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Which Podcast Advertising Format Should I Choose?

From targeting and creative development to measurement, we offer the most advanced solutions to make your podcast campaign a success.

Simon Franklin, Digital Brand Marketing Manager
July 14, 2023

If you’ve made the smart decision to launch a podcast ad campaign for your business but are unsure about the types of podcast ads you should use in your campaign, look no further.

You might have heard of sponsorships, host-read ads, or even branded content. But which type of advertising suits your needs best? This guide will shed light on what exactly these podcast ad types are, and the benefits of each format. By the end, you'll have a clear idea of which podcast advertising format is the best fit for your campaign.

Podcast Advertising Formats and Ad Types Explained

Before we get into the different ad types available to you, the first thing to know is that Acast uses dynamic ad insertion (DAI) to insert audio ads and host-read sponsorships into podcasts on our network, these will be heard across every podcast listening app including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

This means an advertiser’s ads and sponsorships are inserted into podcasts at the right time, targeting the right audience, for as long as the campaign lasts across all of the targeted shows’ episodes. Unlike baked-in ads, no matter how far back listens are taking place in the catalog, listeners will be able to hear your relevant commercial messages. Pretty neat stuff.

What are the Different Podcast Ad Formats?

If you’ve ever listened to a popular podcast, chances are you’ll have heard the different types of podcast ads commonly used. We’ll define these in greater detail as understanding them can help you make an informed decision for your podcast marketing strategy. Here are the main types of podcast advertising formats:

Pre-recorded Ads

Pre-recorded podcast ads are commercial messages supplied by the advertiser, usually featuring a voice-over artist and not a podcast host. Acast often refers to these simply as ‘audio ads’ or just ‘ads’, but you might also hear these referred to as announcer-read or pre-produced ads.

Pre-recorded ads offer meaningful reach at scale, that can be bought through Acast's self-serve platform, through our ad sales team, and through programmatic .

Ads typically run for 15-30 (30-second ad max) seconds and the audio file for the ad is provided by the advertiser or agency. Advertisers also have the option of working with Acast’s in-house creative team to make an audio ad that cuts through.

Pre-recorded ads are dynamically inserted into podcast shows using a set of criteria called targeting. Targeting includes criteria such as campaign dates, geographic location, podcast categories, and audience demographics; which you set up before launching a campaign to determine which listeners should hear your ad or not.

Ads can be placed into podcast episodes during pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ad slots.

Host-read Sponsorship Ads

Host-read Sponsorships are longer, editorialized commercial messages delivered by the podcasters themselves. Brands and advertisers can work with podcast hosts ranging from household names to niche influencers, to deliver native, creative, and authentic audio advertising. You may also hear these referred to as ‘live-reads’.

Sponsorships are typically a 60-second ad but can run to a couple of minutes in length, and pricing terms have a higher CPM. Acast’s podcast network has over 100,000 shows to choose from, so there’s a perfect audience for every advertiser.

Sponsorships sound like an organic part of a podcast, where the podcaster puts your messaging brief into their own words and style which makes for an improved listening experience for the podcast’s audience—making them more likely to be engaged with the products or services they’re talking about. They are typically recorded by the host of the show and seamlessly fit into the episodes.

Branded Content

Branded content isn’t as common as ads or host-read sponsorships, but it’s still a growing and effective ad format in podcast marketing. Branded content integrates promotional or advertising messaging within the editorial content of podcasts, either as a branded segment, or branded episode, and you can even have entire branded podcast series.

Branded content is effective as it aligns the advertisers’ products or services with the podcast’s content and the interests of the host, creating an entertaining listener experience for the audience. It’s specifically designed to be informative, engaging, and entertaining, seamlessly blending promotional messages with the overall podcast experience. This allows brands to reach their target audience in an authentic and non-intrusive manner, enhancing brand awareness and customer engagement.

Watch below to learn what ad formats are available with Acast:

What are podcast ad placements?

Now you know what the different ad formats are, now we’ll explain where these ads will be heard when a listener hits play on a podcast episode. These are collectively known as ad spots or ad spaces, and they come in three variations detailed below. Note: we give our podcasters the ability to choose exactly where these ad spots take place, ensuring a smooth listening experience for listeners.

Pre-Roll Ads

Pre-roll ads usually play at the start of episodes but can be moved up to 25% at the start of  the episode by the podcaster. Pre-rolls are considered effective as while people may still be closer to their device after hitting play, there’s a good chance they will just let the ad play since it is leading up to the episode.

Mid-Roll Ads

Mid-roll ads can be placed in any episode that is at least 10 minutes in length or longer (this is to avoid ad fatigue on short episodes for listeners). This is the most lucrative ad spot, mid-roll advertisements have the best position because they are placed in the middle of an episode. During this time, listeners are often engaged in activities such as working out or doing the dishes, which makes them less likely to skip through the ad content.

Post-roll Ads

Post-roll ads play at the end of podcast episodes but can be moved up to 50% from the end of the episode by the podcaster. Post-roll advertisements are seen as the lowest value because many listeners tend to stop listening to the show when the episode ends, especially if they are only listening to a single episode. However, post-rolls still can be effective as people often have their hands full with their activities while listening to the podcast. They prefer to let the ad play and have the next podcast episode start automatically rather than skipping.

Breaking Down the Benefits of Each Podcast Ad Format

Let’s take the time to review each of the ad types we’ve defined and explain the benefits of each of them. This will help you understand why and when you might choose these formats.

Benefits of Pre-recorded Ads

Consistency

Pre-recorded ads ensure a consistent message across various episodes or shows. You can create and fully control everything in pre-recorded ads; from the production quality to the messaging and narrative. You can make sure it contains the desired production values and ensure that the message is delivered consistently and accurately to the audience.

Scalability

With pre-recorded ads, you can easily scale your advertising efforts across multiple podcasts or episodes. Ads are more affordable than sponsorship, meaning you can stretch your budget further. Ads are created to be relevant to broader audiences, rather than podcast hosts speaking to their specific audience, meaning you can use one ad creative across hundreds or thousands of shows. Edison Research shared in their weekly insights newsletter that advertising on shows that are outside of the top 1000 allows you to reach over 17 million listeners that the top 1,000 podcasts do not reach—that’s a massive untapped audience. Read Acast’s CEO Ross Adams’ thoughts on buying a broader selection of podcasts.

Time and Resources

Pre-recording ads save time and resources as you can create your ads at your convenience without requiring a podcast host's direct involvement. Sponsorships often have longer timelines for briefs, recordings, and approvals. As mentioned, sponsorships come with a higher price so if you’re a budget-conscious advertiser, ads will be friendlier for your wallet.

Advanced Targeting Capabilities

Acast has the most advanced targeting capabilities in the industry, so you can run your ads to target your ideal customers using Acast audience segments. You can also reach specific audiences based on demographics such as location, language, age, interests, and behavioral data. Acast also allows advertisers to leverage their first-party data in their targeting, so they can reach their exact audience, wherever they listen.

Benefits of Host-read Sponsorship Ads

Authenticity

The host-read sponsorship approach brings a personal touch to commercial messaging, creating a more authentic connection between the podcast host and podcast listeners. Listeners tend to trust the host's recommendations and perceive them as genuine endorsements, which can increase the effectiveness of the sponsorship.

Engagement

Host-read sponsorships often include storytelling or conversational elements, grabbing the listener’s attention and keeping them engaged with the advertiser’s message. The host can share personal experiences or relevant stories related to the sponsored product or service, capturing the audience's attention and holding their interest.

Increased brand awareness

Regular listeners tend to develop a relationship with the podcast host, and their positive association with the host can extend to the sponsor—what's often called a "halo effect". Host-read sponsorships can help create brand awareness and build a positive brand image through the host's influence and rapport with the audience.

Creativity and customization

Host-read sponsorships offer their own creative spin in delivering the advertiser’s message, relating to their usual content and format. Advertisers can work with podcast hosts to tailor the sponsorship messages to fit the style and tone of the show, making the ad feel more natural and less intrusive.

Overall, host-read sponsorships are so popular in podcast advertising because they leverage the host's credibility, engagement, and relationship with the audience to deliver effective advertising messages. By integrating the sponsorships into the podcast content, they create a more organic and impactful advertising experience.

Benefits of Branded Content

Enhanced Audience Engagement

Branded content in podcasts can significantly enhance audience engagement because of its personalized and immersive nature. By embedding their brand in the content, advertisers can seamlessly convey their messages, engaging listeners in an unobtrusive way. When the content aligns with the interests of the audience, listeners are more likely to stay tuned, fostering better recall and connection with the brand.

Increased Trust and Authenticity

Podcasts are often personal and intimate forms of communication, with hosts sharing insights, stories, and recommendations directly with their listeners. When a brand is integrated into the podcast content, it is often perceived as a personal endorsement by the host. This can increase the authenticity of the advertisement and lead to a higher level of trust in the brand among listeners.

Establish Thought Leadership

Launching a branded podcast allows businesses to share their expertise in their industry, provide insights, and showcase their unique perspectives on relevant topics. This can help establish them as thought leaders, which can foster trust and loyalty among the audience and strengthen their brand image.

Which podcast ad format should I choose?

Deciding between host-read sponsorships and pre-recorded audio ads depends on a few factors, including your advertising goals, target audience, budget, and the nature of your product or service. Here are some considerations to help you make a decision:

Advertising goals

Determine your primary objectives. If building trust and authenticity is crucial for your brand, host-read sponsorships may be a better choice. On the other hand, if you prioritize scalability and consistent messaging, pre-recorded ads might be more suitable.

Target audience

Consider the demographics and interests of your target audience. If your product or service caters to a niche audience that is highly engaged with specific podcasts, host-read sponsorships can provide a personalized connection. Alternatively, if your target audience is broader and you want to reach a larger number of listeners, pre-recorded audio ads across various shows may be more effective.

Understanding your target audience and their demographics is essential in determining the most suitable podcast advertising format. Consider factors such as age, gender, location, and interests when selecting the format that aligns with your audience's preferences. For example, if your target audience consists of tech-savvy millennials, you may want to consider sponsoring a podcast that focuses on technology or entrepreneurship.

Budget and resources

Evaluate your budget for podcast advertising. Host-read sponsorships require direct partnerships with podcast hosts and are typically more expensive. Pre-recorded ads can offer a cost-effective option.

Another crucial aspect to consider is your budget and the cost-effectiveness of different podcast advertising formats. Some formats, such as host-read endorsements, tend to be more expensive but offer higher engagement and credibility. On the other hand, pre-recorded ads might be more cost-effective for reaching a broader audience. Determine your budget and weigh it against the potential reach and impact of each format.

Brand alignment

Assess the alignment between your brand and the podcast content. Host-read sponsorships allow you to select podcasts that closely align with your brand values, ensuring a seamless fit. With pre-recorded audio ads, you have less control over the specific context of the podcast episode, but you can still choose shows that generally cater to your target audience.

Aligning your ad with the podcast genre and content is essential for maximizing the effectiveness of your campaign. Ensure that the podcast's topic and themes resonate with your brand and target audience. For instance, if you are promoting a fitness product, sponsoring a health and wellness podcast would be an ideal choice, as the audience is already interested in topics related to your product.

Creativity and storytelling

Think about the creative possibilities and storytelling elements you want to incorporate into your ads. Pre-recorded audio ads provide more control and flexibility in terms of production elements, such as music, sound effects, and voice actors. But they are shorter. Host-read sponsorships, on the other hand, allow for a more conversational and personal approach to storytelling. With sponsorships, you can tap into the podcast host's creativity and unique context for their audience.

If you’re an ambitious brand marketer, you might consider turning your brand into the podcaster itself through a branded podcast series. This is a much higher commitment in both time and cost but could become the centerpiece of your brand’s content strategy.

Measuring Ad Performance and ROI

Measuring ad performance and return on investment (ROI) is crucial in determining the success of your podcast advertising campaign. For example, if you’re running sponsorships, you may want to give each podcast host a unique promo code or coupon code to include in the call-to-action (CTA) so you can track the effectiveness of each podcast you’re sponsoring.

You can also use vanity URLs in your ad campaign that are only heard through podcast ads. This way you’ll be able to measure traffic and other metrics on your website resulting from visitors hearing your podcast ads.

These insights will help you track the effectiveness of your ads, make data-driven decisions, and optimize your future campaigns for better results. You can find out more about measurement in our ultimate guide for podcast advertising.

By carefully considering these factors - target audience and demographics, budget and cost-effectiveness, podcast genre and content alignment, ad placement and listener engagement, and measuring ad performance and ROI - you can make an informed decision when choosing the right podcast advertising format.

You don't have to choose...

Ultimately, the best approach may involve a combination of both host-read sponsorships and pre-recorded ads. You can experiment with different strategies, test their effectiveness, and optimize your advertising mix based on the results. Working with podcast advertising professionals or agencies can also provide valuable insights and guidance in making the right choice for your specific needs. Much like other forms of digital marketing, you’ll want to test different formats and channels to discover which works best for your objectives.

Working with Acast gives you the opportunity to run all formats of podcast advertising, and in our self-serve platform, you’re able to book host-read sponsorships and set up ad campaigns.

Summary

When it comes to choosing the right podcast advertising format, it is crucial to consider your target audience, budget, and marketing goals. Dynamic ad insertion applies to ads and sponsorships when advertising with Acast, offering the advantage of personalized and targeted ads, ensuring that your message reaches the right listeners at the right time.

Host-read ads can be more authentic and relatable, fostering a deeper connection with the audience. Ads offer advertisers scale and targeting across a great number of shows to reach their desired audience.

Ultimately, the best approach may involve a combination of both formats, depending on your specific needs and resources. Remember to track and analyze the performance of your ads to make data-driven decisions and continuously optimize your podcast advertising strategy.

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