IPA Bellwether Podcast Podcast Advertising

Podcasting spend is down. What will it take for CMOs to take the channel seriously?


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

October 24, 2023 | 8 min read

Still considered a specialist area, how can the industry persuade marketers to take podcast advertising more seriously?

Woman recording a podcast

Podcast spend is down, according to the latest IPA Bellwether / Adobe Stock

The IPA Bellwether report, a comprehensive temperature check for UK marketing spend, predicted a ‘shallow’ recession next year and said certain types of media investment were already on the decline. The survey, which was released last week, found that although online video, publishing and TV spend remained intact, ad spend on audio (radio and podcasting) and OOH had declined.

One reason spend on podcasting might be cut faster than other channels is that it’s still considered ‘nascent’. I’m curious how agencies can persuade clients to take the channel – and other means of reaching audiences considered less established – seriously, especially during times of commercial hardship.

So, I asked a bunch of indie agency experts from across the industry. Here’s what they told me.

How do you solve a problem like... tempting CMOs to spend on niche media channels?

Stephanie Spicer, president, Luquire: “In challenging economic times, relevance becomes even more important to brands focused on getting more from their marketing dollars. Context is critical – and podcasts, for instance, allow brands to really target an audience based on a niche interest, which leads to deeper connections with the consumer.

“We also work hard to show clients how less-cluttered, unexpected media environments can allow brands to stand out or even break through. Guerilla-style out-of-home and sticky TikTok videos can not only make a big direct impact, but they can generate word of mouth and earned media that can dramatically improve the ROI.”

Alex Young, managing director, We Are Futures: “It’s always up to the agency to paint a more nuanced picture of statistics to clients, especially since so-called niche media can be a good way of connecting authentically with an audience. So, for example, ad spend might be down on podcasting, but we’d say that’s just the headline. We know podcasting remains a potent tool for engaging young people. Spotify UK reported in June that Gen Z’s monthly podcast consumption rose 58%, with similar growth recorded by others in the US. You have to keep telling the story beneath the headlines.”

Maren Seitz, senior director, Analytic Partners: “With increasing media fragmentation, brands must try new ways of reaching their audience. The key is to link this to business goals. Is the niche audience relevant to your business? Does the channel have the potential to scale over time – or will it never move the dial?

“Once you start spending, make sure to prove returns fast, but with thoughtfully designed experiments. What is the minimum spend needed to make a robust assessment? How can you prove returns while also generating learnings? A good commercial analytics program will help you experiment, measure and optimize – and deliver solid arguments to convince your CMO.”

Amy Still, founder and CEO, Whisk: “Wasted ad spend in the industry makes a recession a potential opportunity. It can push CMOs to adopt a more targeted, efficient and selective media approach. And ’niche’ can actually be a positive thing.

“Since the pandemic, 66% of people crave more online connections. Niche digital communities focused on true connections through passions, interests or demographics are growing 20 times faster than Facebook. CMOs should explore platforms beyond Meta, Snap and TikTok to find where their audiences truly engage. Data shows these niche communities are 45 times more engaging than Facebook, offering ROI-friendly alternatives to the scattergun approach of major publishers.”

Gustav Lindell, co-founder and CEO, Pixly: “As we approach podcasting from the lens of influencer marketing, it serves as an additional means of reaching a brand’s target audience. This leads to a diversified and holistic approach wherein influencer marketing encompasses a variety of platforms, such as YouTube and Instagram, and can successfully be paired with podcasting across audio and video platforms. Podcasting, in this case, may serve as a secondary focus while the primary focus remains on influencer activity across YouTube and Instagram. Developing multiple touch points between a brand and a potential consumer increases the likelihood of conversion.”

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James Shepherd, co-founder and managing director, Atomic Altitude: “Focus on media value and effectiveness. We always encourage our clients to look at niche media channels where they can get cut through away from the rest of the market. Performance is always central to that, but if you can deliver value and effectiveness, it’s a no-brainer. Let’s take Meta and Google as very much examples of non-niche channels. They capture about two-thirds of UK digital ad spend but only get about one-third of our online attention. The disparity between spend and attention causes the value problem for advertisers, so it’s important we look for value elsewhere.”

Linnea Harris, project director, Feels Like: “Podcast ads are like planting seeds for your brand: with the right approach, they can keep flourishing long-term. Podcasts, particularly niche ones, have attentive, loyal audiences and episodes are often available long after advertising dates, resulting in increased brand visibility. For the breathing app State, for example, we collaborated with a podcast that has since gained widespread popularity worldwide. Today, our budget might not fit their current rates, but our ads still perform on their earlier episodes, proving that with good research (and some luck), brands can tap into a cost-effective platform that can rapidly gain popularity.”

I want these weekly debates to feel like conversations between peers. So, if you reckon you might have opinions worth sharing, give me a shout and I’ll clue you in on next week’s topic. Get in touch via sam.bradley@thedrum.com.

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