Ever purchased something you heard about from a podcast ad (like, say, a website)?
If so, you're far from alone. Research shows that most podcast 'super listeners' (people who listen to podcasts for more than five hours per week) report taking action after hearing an advertisement on a podcast. That action might look like researching a product online, recommending a product or service to others, or making a direct purchase.1 For advertisers, this means a valuable audience of millions is just a podcast ad away.
But there’s more to a good podcast ad than an easy-to-remember discount code (although that does help). Whether you're a first-time podcast advertiser or a practiced pro, read on to learn more about the six building blocks of an effective podcast ad.
1. The voice
Let's start with the basics: Who should voice your podcast ad? As an advertiser, you have two options: Host-Read podcast ads, which show hosts read themselves in the tone and style of the podcast (these are not limited to "baked in" ads); or Voice Talent ads, which an actor or producer pre-records specifically for a podcast environment.
Both formats help advertisers connect with podcast listeners, drive midfunnel lifts, and win over new audiences.Hear how Pizza Hut used a Voice Talent ad to attract new customers and engage its existing audience of soccer fans, parents, and gaming enthusiasts:
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2. The tone
“There's a very intimate connection between the podcaster and the listener," says Cole Cuchna, host of the popular podcast Dissect. “If it's a conversational podcast, it's intimate because you feel like you're in the room. If it's a scripted show like mine, it still feels intimate because I write as if I'm talking to someone individually."
To honor that connection between host and listener, keep your podcast ads conversational. Write short sentences that reflect how people talk in real life. This way, listeners feel like they're hearing about a product from a friend. Use contractions, eliminate jargon, and write concisely with short, straightforward sentences.
It's even okay to break a few grammar rules and focus on what sounds more natural—but don't tell your grade-school English teacher we said so.
3. The length
Podcast ads come in a variety of lengths, from a few seconds to a few minutes. But what's the sweet spot for listeners?
Ultimately, the answer will depend on what you're trying to accomplish. Here are a few suggestions to hit different key performance indicators (KPIs):
• To drive upper-funnel awareness, go with 30-second Voice Talent podcast ads. A recent Nielsen study shows Voice Talent ads are best when the goal is to drive upper-funnel goals like awareness.2
• To tell a longer story and drive consideration, try 60-second Host-Read ads. To introduce a new brand, explain how a product works, or when you just need more than 30 seconds to explain your offer, Host-Read ads may be the answer. Keep in mind that a minute is quite a bit of audio real estate. If you go this route, give a little extra consideration to what your brand wants to say to a highly engaged, attentive listener—and how the ad should sound.
• To scale a podcast buy, use Voice Talent ads with an audio-first advertising marketplace like the Spotify Audience Network. If the goal is to reach a specific audience at scale and drive upper/mid-funnel goals like awareness and purchase intent, consider using 30-second Voice Talent ads tailored to that target audience.
• Short + sweet = better engagement. Longer ads tend to see a higher skip rate, while shorter ads are associated with higher engagement.3
4. The message
Think of your podcast ad as the world's shortest play—it should follow a three-part structure for clarity.
While some podcast hosts clearly signal when an ad break is coming, others don't. So always start by announcing your ad to avoid confusing the user.
Here's a sample structure to consider:
1. Intro: This episode is brought to you by [BRAND].
2. Brand message: Four to five sentences delivering your core message.
3. Call to action (CTA): Learn more at [BRAND] dot com.
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5. The background music
As it turns out, podcast ads have a lot in common with parties: They're better with music. Spotify and Veritonic found that podcast ads with music in the background are associated with higher intent lift than those without music.3
That said, make sure the background music matches the tone of the ad. Remember that music and sound effects should enhance rather than compete with the message. Avoid using music with lyrics. And leave the high intensity music for your next workout: Pulsating EDM or a roaring guitar solo can be jarring when it interrupts the content.Hear Issuu's podcast ad, which included soft, unobtrusive background music to match both their message, and the podcast:
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6. The CTA
While the length, message, and music of your podcast ads are all important, one piece of the puzzle is the most critical for driving results: the call to action (CTA).
Podcast ad CTAs have come a long way in the past few decades. Where advertisers once relied exclusively on vanity URLs and discount codes, there are now more options than ever—like call-to-action (CTA) cards, which are clickable, interactive companion display units for podcast ads. There are also online CTAs, or calls to action that encourage listeners to engage with your brand through your site, app, or social media.
Whether your call to action is heard or seen, giving your audience a clear and compelling next step is crucial. Veritonic's study showed that the inclusion of an online CTA drives nearly 2X lift in intent to purchase3 compared with an offline CTA like “head to our nearest location."
And another word to the wise: If you're including an online CTA in your script, make sure it's short and easily read aloud. If the URL or offer code is difficult to understand or spelled strangely, be sure to repeat it and/or spell it out.
Finally, back to those discount codes: Our research with Veritonic suggested that they're still the most compelling type of podcast ad CTA—and a tried and-true method for winning over podcast audiences.Hear how LinkedIn nailed their podcast CTA and drove a 19 percentage point lift in recall of their Spotify ads:
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Creating an effective podcast ad is as simple as these six steps.
Get started with your first or next podcast campaign on Spotify Ad Studio today.
Sources: 1. Edison Research & Ad Results Media, Super Listeners, 2021, US 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. Veritonic & Spotify Ad Creative Research June 2021 - June 2022