We have to hand it to the earliest podcast sponsors: They were on to something. The intimate nature of podcasts makes it an ideal medium for advertisers to connect with engaged listeners and support advertising goals. At the center of that connection is the podcast creator, whose familiar voice listeners grow to know and trust.
As the medium caught on, Host-Read podcast ads became advertisers' preferred format. Host-Read ads are created and voiced by the show's host, and inserted into the show dynamically or using Streaming Ad Insertion. But as podcast audiences have grown, so has advertiser demand — and the need for a creative ad format that can scale and reach more people. That's where Voice Talent ads come in.
Spotify commissioned a custom study from Nielsen to survey thousands of podcast listeners and learn how the different sound formats affect key advertiser metrics, like awareness, consideration, and purchase intent. The research evaluated how listeners responded to different types of podcast ads, such as those read by hosts and those read by podcast voice actors, with a control group that heard no ads.
Here's what we found.
When it comes to overall performance of Voice Talent ads, duration matters.
As a general rule, Voice Talent ads are most effective when they're fewer than 30 seconds long. Compared to the control, Voice Talent ads under 30 seconds produced significant lifts across metrics tested like intent to seek more information, purchase intent, and recommendation intent.1
Host-Read ads have greater emotional connection with listeners.
While both ad formats performed well across the board, Host-Read ads show a significant increase in emotional connection compared to Voice Talent ads, as represented in Familiarity and Affinity. Why? Typically, Host-Read ads lean on the trust a listener shares with that host. That emotional trust makes Host-Read ads ideal for introducing a new brand or product for the first time. We found that Host-Read ads are most effective when they're 30 to 60 seconds long.2
Despite a stated preference, audiences reacted similarly to both formats.
The study also asked listeners which type of ad they preferred. Now for a true-crime-inspired twist: Even though listeners said they preferred Host-Read ads, their behavior during and after listening to the content showed otherwise.
Across key brand metrics like recall and purchase intent, Host-Read ads and Voice Talent ads had nearly the same impact — even though 53 percent of listeners said, "I prefer ads read by the podcast host vs. ad read by someone else."3
What this means for marketers
In short, one format isn't "better" than the other. Both Host-Read and Voice Talent ads help advertisers connect with podcast listeners, drive significant mid-funnel lift, and win over new listeners. But deciding on which format to use (and when) depends on a few nuances.
So when should each type of ad format be used in a campaign? Here's what we suggest:
1. To drive upper-funnel awareness, go with 30-second Voice Talent podcast ads
This study shows Voice Talent ads are best when the goal is to drive upper-funnel goals like awareness. Bonus: They're also great for efficiently scaling across podcast audiences, episodes, and shows.
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 just need more than 30 seconds to explain your offer, Host-Read ads are the answer. They're most effective at driving an emotional connection, telling engaging stories, and enhancing the listener experience when they run around 60 seconds.
3. To scale a podcast buy, use Voice Talent ads with audience networks 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, use 30-second Voice Talent ads tailored to that audience.
Pro tip: Run Voice Talent ads across the Spotify Audience Network to reach engaged listeners both on and off Spotify. This solves the challenges of title-based podcast buying, ensuring advertisers can reach the right audiences at the right time.
In short: Don't rule out Voice Talent ads. After all, the most memorable podcast ad ever wasn't just voiced by the show's famous host. For advertisers, it's about reaching an audience in an environment when they're paying attention while streaming the shows they love.
1 Source: 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. 2 Source: 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 Source: 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.