How To #34: Leveraging Podcast Advertising As Branded Content


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Podcasts Are A Massive Opportunity For Brand Advertising

Our team knows a thing or two about podcasts, as we produce podcasts every week on topics centered around helping brand managers best leverage content partnerships to impact their sales, market their companies better, and just do business... much better.  And maybe it's our fixation with our own podcast, but it caused us to start looking at podcasts as a marketing vehicle for our brand clients.

And what we have discovered along the way is that most marketers are absolutely missing out on leveraging this fantastic branded content opportunity to get their brand integrated into third party content.  In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares 5 ways on how you can leverage podcasts for branded content partnerships to get tremendous engagement for your brand. 

Podcast advertising

Listen To Our Podcast About Podcast Advertising

If you don't like to read... or want to multi-task, then this is the way to go.

Some Great Stats

Our team found some great stats on podcasts that I’m going to share with you as the stats are just that impressive. Earlier this year, Apple reported there are over 550,000 active podcasts! Additionally, Apple stated that 50% of homes are podcasts listeners, which is over 60 million homes – and sixteen million people now describe themselves as avid podcast fans.  Podcast Insights reports that podcast listeners are extremely loyal, as 80% of the base listens to every episode on a weekly basis - creating a perfect environment for repeated exposure to advertising opportunities. 36% percent of podcast listeners are multicultural.  Additionally, listeners tend to be educated and affluent, most brand marketers dream demographic.  As I’ll be discussing – no matter who your brand is targeting as a consumer, there are podcasts that perfectly mirror your market.  For some more stats, and insight on podcast advertising, check out one of our team's blogs 4 Ways Brands Use Podcast Advertising To Drive Sales.

How Much It Costs

So when we start talking about podcasts, the first question that seems to come up every time is not HOW the brand can become part of the content – but how much it costs.  So let’s start today’s conversation there.  In the world of podcasts, much like radio, and even like many social influencer campaigns, everything is really based off of a CPM model – which is the abbreviation for cost per thousand.  What that actually means is that for every 1,000 listeners – or followers in the influencer marketing space – there is a set fee that is going to range from anywhere from $10 or so to $100 - all driven by what you are actually asking to have happen within the content.  So to make this super easy to understand, if a CPM is $10, and someone has 10,000 followers, then it would cost $100 to be in their podcast.  And if the CPM stayed at $10, and someone had 100,000 followers, then it would cost $1,000 to be in that podcast.   But if the CPM is $10 and someone has 1 million followers, then it would cost $10,000 to be in their podcast. 

And the more involved your brand is within the podcast, within the conversation, or through additional extensions like newsletters or social posts, the more the rate for the CPM is going to be. And the bigger the listening group, obviously the higher the rate is going to be because of the sheer scale of what that CPM is being applied against. 

What Makes It Even More Expensive: Celebrities

And just like with social influencers, once you add that magic word of “celebrity” to the mix, you are seeing a higher CPM charged not just based on what that individual has to do, but based on the celebrity clout factor – that sexy factor of what it costs to be involved in something with an actor, musician, athlete or other star studded personality figure.  Which can also apply to niche personalities outside of the typical celebrity universe – where their words are so golden to entrepreneurs, or within the tech industry, that they have their own gold dust glitter and ability to charge higher fees.

Which means for brands that are somewhat new to advertising, you may not want to look at the highest echelon of podcast content partnerships, and start out a little more grass roots so you can grow along with the podcast, and possibly get a little extra love along the way.  

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The Power Of Micro Niche Audiences

And for brands that have been trying their hand at influencer marketing, possibly working with micro influencers – you could take some of that time and energy you are putting in to that to build some podcast campaigns instead. There is so much benefit from working with micro influencers. They are really great for brands at creating content from their own perspectives that is shareable, and impacting their own direct audiences. They have so much benefit and high engagement.  The problem is they are like herding cats, and it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to actually reach out, find them, secure them, get them to post, make sure what they are posting is great… or fixing it.  So it has some challenges. 

The value to podcasts are that they typically hit a very tuned in, niche audience.  These are people who are listening on a daily or weekly basis on their ride to work, as they work out in the morning, or when they have some downtime.     

And when it comes to choosing podcasts, you need to NOT think that you are going to reach hundreds of thousands or millions of listeners.  Unless it’s hosted by a celebrity or celebrity influencer…. You are not going to come close to those metrics.  It’s more like micro influencer partnerships.  A podcast is considered a good podcast that is a strong advertising vehicle if it has at least 5,000 listeners to an episode. And quite frankly there is a lot to be said for even smaller audience bases as they are growing, and usually offer a very niche demographic of listeners. 

Finding The Right Brand Partnership Opportunity

My podcast, Marketing Mistakes & How To Avoid Them is a niche focused podcast. I’m not trying to get everyone and their mother to listen. I’m focused specifically on brands and agencies and helping them find more success with branded content partnerships, marketing and running their businesses better.  That is super focused.  Sure we have some cross overs, and I hear from listeners who are from the production world, as well as from actual influencers themselves as well – and we have content that definitely speaks to them.  But as a whole, we are focused on brand and agencies – which means any company that wanted to become part of our content would share that common targeted demographic.  That could be project management software that makes running a business easier. A lawyer talking about pitfalls to avoid. A marketing campaign that was just off the charts successful - or a complete failure to avoid. Or it could be cyber insurance, only because we had that mess of a cyber-crime that I’ve spoken and written about that business decision makers need to know to avoid, and it is a topic I'm passionate about ensuring other companies avoid the pain from having to go through what we did.   It could be inbound marketing software. Or it could be someone associated with finance and running a company. It’s not likely going to be bottled water, a dating app or a car company.  But more so companies that help brands and agency marketers get their jobs done.  Better.  (A little side note here - as an agency, we are phenomenally good at getting that bottled water, dating app or car company in other people's appropriate podcasts and content!)

My first piece of advice is that you don’t need to be in Oprah’s Masterclass right out of the gate, unless you have the budget to spend.  Even if you do have the budget to spend, testing out other podcasts that are smaller, and building up to that giant podcast is going to give you a lot of education on what works – and what doesn’t, for your brand. 

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Opportunities For Advertising In Podcasts

With podcasting, there's are five different options for brand advertisers to focus on. Ready... then let's go!

#1 Typical Ads

The first option is your very standard typical advertising.  Where there are pre, mid, and post roll ads interwoven into the podcast content.  Pre, Mid and Post ad units sound just like traditional radio ads - and either lead into the programming, are used like almost a commercial break halfway through or in another part of the programming, or at the end of the program.  Just like there are on YouTube.  But you don’t get the option really of skipping easily unless you are fast-forwarding. These are your typical :10, :15 or :30 typical standard ad – pre-produced and all prettily packaged up and delivered to the podcast editor to pop in to the content. 

Your brand is going to be able to absolutely control the messaging just as you ideally want it, but it is the least exciting way to engage with a listener.   But quite frankly, that’s not what you want typically – unless you are really trying to drive a message, or push out a call to action where you want it within programming and it’s an added plus to other in-content build outs that we are going to be talking about.  They can be great to tag in a special offer, to heighten the branding message, or to provide additional information that might be not as organic to the conversation of the podcast.  


#2 Live Ad Reads

In podcasting, there is something a little more special – and slightly more expensive, which isn’t your typical standard ad.  Which brings us to your second option, which is a live read. Instead of an ad, it’s more old school – like what the Grand Ole Opry does in Nashville, where a brand is a sponsor of the podcast, and the host does a live read about the brand, based off of pre-scripted copy that the brand has submitted. 

The host is going to be provided by your brand the messaging – potentially to tweak a bit - and they're going to naturally read it instead of making it sound like it's a true commercial and put that inside of their podcasts.  These typically run closer to :60 seconds in length within the podcast. 


#3 Branded Content - Organic Conversations

The third option for podcast marketing is to have a true conversation built within the podcast. An organic conversation. Which to our agency is like the Holy Grail. It’s what you should be striving for.  True branded content. 

It’s not a :30 or :60 second ad read.  It’s not a commercial.  It’s about a conversation from the viewpoint of the host or hosts, talking about the brand, and what they like about it.  You’ll be giving them messaging points to include in the conversation. But not so many that it is a commercial. You want this to be real.  And by the way, in order to follow FTC guidelines, they ARE going to make sure the listener knows that this is a paid part of their podcast – but they can do so gently and nicely, and just make sure their butt as well as your brand’s, is covered legally.


#4 Sponsorships & Owned Content

Then the fourth area is where you actually get to start sponsoring the actual full entire podcast.   This is a really new marketing opportunity, and one of the most cutting edge.  Literally, the podcast becomes yours. At least for a few episodes. In this form of marketing, the podcast will have a segment of one to three episodes - or even more, that stand alone as subsets of the rest of the show. Within these isolated episodes, the content is about something that applies to the brand in general, and also provides a shout-out to the brand for sponsoring the segment and typically includes a conversation about the brand as well.  The brand wins as they get their marketing messaging baked into the show, and also because now they are shown as a thought leader providing education and value to listeners. 

With sponsorships, you might sponsor the podcast and have that conversation topic be centered around the brand.  Or it could be a brand that doesn’t necessarily want to host their own web series or podcast, and they want to go in and sponsor a podcast or series of podcasts, and be positioned as the thought leader of the content.  This gets the brand the opportunity to have their brand be interwoven into the conversation too – but also bring in other brands to the conversation that can help elevate them.   And if you find a podcast host that doesn’t want you to takeover their weekly podcast – there might be options to have them do a few extra added bonus episodes, that still will be well listened to, and marketed similarly by the podcast creator.  Think of this as a celebrity/influencer-podcast-endorsement. You are hiring the podcaster to create the content on your behalf and share it - but you have some ownership too.


#5 Brand Spokesperson As A Podcast Guest

The fifth area where your brand can find unbelievable wins is with having one of your C-suite or spokespeople on podcasts talking with the show host.  This is by no means a 'let's sell sell sell' the brand, but more so a conversation about the space your brand is in.  A chance to share your expertise.  To challenge convention.  That's not to say you won't get a chance to get a plug your company, but it is not the purpose of the guest invite.

This opportunity can be secured in two different ways - and completely depends on the individual podcast. And the size of the podcast. Either you can potentially pay your way into this opportunity to guest host/be interviewed... or, your spokesperson can be booked without a fee.  Some podcasts require additional advertising to be purchased as part of the invitation to be on the show.  Usually the bigger the podcast, the more they are going to look for experienced spokespeople to be on the show.  This means you need to have a podcast strategy in place where your spokesperson has been on other podcasts - just the same as if you are interested in booking a national news or talk show.  Trust me, they will check.  You team needs to whet your chops, get the experience (and brand resume builders) under your belt, and then - only then - look at the top podcast opportunities out there.


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Things To Avoid

Doing a one and done in the world of podcast advertising doesn’t make so much sense in my opinion. With branded content or sponsorships, you want to be able to have multiple touchpoints – and it could be a mix of all of the strategies for podcast partnerships that I’ve spoken about today.  

What you don’t want to go in and do is scrimp and piece meal out podcasts so that you barely are there. You want to make sure you have a strong footprint – in whatever content you can afford to be in.  Whether that is $500, $5,000, $50,000 or $500,000 dollars. The bigger your inclusion in the content, the higher the CPM range is going to be. But you can control these costs by knowing that the type of partnership you do drives the conversation, as does the size of the listener base.

Podcasts are great for any sized brand – because they let you start off where you can pay and you grow the audience. Then you go from there.  As the market of podcasts continues to grow, the new forms of advertising within them will continue to emerge.


I said it before, we know a thing or two about podcasts at Hollywood Branded, as we produce one to two every week.  If you haven't yet, make sure you check out some of our episodes and take a listen about branded content and influencer partnerships.  Just visit our podcast page.

And please realize – working with podcasts are not going to lead magically to immediate sales. It’s a process – and it’s a continual process that your brand needs to participate in and build upon.  Just like any PR or advertising marketing practice.  Podcasts should become part of your marketing program – with the plan being that either throuh earned media or paid media, you are trying to get in front of your targeted audience, in enough repetitions, to have them better remember you, and become through this repetition interested in purchasing your brand.  Influencer marketing and branded content is not a one hit wonder.  And that’s a mistake many brands make. 

Learn more about podcasting from these popular podcasts our team has written:  

We've talked here about podcasting - but if you are interested in having your brand interwoven into a script, just another form of branded content, then read our blog on 3 Reasons Why Productions Use Product Placement.  Then check out these blogs to get a better understanding for the opportunities out there!

And when you are done with all that reading?  Then make sure you actually check out our podcast! It's short - most episodes are only ten to 20 minutes, and each one has been crafted to give brand marketers actionable advice to up their own marketing game.

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