Podcasts and Politics: A Perfect Match?

This campaign season, there’s a new contender vying for attention. Podcasts. While the surging audio format continues to hold strong in household penetration as well as frequency of listening, publishers also offer more compelling ad capabilities and brands increasingly incorporate podcasts into their audio strategies. Can podcasts now help political campaigns reach potential voters? Entercom’s Ken Lagana, EVP, Digital Sales, answers frequently asked questions and offers a roadmap to November.

Q: Podcasts have been emerging for the last few years, but this year, they seem to have captured a new level of interest among campaign advertisers. What makes the environment unique now?

A: Breaking through in media today is challenging. Podcasts continue to be a highly engaging platform, and advertisers are really seeing the benefit of that engagement.  At the core of the podcast experience are the hosts, who are really influencers in their own right. Listeners look forward to hearing each episode, and these hosts truly become a part of a listener’s normal routine.  Listening becomes a habit. Studies show that people generally listen to podcasts in the time they manage to carve out for themselves. We call this “personal prime time.” It’s when they are working out, taking a walk or jog, sitting on the beach, doing chores around the house, so they are really tuned in and that advertising message is at its highest penetration level. This ability to reach an engaged listener in an environment with limited clutter and incredible influence makes podcasts a very compelling option.

Q: What are the benefits that advertising through podcasts present vs. other media channels?

A: Each channel has its virtues, and podcasts offer multiple benefits. One is the ability for a host to really make a brand’s message their own, and without time limitations of traditional media spots, which are locked into :15, :30, :60, etc. So there’s more time to really get a message across in a truly organic way.  They can also be highly targeted with the ability to onboard first party data or target specific demographic and psychographic segments across a number of highly relevant, brand-safe podcasts. That’s something advertisers lean into. Podcasts’ ability to provide a high level of precision is a relatively new and important development to be considered. Optimization and measurement have also come a long way. Being able to apply tracking, such as attribution via footfall, site traffic, actual purchases/donations, site engagement, and so on, is feasible today.

Q: Podcast advertising is still fairly uncharted territory, and perhaps even more so for political campaigns because of seasonality. Are their best practices for political advertising?

A: Political advertisers should take a page out of the overall podcast playbook—keep the listening experience in mind when thinking about creative executions. Messaging should not be overly produced with heavy sound design elements because they don’t need to be. Unlike other media environments, ads in podcasts don’t need to be as disruptive to stand out. Also, given the ability to target different segments, advertisers should feel confident in being able to tailor messages to different constituents, which creates a more meaningful connection. Today, a targeted approach may be even more important than ever before.

 Q: What kinds of ad units and other opportunities are there in podcasts? Which do you think will be most relevant for political advertisers?

A: Traditional units are available, and there is so much more. Some hosts will be more willing than others to personally deliver a campaign’s message, depending on how they align. But the opportunity is there to have a sort of implied endorsement from a very influential voice. There is plenty of room for creativity as podcasts tend to be more flexible than traditional media spots. It’s also easier to produce or pivot to a new piece of creative in audio than in video. That level of flexibility is absolutely critical in today’s environment. It will be important to work with a trusted partner who can help guide the process and find placements and partnerships that will be most impactful.

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