Branded podcast or ads? What should come first, the content or the branding? How do you get featured and grow an audience?

 

 

By Josh Adley

A lot has been written recently on the big podcast deals over the past few months. From Joe Rogan and Spotify to Stitcher and SiriusXM (and everything in between), it’s clear that podcasting continues to make headlines, grow its global audience and, despite Covid, remain on track to grow advertising revenue.

The area that I’ve seen the most change this past year has been within branded podcasts. A couple of years ago I was having conversations with agencies and brands that centred around me convincing them to look at the medium, explain who was listening and which genres were working. As well as strongly recommending that they don’t try and make it themselves (your podcast reflects your brand and it should be produced expertly. The competition is too strong to get away with an average product).

It’s safe to say those conversations have all changed… for the better. Conversations these days are far more strategic. There is less convincing going on and a lot more creative workshops, format discussions, planning for launch and how to grow an audience.

Ads vs Branded Podcast?

A common question is whether a brand should have their own podcast or advertise in a pre-existing one. There are plenty of good reasons for a brand to advertise in other podcasts. An incredible amount of data shows that people pay attention to ads they hear in their favourite podcasts (be it a pre/mid/post roll, or a host-read sponsorship). There has been some fantastic innovation in that space recently, with Acast’s Marketplace (a new virtual storefront for brands to buy ads in) being a prime example.

Whilst advertising in other podcasts brings a certain type of value, having your own branded podcast offers something different. A branded podcast offers an opportunity for brands to own their own content that can sit online forever (not just in a 60” ad that airs for a few months). There’s the opportunity to work with new talent (often bigger names than you would typically be able to attract), play with creative formatsstimulate debate and discussion around a particular subject matter, shift brand perception and, fundamentally, produce content that people genuinely want to engage with. The content should be driving the series, not the branding.

Role of the brand

A key discussion point for any potential client is ‘what is the role of my brand?’ and ‘how can I bring in my branding?’. The answer to these questions is of course varied, but the opportunities available are numerous. We are very honest with clients in creative development. If we don’t think you should have your brand name in the title, or include a branded segment in the podcast, we’ll say so. However, there are plenty of other ways to find your brand’s role — be it in the thumbnail image, the accompanying social posts, audio branding and much more.

Getting featured on Apple, Spotify and elsewhere

We work very closely with podcast platforms to pitch our shows for editorial support. If you opened the Spotify Podcast page the other day, the first podcast you would have seen would have been Business Unusual, for our clients Vodafone. Likewise, Ninetwentynine (Fiverr) on Castbox, or Little Chapters of Chill (Churchill) on Apple Podcasts. We work very closely with our clients to develop the best ideas, with great talent and on a launch strategy that takes into account platform lead times. All of this gives you the best chance to achieve this invaluable (organic) promo.

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Churchill, Fiverr and Vodafone featured on the homepage of major podcast apps

Building an audience

The other big change within podcasting that I’ve seen over the past year has been the way that series are promoted. We’ve been working with some fantastically ambitious brands recently who have been promoting their podcast in the way they would any other campaign — with strategic and significant media spend. Whilst I appreciate not every brand has the luxury of a big marketing and media budget at their disposal, there are plenty of ways to use what budget you do have, and consulting on the more effective way to do this has become a priority for Listen.

Measuring success

The key to achieving success for your branded podcast is going in with a clear understanding of what that looks like to you. Each brief is different. Before starting any branded podcast, we want to work with you to uncover what role the podcast is going to play in your wider marketing mix, be clear on who you want to target and understand how you are going to measure success. For some of our clients it’s about pure reach and awareness, and for those we have achieved hundreds of thousands of listens. For other clients it’s about being experts in a niche space and getting the right kind of listener. Whatever the goal, we will work with you to plan how best to achieve it.

A selection of brands and agencies that Listen have produced branded podcasts for