PageGroup’s Han­isha Lal­wani on pod­casts.

Campaign Middle East - - FRONT PAGE - HAN­ISHA LAL­WANI Mar­ket­ing man­ager – Mid­dle East and Africa, PageGroup

My dad of­ten rem­i­nisces about when he was grow­ing up in In­dia in the 60s and 70s and, like mil­lions of oth­ers, he lis­tened to the pop­u­lar ra­dio sta­tion Vividh Bharati. Each night, the sta­tion aired a play-skit drama­tised by ac­tors. This show was so loved by lis­ten­ers that ad­ver­tis­ing spots were known to sell out sev­eral months in ad­vance. With pod­casts, the old tra­di­tion of sto­ry­telling has risen from the grave, and brands are be­com­ing savvy about ad­ver­tis­ing on them and are reap­ing great re­wards.

The hit show Se­rial, for ex­am­ple, cul­ti­vated a new gen­er­a­tion of loyal pod­cast sub­scribers in 2014. This Pe­abody Award-win­ning pod­cast to­day has more than 100 mil­lion down­loads. Speak to binge-lis­ten­ers of Se­rial’s sea­son one and chances are they will still re­mem­ber one brand that ad­ver­tised on it – MailChimp. This email mar­ket­ing ser­vice provider be­came a house­hold name be­cause of the non-in­ter­rup­tive na­ture of its 20 sec­ond ads on Se­rial, voiced by pod­cast host Sarah Koenig her­self. MailChimp saw an in­cred­i­ble or­ganic spike in on­line chat­ter. This wooed brands such as Au­di­ble and Squares­pace to join in and ben­e­fit from the show’s suc­cess.

So with such suc­cess sto­ries, should mar­keters flirt with the idea of ad­ver­tis­ing on the on-de­mand lis­ten­ing plat­form? Pod­cast In­sights has done some num­ber-crunch­ing to make sense of the lis­tener land­scape in the US: 44 per cent of the US pop­u­la­tion has lis­tened to a pod­cast; 49 per cent of pod­cast lis­ten­ing is done at home and 22 per cent in the car; and 80 per cent lis­ten to all or most of each pod­cast episode. These are stag­ger­ing num­bers, and for a mar­keter pod­casts are sur­fac­ing as dream plat­forms to be present on. Let us deep-dive into the whys.

What makes pod­cast ad­ver­tis­ing a com­par­a­tively lu­cra­tive plat­form is that the au­di­ence is highly en­gaged. Lis­ten­ers have the power to choose the pod­casts they sub­scribe to and how and when they want to lis­ten. Daily chores are no longer bor­ing as most peo­ple are lis­ten­ing to pod­casts dur­ing their com­mute, at the gym or while they do laun­dry at home. Hence, pod­cast ads be­come less in­tru­sive and lis­ten­ers are well dis­po­si­tioned to­wards di­gest­ing the ad mes­sages. To en­sure the non-in­ter­rup­tive char­ac­ter of the medium, brands ad­ver­tis­ing on pod­casts have lit­tle choice but to adopt the pod­cast’s sto­ry­telling nar­ra­tive – the ad con­tent has to in­form, ed­u­cate and be of value within the con­text of the show’s theme. Be­sides, pod­cast ad­ver­tis­ing should only be one part of the brand’s over­all sto­ry­telling strat­egy.

With a ma­jor­ity of pod­cast lis­ten­ers be­ing highly ed­u­cated and loyal pa­trons, this is a niche medium. Here, brands are talk­ing to a highly spe­cific type of au­di­ence de­pend­ing on the na­ture of the show its ads are placed on. For in­stance, mail-or­der mat­tress brand Casper ad­ver­tis­ing on Crim­i­nal, a true crime pod­cast with more than 5 mil­lion lis­ten­ers is an in­ge­nious move – after all, you don’t want bed­time lis­ten­ers to be up all night after they have heard a 45 minute episode of a ghastly crime story. For a sound night’s sleep, Casper comes to the res­cue, and that too with 20 per cent off plus free ship­ping when lis­ten­ers use the code CRIM­I­NAL on the brand’s web­site. And you do not need much con­vinc­ing when the show’s host Phoebe Judge her­self gives her tried-and-tested re­view of Casper’s mat­tress. Through pod­cast ad­ver­tis­ing, Casper con­vinc­ingly ticks three boxes: brand aware­ness (mea­sured by lis­tener num­bers); value of­fer­ing (ex­clu­sive dis­count for lis­ten­ers); and ad ROI track­ing (through use of a spe­cific code).

So what does the ‘pod-scape’ look like in the Mid­dle East? As lis­ten­ing to pod­casts is still in its nascent stage here, pod­cast ad­ver­tis­ing has not made its way into many com­pa­nies’ mar­ket­ing P&L. But with more home-grown pod­cast shows be­ing pro­duced fea­tur­ing re­gion-rel­e­vant con­tent, and a bur­geon­ing start-up scene, it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore we dis­cover new value-based prod­ucts and ser­vices through pod­cast ads. Also, agen­cies like Mar­ket­tiers are for­ay­ing into pod­cast pro­duc­tion as part of their ser­vice port­fo­lio. That said, with the re­gion’s lack­adaisi­cal his­tory of ro­bust com­mu­ni­ca­tion mea­sure­ment met­rics, there may be long-term chal­lenges of ROI mea­sure­ment from pod­cast ad­ver­tis­ing: would the right KPI be stream­ing or down­load­ing a pod­cast, and does that re­flect ac­tual lis­ten­ing? One thing is for sure, the ad will be only as strong as the pod­cast con­tent is.

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