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Marketers Discover the Power of Personal Stories at Podcast Upfront

“Everybody nowadays is trying to tell stories,” said Lee Nadler, marketing communication and launch manager for Mini USA. It’s not just brands telling stories, but regular people expressing themselves on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Podcasts are a great way for brands to connect with those stories, he said.

“It’s a very personal medium,” Nadler said. “You’re kind of being part of the discussion,” one where the marketer doesn’t interrupt the experience but adds to it.

Judge John Hodgman holding court at the 2017 IAB Podcast Upfront.

Nadler was speaking at the third IAB Podcast Upfront, held today in New York City. While podcasters trumpeted the reach they can deliver, marketers explained how to build successful campaigns.

“Build it and they will come doesn’t work,” said Niharika Shah, vice president and head of brand marketing and advertising for Prudential. Creating a podcast campaign is a marathon, she said, with a different engagement model than simply running a 30-second spot. Determining the brand voice and communicating it to listeners can take a lot of resources. “It’s a huge demand on time.”

The results are worth it, though, as the podcast audience is booming: Podcasting will pull in $220 million in revenues this year, up 85 percent from the year before. That stat, courtesy of PriceWaterhouse Coopers, was read by Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO for the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), at the start of the upfront.

Westwood One released fresh research [1] today showing that podcast listeners are comfortable hearing more ads: For a 60-minute podcast, the average podcast listener is comfortable with 3.8 ads per broadcast, while heavy podcast listeners are comfortable with 4.5 ads. Millennial and Gen X listeners often find the ads engaging and relevant. What’s more, listeners overwhelmingly don’t find pre-roll ads irritating, as they know their program will start after the commercial.

Sponsors can play a deeper role in podcast content creation than in some other media. One episode of “My Brother, My Brother, and Me” sponsored by Totino’s did so well it was cited as one of last year’s best podcasts.

“When we did the Totino’s episode, we ate a lot of Totino’s to prepare for it,” remembered Travis McElroy of the “My Brother” podcast. “We love advertisers and they have a pretty good relationship with us because they’ve seen pretty good results from it.”