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Podcast Advertiser Boot Camp, Part 1: Are You (Actually) Ready to Test Podcast Ads?


September 13, 2021


August 15, 2022

Right Side Up’s Offline team hosted a Podcast Advertiser Boot Camp at Podcast Movement Virtual in October 2020. We designed this deep-dive course for aspiring and current podcast advertisers to help them execute campaigns effectively and efficiently. In this series, we’ll capture expert insights from the boot camp and offer practical tips to get the most out of your podcast advertising campaigns. This first installment focuses on what to do and what questions to answer before you test podcast ads.

Right Side Up at Podcast Movement Virtual

Podcasts have exploded in popularity over the past five years and listenership continues to grow year over year. From the moment Serial launched into pop culture, podcasts have continued to gain footing in the media landscape, and investments from large companies and more accessible technology have accelerated the upward momentum. With a flourishing audience base and relatively low creative production costs compared to other ad platforms, podcast advertising is quickly emerging as a go-to option for marketing channel diversification. At Right Side Up (RSU), we developed a robust offline practice to help clients make the most of this channel. But before you embark on launching your campaign to test podcast ads, here are some pre-planning considerations to keep in mind.

Are You (Actually) Ready to Test Podcast Ads?

Podcast ad campaigns are a great way to test into offline media. But the channel performs quite differently than the digital channels most marketers are familiar with. To ensure you get the most out of your budget and time, and to get a clear signal on performance, it’s important to make sure you have the resources and bandwidth to sustain a podcast ad campaign throughout its lifecycle.

Five things to consider before you start planning to test podcast ads.

Here are the prerequisites you need to lock in before you start your campaign planning to test podcast ads:

Stable user flow

A solid, consistent user flow is crucial for finding success with podcast advertising. If you’re struggling to convert or retain customers, it might not be the right time to dive into podcast ads. Because customer acquisition costs tend to vary widely in this channel, launching with an unstable or less-than-great user flow will likely yield uninspiring results.

Success and business-appropriate scale in a channel like paid social or paid search

Before you test podcast ads, you should have successfully scaled paid social or paid search programs. Testing with Facebook and Google campaigns gives you the opportunity to develop copy points, refine messaging, and smooth out your process before investing heavily in podcasts. 

“We usually tell advertisers to make sure they’ve at least scaled a couple of channels before getting into podcasts,” said Krystina Rubino, RSU’s head of offline marketing, who hosted the Podcast Advertiser Boot Camp. “It’s a good way to get some of the kinks out of user flow and landing pages.”

Landing pages optimized for conversion

You shouldn't launch the landing pages for your podcast ad campaign for the first time when you launch the channel. Any marketing test is a test of controlling variables. This is especially true for offline channels where you don’t receive instant feedback, like you do when A/B testing ad creative on Facebook. Test your landing page in paid social or search campaigns first to determine what works best and then adapt it to fit your podcast ad. 

Once you’ve determined what format of landing page works for conversion, you can add other features to ensure you’re catering to the podcast listener. Small additions, like a welcome banner with the podcast name (i.e. “Welcome EXAMPLE POD listeners!”), is a nice touch to show the listeners they are in the right place, as well as remind them they have a special promotion to incentivize a sale. We have observed a meaningful improvement in conversion rates even with the lightest of show-level customization.

Minimize distractions, like cross messaging other promotions, which could decrease direct response and make it harder to gauge true incrementality. Give the listener the easiest path to convert; make sure to suppress any site-wide interstitials intended for your organic audience. We highly recommended setting up your landing page to have the promo code already applied to a customer’s cart when they land on the page. 

Measurement methodology for indirect attribution

Capturing the success of a podcast ad campaign can be tricky. Long campaign lifecycles and longer customer acquisition windows make it difficult to directly link an ad read to a conversion. While promo codes and vanity URLs offer some insights, they both fail to capture indirect results. 

That’s where surveys come in handy. “How Did You Hear About Us” (or HDYHAU) pop-ups can be served to customers after a sale and help give advertisers a clearer picture of what’s driving results.

“This is one of those channels where you only see a little bit of the activity directly and then you’ve got this big indirect wave that comes in,” Rubino said. “You can establish what your indirect attribution looks like with some sort of survey-based methodology, which is the most common approach.”

Team bandwidth and capacity

With few creative inputs and relatively cheap production costs, your podcast ad campaign might seem like a self-running machine. But realistically, the process requires dedicated resources and staffing throughout the entire campaign. 

Unlike other marketing channels, the podcast ad landscape doesn’t have many technology enablements and there isn’t platform-based inventory access like there is for Facebook or Google. Bids aren’t (yet) possible, buying isn’t automated, and much of the work that keeps the campaign running is done manually. Putting the right team in place before launch, and securing their time for the length of the campaign, helps to avoid disruptions and missed opportunities. 

Think through the process of the planning cycle, but don’t forget to consider the turnaround time for tech enablements in-house, like survey implementation or landing page set-up, which might affect an engineering team, or the uptick in vendor billing, which would increase the workload for accounts payable. 

Realistic expectations and understanding of results

If you (or your boss) are looking for immediate results or a quick fix, podcast ads are not the solution. Success in this channel takes time and patience

“It will not pay back in the first three hours of running the campaign,” Rubino said. “It will not pay back in the first three weeks of running the campaign because of the way the media consumption curve is delayed.”

Most of us are used to the immediacy and nearly-instant results of paid search and paid social. Setting appropriate expectations for yourself and your team from the start helps calm nerves and illuminate the path to success.

How Much to Budget for a Meaningful Test

People consume podcasts on-demand so it takes a while to see results. 

“You want to have the budget for a meaningful test,” Rubino said. “Probably 90 percent of the advertisers we work with, maybe 85 percent, fall somewhere in the $75–150K range for their initial test, and that’s over seven to ten weeks.” 

She said longer timelines give the medium enough room to increase reach and frequency to get to the consideration curve where success becomes attainable.

Budgets vary based on company size, growth stage, and industry. Some larger brands spend more than $250K quarterly on podcast ad campaigns, but that level of investment isn’t required; it’s more important for the test spend to be proportionate to your business, while remaining large enough to provide a clear path to scale.

“We feel pretty strongly that you do not need to spend several hundred thousand dollars to get into your first test in the channel,” Rubino said. “It really should be couched against the rest of your acquisition budget. If you’re spending $100K or $200K on paid social, and you want to allocate $5K per month to podcasts? First of all, you’re not going to get a read on the channel; second of all, you won’t see any broader effect on other channels.”

Responsibilities Throughout Your Campaign to Test Podcast Ads

As mentioned, this offline marketing channel relies heavily on manual inputs. There are several third-party platforms and technologies that can help marketers automate, manage, and track campaigns in other channels. But those resources aren’t purpose-built for podcast campaigns and currently don’t work well in practice in the podcast landscape.

That’s why RSU created its own suite of custom media management tools to track individual ad placements, including our proprietary Performance Indexing Tool (PIT), which compiles cross-client performance data. We also partner with Magellan AI and utilize the company’s database of podcast advertising data that covers activity by 19,000 brands across over 30,000 podcasts. Regardless of how you do it, track every spot you buy so you know what’s happening with your campaign.

“Once you go live and you’re out there, the work doesn’t stop; it actually starts,” Rubino said. “So there’s very much this continuous planning approach that a lot of people who work in the channel, us included, tend to take.” 

She said you want to make sure to take the time in the pre-planning stage to assume that the channel’s going to be successful and assign responsibilities to make sure things are covered adequately.

Whether you choose to staff your team in-house, with consultants, or through an agency, here are the functions you’ll want to fill, along with how they keep your campaign running:

  • Campaign Management
  • Creative
  • Finance
  • Media Planning/Management
  • Performance Analysis
Staffing resources and functions needed to test podcast ads.

Plotting Your Timeline

There’s no one timeline that works best—it all depends on your distinct needs. Some campaigns are ready to launch in three weeks. Others take a couple of months due to legal review or billing processes. If you’re an in-house advertiser, we recommend you start working on gathering credit and reference information for media partner credit checks right at the beginning of the process. 

“One of the only reasons that you work with a third-party buying agent, like a traditional media agency, is that they have terms established with all of the networks,” Rubino said, adding that RSU builds the step of setting up credit for first-time advertisers in the channel into all RFPs to streamline the process.  

It typically takes between four and six weeks to launch a campaign, with multiple work streams overlapping throughout. Here’s a general timeline sequence for a six-week planning process, but keep in mind that you’ll need to adapt your timeline according to your needs:

Sample timeline for podcast test campaign.

Briefing Your Team for Buy-In to Test Podcast Ads

Podcast advertising is new, uncharted territory for many companies and marketers. Because the channel is still nascent and varies significantly from digital channels, clearly defining the process and setting expectations is critical to the success of your campaign.

When you establish a realistic roadmap and attainable goals from the start, a podcast ad campaign can help up your marketing game and tap into this underutilized channel. 

Hungry for more podcast ad campaign insights? Stay tuned! We’ll be publishing more articles soon that cover media planning and buying, creative production and pre-launch, and campaign analysis, measurement, and attribution.

If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch with RSU at hello@rightsideup.co. Our experts will help you learn how to use offline marketing for your business and scale podcast advertising successfully.

Krystina Rubino joined Right Side Up to start its offline marketing practice when she realized too many brands leave offline channels on the table, favoring digital channels past diminishing returns. She has been obsessed with all forms of media for as long as she can remember; she’s an agency and marketing leader with deep experience in building brands and meeting growth goals, for companies of all stages and sizes. She’s spent her career helping companies and brands like Advil, DoorDash, P&G, Lyft, and StitchFix, develop profitable digital and offline media campaigns, often as vanguards in their category and the medium. Her favorite question to ask is “What’s next?” when helping grow a business or scale a customer acquisition campaign.

Lindsay Piper Shaw is a director of offline marketing at Right Side Up, where she partners with innovative brands on in-house marketing initiatives, including podcast and other offline channels. Prior to joining Right Side Up, Lindsay scaled podcast campaigns for brands like quip, Lyft, and Texture, and she has also worked with McDonald’s, Honda, ampm, and Tempur-Sealy, among others. She is passionate about the podcast space as a growth driver, and especially loves educating newcomers in the channel. In her free time she listens to podcasts and makes a podcast called Murder We Wrote (she really can’t get enough podcasts).

Jes Parker is a writer and content marketer with experience creating B2B and consumer-facing assets that build brands and make complex concepts more human. She has worked with companies and nonprofits like Highstead Foundation, Trust for Public Land, Harvard University, the Museum of the City of New York, and Times Square Alliance to craft accessible and engaging content strategies.

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