Ossia Studio | Why brands are tuning in to podcast advertising

Humans love stories. Storytelling has played a central role in all our civilisations. It connects us to our prehistory. Many of the stories we told over campfires in the long distant past are still being told today.

Of course, the way we tell stories has changed many times. First, storytelling was an oral tradition, later it was literary. In the 20th century it became audio, through radio, then visual through cinema and TV. Regardless of the medium, the ability of stories to inspire, teach and thrill has been enduring.

Today, we’re seeing the latest technological shift in storytelling with the rise of podcasting. Mostly listened to by individuals locked off from the world by headphones, podcasts are on the surface a highly personal medium. But they’re also a shared experience. The best podcasts are listened to widely and discussed over coffee cups and water coolers in the way ‘event TV’ once was.

As a result, podcasts are now an important channel through which brands can tell their own stories. In this article, we discuss how new digital technologies are helping brands and advertisers tell these stories more effectively by talking to people as individuals and ways that resonate with their personal needs and wishes. We will cover:

  1. What is podcast advertising?

  2. How does advertising work for podcasting?

  3. How effective is podcast advertising?

  4. Podcast advertising stats

  5. How to create advertising for podcasts

  6. Conclusion

What is podcast advertising?

On its simplest level, podcast advertising is the act of promoting a brand or product on an audio programme streamed or downloaded from the internet. Podcasts can be hosted on the open web, but they are most commonly streamed or downloaded on mobile devices via app stores – 85% of podcast consumption happens on mobile devices. Increasingly, podcasts are also being consumed through smart speakers. Currently, 22% of people who own a smart speaker use them to listen to podcasts.

Podcast advertising is also a form of programmatic audio. Programmatic automates the targeting and delivery of ads using digital marketplaces to connect supply (podcasts) with demand (brands). The supply side is represented by podcast advertising networks such as Midroll, AdvertiseCast, PodGrid and Authentic Shows.

Through programmatic, podcast advertisers can also leverage demographic and location data to hone in on a particular audience. The approach means brands are able to tailor their stories to individuals based on their unique needs and contexts.


How does advertising work for podcasting?

Ads are usually placed pre-roll (i.e. at the beginning of a podcast), mid-roll (half-way through a podcast) or post-roll (right at the end of the programme). The length of ad varies by audio advertising network, as does the number of mid-roll slots (this also varies according to the length of the podcast).

Podcasts provide advertisers with two delivery options:

  • ‘Baked in’ ads are embedded into the programme and are inseparable from it. Whenever that podcast is listened to, the same ad will play. Often these ads are read by the host of the show, which gives brands an excellent opportunity for brand endorsement. Targeting through baked in ads is fairly limited – brands can analyse which demographics listen to a certain podcast using, for example, registration data.

  • Dynamic ads are delivered ‘dynamically’ into ads in near real-time, using an ad server. The advantage of the approach is that the same ad spot can be reused to place different ads. Advertisers can also choose to dynamically insert ads across a range of podcasts targeting criteria such as audience, time of day, reach and frequency. Dynamic ads provide brands with the best opportunity to engage with people as individuals and tell them personalised stories.

How effective is podcast advertising?

In general, podcast advertising effectiveness can be summarised through four key benefits:

  1. Popularity. In 2019, 7.1 million UK citizens listened to podcasts every week – an increase of 24% on the previous year. That affords significant and growing reach for brands.

  2. Engagement. People proactively decide to listen to podcasts. That means they’re more likely to engage with ads. One study found that 78% of podcasts listeners approve of sponsorship messages because they understand these ads fund the content they love.

  3. Responsiveness. When listening to podcasts people have to concentrate. That means they have a better recall of brand messages.

  4. Experience. Most podcast ads are native to the format, so provide listeners a seamless experience. As a result, they’re less likely to jar with audiences.

Podcast advertising effectiveness is amplified through programmatic. By enabling things like location-based targeting, detailed customer segmentation, and customisation options for end user devices, programmatic provides brands with much greater control over who hears their ads, what they hear, and how they hear them.

With programmatic, podcast ads become hyper-relevant to the people listening to them. The audio spot can be created in real-time, tailored to the audience and delivered to the right listeners at the ideal moment.

Brands will also want to consider podcast advertising cost-effectiveness. According to one study, podcast advertising revenues are strong and growing for brands. The study predicted that revenues from podcast ads would grow 42% in 2019.

Brands can measure the ROI of their podcast campaigns using one of three tools:

1) Promo Codes: A code is created for each podcast and used to track attribution.

2) Vanity URLs: Links unique to the show that lead to a dedicated web landing page.

3) Post-Checkout Surveys: Surveys that pop up on a website after a user completes a desired conversion action.


Podcast advertising stats

To illustrate the effectiveness and growing importance of podcast advertisements, we’ve curated a top ten list of stats that every advertiser should know:

  1. According to Apple, there are 525,000 active podcast shows with more than 18.5 million episodes

  2. 37% of podcast listeners have listened to a radio programme for the first time because of listening to a podcast

  3. Podcast advertising spend is forecast to double to $1.6 billion by 2022

  4. 67 percent of listeners can name a product feature or specific promotion mentioned in a podcast ad

  5. 76% of UK podcast listeners have acted on a podcast advert

  6. 73 million Americans listen to podcasts and this is expected to grow 81% by 2022

  7. Dynamically inserted ads account for 48.8 percent of the total

  8. For 18-54s in the UK, YouTube is the most popular service for accessing podcasts

  9. Podcast ads are 4.4 times more effective than display ads

  10. Exposure to ads in podcasts leads to an average 10% uplift in purchase intent

How to create advertising for podcasts

When it comes to the creative treatment of an advertisement, there are a number of options to choose from. The standard options were recorded by IAB, a digital advertising body, in its Podcast Playbook. These include:

  • Host read ads are, as the name suggested, read by the host. These can be recorded at the time of the podcast or dynamically inserted. This may or may not be an endorsement.

  • Pre-recorded ads are edited into an episode or placed there dynamically.

  • Custom segments are part of an episode where advertisers work with the hosts to create content that feels like it's part of the show’s context

  • Branded series are full-length podcast episodes created on behalf of a brand

  • Presenting sponsorships provide advertisers or a group of advertisers exclusive use of all ad slots in a show for a set period of time

When it comes to ad production, the key concern for publishers is that the creative should fit seamlessly with the show itself. Publishers wish to avoid a jarring experience for listeners and take the time to ensure their sponsors are super relevant. Some publishers go further and even produce ads on behalf of brand sponsors - a move that also opens a new revenue stream while ensuring high-quality and appropriate ads.

Whether being produced by publishers, brands or agencies, podcast ad creative has in the past been limited by production capabilities. Simply finding the right soundscape for a podcast ad could be time consuming, resource intensive and ultimately expensive. This was particularly limiting for advertisers looking to dynamically place personalised stories using programmatic techniques.

While the technology could provide real-time customer segmentation, serving target audiences with a customised ad before the podcast finished streaming was next to impossible.

There is another way...

However, as AI technology matured and entered the mainstream, these challenges around ad production have been solved. The latest audio ad production platforms, such as Ossia Studio, allow creatives to build a complete audio ad in minutes using vast sound libraries that are searchable by genre, mood or tempo. Thanks to such smart creative tools, brands can now fully leverage the potential to tell hyper-relevant, context-aware stories to exactly the right audiences at exactly the right time.

In the case of Ossia Studio, the process is as simple as three steps. First, creatives upload the voice over to be used in the podcast ad. The voice over is then automatically optimised by the system. Second, the creative selects the music track they want to accompany the item. This is easily searchable and allows the ad to be further customised to the ad spot and consumer being served (a true crime podcast, for example, might suit an ad with a slightly sinister soundtrack). Third, AI algorithms generate customised ads based on demographic, location and other data to create the perfect ad for that moment in time.


Podcasts are fast becoming as important to our storytelling culture as TV, film, books and radio. This is no longer a niche channel and all brands should now consider advertising in the space. The good news is that technology is making the process smoother and more rewarding – for listeners and advertisers alike. Programmatic has made the delivery of highly tailored context-relevant ads possible. Now advances in AI assisted ad production mean that the creative is fast and powerful enough to deliver on this promise.

See for yourself the possibilities of AI-enabled ad production for podcasts and sign up for a free demo of Ossia Studio.