their listener demographics, or get in touch with us for more detail.
Start your podcast ad campaign with host-read sponsorships or pre-recorded ads in minutes with our easy-to-use self-serve platform.