Podcasts are a unique format with tons of potential. They can foster a relationship that feels almost one-on-one between the hosts and listeners. That sense of connection means podcast ads can be especially effective for quickly building a customer relationship and solidifying your brand’s image.
Every podcast has a distinct neuro signature (e.g., happy, informative, fun, mysterious) which influences the kind of creative that would perform. We recommend a narrative-driven and equity-focused creative approach for emotionally driven shows like Gimlet’s Where Should We Begin. For news content like The Journal, reach listeners with informational and feature-focused messaging.
You’ve probably noticed that host-read podcast ads are common. The host acts as a surrogate or spokesperson for your brand, lending cache or relevance by association.
But traditional voice-read podcast ads convert well, too, and are flexible and scalable in a way that host-read ads are not.
Host reads and voice reads both show excellent results with smart execution. But what is the difference between the two, and which one is right for you?
Both host read and voice talent ads…
WHAT IT IS
- Host Read: Ads created and voiced by a show's host usually read in the style of the show.
- Voice Read / Voice Talent: Ads pre-recorded by an actor or producer made just for the podcast environment.
Hear how Sonos did it with Cole Cuchna from Dissect for a custom mid-roll takeover
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Hear how Issuu did it with a voice talent actor
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- Host Read: Establishing a strong emotional connection with listeners, as your ad is voiced by someone they feel they know and trust.
- Voice Read / Voice Talent: Scale and relevance: your ad can efficiently scale across podcast audiences and shows.
WHEN TO USE IT?
- Host Read: When introducing a new product or brand OR, you need more runway to convey your message (see below re: ideal length).
- Voice Read / Voice Talent: When driving upper-funnel awareness, extending the reach of a campaign, or targeting a specific audience or a podcast’s genre.
- Host Read : Our research shows that Host Read ads are most effective when lasting no more than :60—listeners are more likely to skip ahead after that.2
- Voice Read / Voice Talent: Voice talent ads are most effective when they’re fewer than :30. Voice talent ads under :30 produced significant lifts across metrics tested, such as intent to seek more information, purchase intent, and recommendation intent.3
Podcast Ad Scripting
We recommend following this three-part formula for clarity.
While some podcast hosts signal when an ad break is coming, others do not. Always start by announcing your ad to avoid confusing the listener. This simple three-part script structure works in any placement.
- Intro: Introduce yourself, ending the intro line with the brand name: e.g., “This message comes from BRAND,” “Here’s a short message from BRAND,” “This episode is brought to you by BRAND,” etc.
- Brand message: 4-5 sentences delivering your core message
- CTA: Learn more at [BRAND] dot com.
Check out how Industrious did it.
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Check your point of view
First-person pronouns don't land in all cases.
In host-read ads, it can draw the audience right in when the host refers to themselves and their positive individual experience with the brand. But it’s confusing for listeners if an anonymous voiceover actor becomes complicit in the ad copy. With voiceovers, "we" or "us" can be used, but only when referencing humanity in the global sense; avoid using first-person narratives in those cases.
Keep an eye on claims, superlatives, and legal requirements
Consider creative time limits when there are caveats.
Watch out for claims or statistics that can’t be backed up within the ad itself. In other words: If there's not enough time to quickly explain or substantiate your claim, leave it out. This is a skippable ad format, so important disclaimers should weave into the ad’s message instead of being left for the end.
Get familiar with the script
The text should feel natural to the voice actor, not like they're reading from a script. Be sure your talent familiarizes themselves with the copy and that it sounds pleasing coming out of their mouth. If they're not comfortable pronouncing certain words, or if the phrasing has a different flow than they’re used to, it'll sound awkward. It's great to be adaptable enough to make script changes on the fly, but the voice actor should be prepared.
Follow the breath
There are natural contours to any script that signify when to take breaths. This is easy to forget when the words are on the page versus being read out loud. Try to anticipate when the voice actor will take breaths. For longer sentences, identify the natural moments for breaths and emphasize them.
Keep it casual
The goal is to be natural, like a friend sharing a tip or an exciting discovery. Podcast ad reads should be less dramatic than other voiceover styles—as a general rule, less is more.
Don't forget the call to action
Make sure the call to action at the end of your ad is delivered clearly and hits with a punch. It should be enticing to the listener and end on a conclusive note.
Check out our technical ad specs for more podcast creative and production tips.
Sources: 1 Sonic Science research, part one, Neuro-Insight and Spotify, June 2021 2 Custom Nielsen Ad Format study commissioned by Spotify/ Survey conducted from November 20 - December 9, 2020/ Sample of 5,999 respondents age 18+ who are podcast listeners and Spotify users 3 Custom Nielsen Ad Format study commissioned by Spotify/ Survey conducted from November 20 - December 9, 2020/ Sample of 5,999 respondents age 18+ who are podcast listeners and Spotify users