Use My Special Code: We Need To Fix Podcast Ads
It’s 7am. You’re making your breakfast and notice there’s a new episode of your favourite podcast ready to go. It’s about the weekend’s football, the week’s pop culture news, an on-going murder investigation or even an exploration into the host’s sexual history.
You press play. And there it is. The way it always opens. The host reading a set script about boxes of recipes and food that’s already chopped for you with all the enthusiasm of a school kid being forced to read in front of the class.
“You can get your own meal kit for just £1 when you use my special code IDONTBELIEVEINTHISPRODUCT”
Podcast advertising is such an essential part of keeping the podcast running. That sponsorship from Squarespace or Leesa is what pays for studio space, what pays to keep their website running, what pays the hosts.
But why are they so bad? Why is it that, whenever I hear the words “I love Stamps.com”, I want to throw my phone across the room and never buy stamps ever again, even from the Post Office, in some sort of mini rebellion that affects absolutely no one but me who now has no stamps?
Because I just don’t believe them.
The majority of podcast adverts are host-read. According to Midroll Media (one of the main players in podcast advertising), 95% of their ads were host-read as of September 2016. And it’s something that’s stuck.
But there’s only so many times you can hear a host read off the functional, bland copy every single episode. Host-read advertising is such a unique form of advertising that feels squandered, devoid of personality and fun. Creating a disconnect from the rest of the podcast and pulling you out of the experience.
So what’s the solution? Currently, the number of podcasts doing adverts well is much smaller than those doing them badly. And it becomes clear where the difference lies. The more successful ones feel natural; as if they belong as part of the show rather than a means to pay the bill. We know they’re a source of income, and the host may not always fully endorse the product. But get creative with it and it becomes more accepted by listeners.
Crooked Media’s Keep It makes their ads feel part of the conversation. Most of this is down to the chemistry of the hosts, who can play off each other and veer off on tangents as if it was just another segment of the show. Similarly, Comedy Bang Bang’s adverts have naturally spawned running jokes.
The Adam Buxton Podcast, meanwhile, features Adam Buxton flexing his creative muscles to create his own often-ridiculous advert jingles. It’s very much in the style of Buxton’s comedy and makes the ads feel like a natural addition rather than a grim inevitability.
There’s no getting over the fact that all podcasts are going to receive the same copy to work from, but transforming that copy into something else simply by injecting your own personality is key. It’s this that makes even the most farfetched ad seem more credible.