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Podcast advertising (part II): a revolution in brand communication?

Corporate influencers are welcome podcast guests and not just podcast advertisers.
Image: © Gregory Cole / Unsplash

Podcasts for media agencies: how can they be brought into play?

Is it even worth it for media agencies to offer clients advertising spaces in podcasts? In part I of our two-parter on the topic of podcast advertising, we joined forces with Wolfgang Bscheid, Managing Partner of mediascale GmbH, to identify the qualities of the podcast medium compared to other audio formats and explore podcast advertising formats that are currently being utilized. However, it is anything but easy for media agencies to offer their clients precisely tailored and powerful products in the segment of podcast advertising. At first glance, producing and placing podcast advertising actually seems highly unappealing and unprofitable:

  • Low reach
  • No automatable processes
  • Production of special formats necessary
  • Hardly possible to measure success

It is also challenging to even find a niche podcast with content that is a good fit for the client’s topic. Bscheid sums it up in an almost sobering way:

“The effort involved is disproportionately high: In many cases, this means implementing a very individual coordination with the podcast operator for a very, very small reach. And especially with regard to efficiency, this is often still out of balance.”

Wolfgang Bscheid, Managing Partner mediascale GmbH

That said, the German audio market is developing promisingly: alongside the virtually unchanged wide reach of traditional radio, which is listened to by around 53 million people every day in Germany, the demand for audio products that users can configure themselves is rising. Among other formats, the following are experiencing strong growth at the moment:

  • Digital radio in cars
  • Smart speakers
  • Streaming services that also offer podcasts

Podcasts do in fact make it possible to be present through advertising! Attention – the ultimate leverage factor for brands – is deeply rooted in the DNA of a podcast and provides the basis for the reach to increase. For Bscheid, the real challenge lies in how brands and their communication goals can be woven into the form of content communication in podcasts.

“We have clients who advertise extremely professionally and deliver outstanding work. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re able to provide an entertainment format. That requires a shift in thinking and much stronger interest among consumers and listeners. Ultimately, you have to learn how a show format or editorial format works and develop something over time that in the end also draws listeners in – after all, podcasts are listened to by choice.”

When it comes down to it, corporate brand communication as a whole has to be rethought. A format like a podcast means handing over the reins to a large degree. You can’t plan every smallest detail, have the marketing department intricately design every piece of audio, or repeat every intonation as many times as you like until you have the perfect take. Many corporate decision-makers are scared of this loss of control due to a lack of relevant experience and thus the required trust.

A brand has to be transformed into content

Nobody reads long pieces of text anymore and advertising in moving images or even on the radio is trimmed to be as short as possible to appeal to ever-shorter attention spans. Written content is boiled down to headlines, and messages are blared out first as loudly as possibly.

“If I have a message to put out though, I need room to tell the story behind it so that people are drawn in and captivated. Nowadays, that room is pretty much only provided by podcasts. No other media format has so much room available.”

Wolfgang Bscheid, Managing Partner mediascale GmbH

Podcasts are the ideal medium to tell backstories and give authentic and interesting insights into the story and idea behind a product that there would never be enough room or time for in a professional commercial and that could not be credibly conveyed by any marketing department using traditional measures. That can only work using native formats such as podcasts. According to Wolfgang Bscheid, this can result in a win-win situation for the advertising company and podcast creator alike:

“You can no longer stand out in any segment with just any old podcast. If you’re not entertaining on a continual basis, there are plenty of others who will immediately snap up this reach from you. The reach is just as fought over as in any other segment. When brands are able to blend into a podcast in a way that contributes additional information, it is much easier for the host to give them a platform. The more they provide their own content, the less they disrupt the podcast topic and the more quality they offer to the host.”

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Wolfgang Bscheid (Image: © mediascale GmbH & Co.KG)

A message is looking for a sender: podcast advertising needs faces

In the future, CEOs and employees will therefore have an even greater responsibility to become genuine brand ambassadors and represent and present their brand in a way that is approachable and tangible for listeners to feel and emotionally experience. What’s needed is a multitude of corporate influencers who are able to speak enthusiastically and authentically about their brand and give it credibility and purpose.

“Brands have to learn how to tell stories. And to do that, they first need to determine where these stories play out and who can tell them.”

Wolfgang Bscheid, Managing Partner mediascale GmbH

Be approachable, create added value, and build a rapport. The formula is simple, but implementing it is completely uncharted territory for many brands and brand ambassadors, especially in an audio format. Using your own face and stories to make your brand and product approachable and tangible, be entertaining, and captivate your audience – not many CEOs and brand ambassadors are accustomed to that, by any means.

“To all intents and purposes, a native advertising approach is nothing new, moving away from a purely advertising format toward an editorial approach, presenting background information, and creating touchpoints, connecting points and identification points between the consumer and the company.”

However, that calls for nothing less than a radical cultural transformation when it comes to the brand communication of companies.

Making brands approachable: podcast advertising is the ideal testing ground

As Bscheid sees it, both companies and media agencies have a clear task if they want to generate new reach via podcasts and way beyond:

“I think that the most important question that brands and agencies should ask themselves today is: how can brands be made entertaining for people? We have to learn how to tell stories and can no longer trail behind, if anything because advertising spaces are gradually falling away. In subscription TV, we practically have no advertising spaces left. By that point at the latest, we must have developed a new form of communicating with our customers of tomorrow. And that will probably only be possible using our own content.”

With their manageable reach, podcasts offer the ideal opportunity for brands to experiment with this new form of brand communication.

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