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  • Peter Sengenberger

Six Questions to Ask Your Podcast Media Agency

Podcast advertising is surging in popularity among advertisers, but no matter who you talk to in the industry, they’ll tell you that nobody’s really an expert yet.  It’s just such a new advertising medium that it often feels like we’re all learning together.

However, the baseline truths about the medium, or at least your prospective agency’s view on it, is pretty established.  Here are some fundamental questions to ask that should prove very illuminating:

1)      How many podcast networks do you work with?  There are a couple of dozen relevant ones, offering a few thousand podcasts.  At least 8-10 networks should have podcasts whose audiences fit your message.  The more networks involved, the more work on the agency side, but chances of them finding superior audiences increases.  It’s a good check to see what conflicts of interest might exist with an agency’s existing clients too.

2)      What about data & measurability?  The truth is that good data is pretty thin in the podcast world thus far.  Beyond basic demographics and IAB complaint download statistics, podcast advertisers have only podcast-specific survey statistics to rely on.  For direct response advertisers, that’s often enough, considering they’re most concerned with cost per acquisition.  Apple has promised to finally share their in-stream behavior analytics with podcast publishers, but the industry is waiting for specifics and trying to consider the impact this data will have.

3)      Besides host reads, what other impactful ad formats have you tried with other clients?  Podcast producers have been experimenting with creating more engaging advertising formats, such as “custom insertions” that combine a host live read with a poignant snipped of an interview with a representative from the brand.  These types of ads tend to be longer, have higher CPM’s, but bring outsized response over typical host reads.  Some podcasts have even planned their advertisers in advance to synch with episode themes, blending in custom insertions for one advertiser in each ad break.

4)      Is there a secret to scaling?  A strong test plan will run for a couple of months, testing multiple genres, podcast audience sizes, and ad creatives with the goal of figuring out where to go next.  Ideally if the campaign shows some life, there will be other, larger podcasts lined up to test as well as other creative treatments to test, geotargeting tests built on response insights, etc.  A great campaign is worth it on its own, but to be of real value to the advertiser, needs to be given room to find its feet and grow.

5)      What controls do you have in place to monitor and improve ad performance?  Agencies are always keen to sell but not always as proactive on the back end of things, and seasoned advertisers know that is where the campaign often lives or dies.  Above basic compliance, a good agency should have a track record of communicating between the advertiser and show producers what was good or bad about any given read, as well as have a program of identifying and sharing best practices with the podcasts.  Copy should also be fresh and relevant to be most effective, and promo codes should be refreshed periodically in case they find themselves on online coupon sites.

6)      What opportunities for my brand is the marketplace opening up right now?  The podcast landscape is shifting constantly, with more listeners, publishers, and advertisers entering.  Keeping a finger on the pulse of where new promotional opportunities are emerging can pay long term dividends; simply getting in early with a growing podcast, volunteering key staff as podcast guests, sponsoring a series of podcast episodes that are in line with your brand, or even deciding to start your own brand-centric podcast are all ideas that should be discussed.

Asking these questions will help keep you in synch with your agency, and facilitate future conversations about your strategy.  You’ll be looking for truth and depth in their answers, and insights that come up will lead to more productive collaboration in the future. 

Podcast advertising is long game where creativity, open mindedness, and a little tolerance for risk are handsomely rewarded.

Peter Sengenberger is the founder of Element Media Direct, a podcast media agency in Richmond, VA, and London, England.  He can be reached at

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