Over the past 3–4 years, my company (Edison Research) has conducted dozens of advertising effectiveness studies for podcast networks and even individual shows. At this point, if you can eat it, sleep on it, shop in it, or drive it, we’ve done a brand lift study on it. Though the field is young, we are starting to see category benchmarks, and have accumulated some best practices. Still, over all of these categories, from condiments to condoms, there is only one universal truth — one “secret sauce” for podcast ads.
There isn’t one. I mean, come on, what did you expect? Not even Special Sauce is secret anymore. Here’s what I can tell you — I’ve seen some phenomenal pre/post-campaign lift for some brands. Absolute home runs. But I’ve also seen some dreadful results. One of the things that we and other media researchers have studied for years is the “halo effect” of a given show or host on the credibility of a brand and an audience’s willingness to consider researching or even purchasing a new product or service. These effects are fairly well-known in advertising circles, and brands have paid premiums for years to engage the services of a radio host to provide a personal testimonial for their products. One of my favorites, from decades ago, was WFAN New York’s morning show host, Don Imus, shilling non-alcoholic beer. Imus, a noted recovering alcoholic, was fond of ending those live reads with this tag line, surely not cooked up in an agency: “Buckler — B U C K L E R. You’ll pee just as much, ‘cept not in a phone booth.”
Now, while these sorts of endorsements can work well, they aren’t required to make a great ad — years of well-executed Super Bowl ads put the lie to that. A great ad is a great ad, and ads still work. But here is the question I want to ask and answer here about podcast advertising. We have ample evidence that a host, and even the content itself, can provide a “halo” for a brand. But does the fact that the brand is advertising in a podcast, in and of itself, impart that same halo?
The short answer: no. Taking an ad that ran, say, in broadcast radio and dropping it in a podcast adds no halo, no additional lift, no “kiss” just from being in a podcast. It’s an ad, and a listener…