The Go-To Guide for Podcast Advertising

Mar 24, 2022

Use this checklist to begin building your podcast campaign

First things first, this isn’t a dull white paper about podcast advertising. And we’re definitely not going to rattle stats off at you (but if you do want to dive into numbers, check out these 2021 podcast trends).

That being said, it comes as no surprise that podcasts are a place you should want to get in on. The intimate storytelling environment allows listeners to be truly engaged. And those podcast hosts we know and love? They connect with listeners in unique ways. Of course, you don’t only have to rely on hosts to read your ads, but we’ll get to that shortly.

In this blog, we cover all the essentials you wanna know: how to target your most valuable listeners, building your creative, measuring those ads, and much more. You’ll find best practices from our advertising experts, helpful charts, and a master checklist. We won’t define everything here, but go ahead and open up our Podcast Ad Glossary to use as a companion to this blog.

Now let’s get you on track toward that winning creative campaign.

✔ 1) What’s your campaign objective? 

To start off, you’ll want to hammer down the basics, and it begins with defining success for your campaign. Are you trying to generate leads? Increase awareness? Partner with a content creator to tell your brand story? Figuring out your key objective will help you make decisions about the rest of your campaign, and measure everything at the end. 

  • Think about your ad options

There are three main types of ads: pre-produced, announcer-read, and host-read. Examine them side-by-side below so you can see what makes each of them unique, when to use which one, and some SXM Media-specific details. We’ve also done some studies on which ad type is most effective for different stages of the funnel; see the results here. Beyond these, custom content is another great option for telling your brand story (and can be worth investing in down the road).

Podcast Ad Creative Types: pre-produced ad, announcer-read, host-read

✔ 2) Find your target audience

We’re audience-driven, and you should be too. We’ll show you why. First, consider who you want to reach with your message. You probably have a good idea of who your audience is, but we have all the insights to help you go further. We created Podsurvey, a survey tool that identifies key listener demographics and psychographics from hundreds of thousands of listeners. By gathering firsthand results, we’re able to see tons of first-party data that helps you know exactly who’s tuning in and what makes the audience of each show unique, which is great intel for show-level buying. We also work with partners to use some amazing targeting tools that show how specific podcast audiences index against the general U.S. population. 

Now, take a moment and think about the podcasts you listen to. They probably range from news to comedy, right? Your listeners are just like you. So say you want to reach women, ages 30-44, who are interested in traveling. They might be listening all over, to lots of different podcasts. That’s why aligning to different categories (versus just sticking with a host-read on one show) can make a big difference in terms of hitting that target audience—and that’s exactly why we’re audience-driven. And to reach a mass audience across podcasts, our advanced targeting capabilities are next level. Keep on reading.

✔ 3) Consider your targeting strategy

Our number one goal is campaign success, and that success starts with identifying the right solutions based on your target audience and campaign KPIs. There are the demographics we all know​​—age, gender, ethnicity, so on—and those are great for targeting, but we go much deeper to best hit your demo. For example: we can look at niche categories, like “family and parenting” shows, then use voice-to-text transcription targeting to target contextually and find topics like “adoption” or “pregnancy” at the episode level. See how we’re narrowing in more and more on your target audience? Transcription targeting is not only great for finding content that aligns with your brand, it also helps avoid content you don’t want to associate with (i.e., crime and violence or illegal drugs). We’re big on brand suitability.

Here are other ways we can target:

  • Audience targeting: a turnkey method where we can target audiences, like “parents” or “millennials,” across our network. We target based on households likely to have that segment living there (i.e., automotive car buyers vs. car owners; homeowners vs. home renters).

  • Demographic targeting: we can target by age, ethnicity, gender, location, and more.

  • Category targeting: choose from 20 targetable podcast categories to align with consumer interests, from “Science” to “Sports.” 

  • Show-level targeting: Reach an entire audience, who is tuned in to a specific show, across our 300+ exclusive podcasts.

By combining audience, contextual, and show-level targeting solutions in your campaign, your ad can make a big impact.

By combining audience, contextual, and show-level targeting solutions in your campaign, your ad can make a big impact. Reach audiences at scale—wherever they’re listening—across our entire podcast network, or at the show level. And with our new programmatic offerings, you can make sure that you’re reaching your listener with a perfectly timed and perfectly crafted message in real-time. All of this allows us to best connect with your audience during the exact moment in their day, whether they’re going for a run outside or cooking in the kitchen. 

From turnkey to custom, the choice is yours, and our solutions run wide. But we’ll factor in your budget and business size to make the best recommendations for you. So whether you’re looking for audiences who are into comedy content (fun fact: comedy was the top podcast genre of 2021), or local gen Z audiences, we have solutions to fit your needs.

✔ 4) Where will your ad live?

After finding your audience and narrowing down shows, think about where you want your ad to live within our exclusive inventory. There are three spots: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll. For you visual learners, the diagram below shows you where to find each ad on a podcast.

There are three positions: Pre-roll, Mid-roll, and Post-Roll.
  • Buying ads

And you’re probably wondering how to actually buy those ads. We sell based on CPMs, or cost per thousand, aka the cost of an ad per 1,000 downloads. We’re always tuned in to the recent performance of shows, so you can have peace of mind when buying. And you bet our team can also help assess your budget for each type of ad.

✔ 5) Get creative with your ads

It’s time to reimagine how you think about podcast ads. And no matter what ad you choose to go with, there are a few things to think about

For host reads, what type of hosts do you want to be the voice of your brand? Hint: it doesn’t have to be the most famous ones. This is about finding hosts who can speak passionately and authentically about your product or brand—and our team will recommend podcasts and content ideas that would be a good fit. Remember, there’s value even in the most niche podcast topics. Your audience could be listening. 

As for the script itself, it’s not really a script. These types of reads do best when the host can add their own spin and passion to the content. We can work with you to provide talking points to pass off to the host, so the copy feels natural, and never forced.

Although teaming up with a podcast host can be a win-win, it might not be the right fit for every campaign. For announcer reads, our in-house creative consultancy, Studio Resonate, are pros at putting together scalable creative that—you guessed it—resonates. We’ll work with you to customize your script, take care of the copy magic, then hand it over to one of our announcers. Our team is committed to casting diverse voices that reflect our listeners, and creating campaigns that make an impact. 

✔ 6) Evaluate those campaigns

Now you must be dying to know: how do you test the success of your campaigns? You’re probably familiar with downloads and impressions as the common way to purchase and track ads. An impression gets counted when podcast content is downloaded or transferred to a listener's device, like their iPhone.

But in today’s fast-moving podcast environment, measurement is evolving too, and we’re ahead of it all. Beyond the use of promo codes and vanity URLs, we also offer scalable brand lift solutions—and make sure to match our measurement to your objective. How do we do this?

We’ve built up third-party tools that we use, including:

  • Brand lift studies (great for upper-funnel measurement, like brand awareness)

  • Online attribution (measures lower-funnel actions for web landings, eCommerce sales, etc.)

  • Offline attribution (measures brick-and-mortar footfall and purchases)

And not to brag, but our partners are the best of the best. We’re always here testing and evaluating. So if we need to make adjustments to your campaign, we can absolutely do that. Want to try a new ad spot position? You got it.

When it comes down to it, simplicity in targeting, buying, and measuring is at the core of what we do. We’ll figure out how to hit the demographic you’re going after, no matter who they are or where they’re listening from. And with new podcast capabilities rolling out all the time, you know we’re always on top of it all, leading the podcast space. 

Want to keep exploring the world of podcasts? To learn more about buying podcasts, measuring their effectiveness, and how to best connect with your audience, sign up for our AQ Academy—and enroll in our Podcast Advertising Principles learning track today.

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