Feb. 2, 2022

Podcast Advertising From An Agency Perspective With Glenn Rubenstein

Podcast Advertising From An Agency Perspective With Glenn Rubenstein

We talk a lot about what podcast advertising is like from a brand's perspective, but what about the agencies that support these brands? How do they manage to bridge the partnership between podcasters, networks, rep firms, and brands?


We talk a lot about what podcast advertising is like from a brand's or podcaster's perspective, but what about the agencies that support these brands? How do they manage to bridge the partnership between podcasters, networks, rep firms, and brands?

In this episode with Glenn Rubenstein, Founder of Adopter Media, we discuss how the industry is evolving and how Glen and his agency are pivoting to adjust to the changes. We also talk about managing advertisers' and publishers' expectations to find success for all.

With over 100 million dollars in ads placed since he started, Glenn shares his expert knowledge about what makes a successful campaign and what we should be watching out for as the industry grows.

To connect with Glenn, visit Adopter Media, or connect with Glenn on LinkedIn.


This transcript has been edited.

[00:00:29] Heather Osgood: Hello and welcome to The Podcast Advertising Playbook. I'm your host, Heather Osgood. And today on the show, I have the founder of Adopter Media, Glenn Rubinstein. Welcome to the program. 

[00:00:40] Glenn Rubenstein: Thanks for having me. 

[00:00:41] Heather Osgood: So Glenn, I feel like I have known you for many years. We just passed our six-year anniversary at True Native Media, which is crazy.

[00:00:49] Heather Osgood: But I think you have had your company for about as long or maybe longer, right? 

[00:00:53] Glenn Rubenstein: Yeah. This is my 11th year, maybe going into my 12th year in the space, and Adopter Media has been around since the end of [00:01:00] 2015. 

[00:01:00] Heather Osgood: Wow. That is crazy. So you better than most know about how to make podcasts, advertising work. And so we're here today just to talk to you about all the ins and outs of the industry that you have seen be successful.

[00:01:13] Heather Osgood: And of course, things have changed so much from the beginning. But why don't you, why don't you start by telling us a little bit about your journey in this space? 

[00:01:22] Glenn Rubenstein: Absolutely. So I began I guess 2010 working for a network called This Week In Tech, doing a podcast originally about video games and computers, which is something I'd had a background in as a teenage video game journalist in the nineties.

[00:01:35] Glenn Rubenstein: That's how I knew Leo Laporte. And I got involved with Twit and did a video game show there. Through just a series of events. In my off time being a journalist, I'd also been doing a lot of marketing and marketing consulting. So I got involved with Twit by being their Director Of Marketing, and then that quickly pivoted to a role in working in ad sales.

[00:01:56] Glenn Rubenstein: And at the time podcasts advertising was still [00:02:00] incredibly new to most advertisers. I think there were maybe a dozen in the industry overall, maybe four, with any regularity. And really found that I took great joy in bringing new brands into the space, educating them about podcasts. Why podcast advertising works, really at the same time while I was learning it myself.

[00:02:19] Glenn Rubenstein: And then over the course of five years, got to where I was doing millions in ad sales, and I was definitely hitting ceiling. And also finding an opportunity where a lot of brands that I worked with and was placing on the network, we're saying, Hey, we would love you to help us find other opportunities and scale and grow our marketing beyond just the network that you work at.

[00:02:37] Glenn Rubenstein: So really taking that leap at the end of 2015. It was huge. And with that founded Adopter Media, And was able to very nicely take the core clients that I had at This Week In Tech, help them grow, and scale their podcasts across multiple networks, multiple opportunities. And then from there, it just really snowballed to now where we placed over $20 million in ads last year. We've got about two dozen [00:03:00] clients and going into 2022. Much like yourself, Heather, I think every year we've both been in this business has been the most insane year podcast advertising has ever had. And going into 2022, I honestly don't know how it can get much crazier than this. 

[00:03:14] Heather Osgood: No, it's totally true. Now, when you started, I think you started very similarly to true native media where you were originally representing the podcasters and finding advertisers for them. Is that correct? 

[00:03:25] Glenn Rubenstein: I think I dabbled in that a little bit. I know brand first was always the way that I looked at things simply because recognizing who has the money and who needs the help spending it, I thought was a really great opportunity.

[00:03:39] Glenn Rubenstein: At the same time I looked into representing podcasters and I think it was after about a week, you know, getting an email from one or two podcasts saying, Hey, where are my ads? How come you are not selling me hard enough. I said you know what? I don't want to deal with podcasters anymore, representationally. 

[00:03:55] Heather Osgood: So you really focus. Your whole agency is focused around working with brands, helping them create effective campaigns and you just do podcast advertising. You don't do any other kind of media buying? 

[00:04:07] Glenn Rubenstein: There's a natural overlap with YouTube, and I think that overlap grows more and more. But still, we consider ourselves a podcast ad agency, a hundred percent.

[00:04:14] Glenn Rubenstein: We've outsourced some radio work in the past. We've done some YouTube buys. We do social media when it makes sense as an extension of a podcast campaign. But I would say that looking at last year, certainly, 99% of every dollar that we placed for a brand had a podcast element to it. And it's interesting to see how this industry grows, evolves, and changes because when we started, this was very much built on that Leo Laporte model I learned to Twit, where it was old school baked in ads.

[00:04:41] Glenn Rubenstein: Not even recorded separately. Recorded within the content of a show. Those were real baked in it. Oh yeah. Leo would do a two-hour show and he would probably spend five minutes each doing these ads that felt like actual content. And it's been interesting to see the industry try and get away from that.

[00:04:57] Glenn Rubenstein: And I can tell you, as someone who's spent an absurd amount of money in this space on behalf of brands, the closer we get to that old-school methodology and approach for brands, that works better than anything else. 

[00:05:08] Heather Osgood: I'm fascinated by books about the end of advertising and how advertising.

[00:05:13] Heather Osgood: You know, people don't like it. People are looking for ad blockers. And yet where we have in so many ways, this gold mine of these host-read endorsement ads, we all want to get away from that. We all want to go to like, how do we programmatically insert everything. And it just it's so, it's so interesting to me because that's what people want, and that's what works.

[00:05:37] Heather Osgood: So I guess that brings me to a great question, which is if you're sitting down with a brand and saying like how to create an effective podcast campaign, what are the cornerstones of really creating something that's going to be successful for a brand? 

[00:05:51] Glenn Rubenstein: Well, I think first and foremost, you want really relevant placements. And regardless of the style of ad that you're doing, you want something that works [00:06:00] with your audience. With your core demographic. And looking at things that are relevant, audience-wise, really far outweighs the importance of anything else. 

[00:06:09] Glenn Rubenstein: Content relevance actually can work against you in many ways because for instance, if you're a makeup brand or skincare brand and you're advertising on a health and beauty podcast, the majority of that content is going to be already geared towards products that are adjacent to you or products that are competing with you. And you're not going to win over a lot of new customers because they're probably already familiar with your brand. If they're hardcore enough to be listening to a health and beauty-based podcast. So where we find we can flip the script a little bit is looking at what the audience fit is and what are other ways we can reach that audience through content that's complementary rather than so on point that it actually doesn't resonate.

[00:06:52] Glenn Rubenstein: So I think we spent a lot of time with brands trying to find those opportunities with the adjacents in the overlap. I look at it this way. With health products and we do represent a number of [00:07:00] brands that have health fitness lifestyle improvement components to them. If you're already listening to a keto podcast or a hardcore workout podcast, you're already mail ordering your own bread.

[00:07:11] Glenn Rubenstein: You're already very hardcore into this. There's a lot more opportunity to reach the health-curious crowd that you're going to get through a comedy podcast, a political podcast, lifestyle podcasts, true crime podcasts. Like you're going to have way more opportunities to attract customers there than going after the people that are already your target audience. 

[00:07:32] Heather Osgood: I am so excited to hear you say that. And I appreciate you sharing that because I feel I always call it matchy, right? It's like we say, oh well, I'm a health product. That means I have to advertise on a health podcast and I always say it's not like it's bad necessarily, but I think what you're saying is totally true.

[00:07:50] Heather Osgood: It's those people who are already buying products. Why not get people who are ready to start buying something or who are curious about the products? I think that [00:08:00] is so valuable, but then of course we do get into kind of the messiness of how do you really determine the right demographics of a podcast? I feel like that is kind of Pandora's box.

[00:08:11] Heather Osgood: Sometimes Spotify, I feel has helped a lot for us to be able to get better kinds of audience demographics. But do you feel like you've got a good tool to really identify who is listening to a show? 

[00:08:22] Glenn Rubenstein: I mean, I feel it's part art, part science. I know a lot of networks provide their own demographic information and I encourage any and every advertiser to take that with a huge grain of salt, because survey data is self-selecting. And we don't know the scientific method or research, or, how accurate that actually is. But I think you can get a really good sense of what's working for advertisers, by looking at who the other advertisers are that are advertising on that podcast.

[00:08:47] Glenn Rubenstein: And you don't want to be looking for direct competition. In fact, you're going to be locked out of those podcasts if it's your direct competition. But we'll get things that, that you think have a similar audience demographic too, to your product or service and [00:09:00] figure out where the overlaps are there.

[00:09:01] Glenn Rubenstein: So for doing something in the healthy food space, like what's Daily Harvest running on? Not just what are they running on? What are they renewing on? That's the other key as well? I think a lot of advertisers do limited research and sometimes don't understand how to view the results through a holistic prism of what is the complete perspective of the data I should be looking at on this. 

[00:09:26] Glenn Rubenstein: So understanding who's advertising with the podcast, yes, that's important. But knowing who's renewing with the podcast is worlds more valuable to get a sense of who this is working for, especially in the direct response realm. 

[00:09:37] Glenn Rubenstein: And then further, I think. And this is probably where we come into play as an agency is that we have a huge unfair advantage in that. Okay. So not only do we place $20 million last year, but to date, I've placed over a hundred million in podcast ads. And the vast majority of that is direct response, meaning we know who the winners and losers are. And we can look at that data and then also match.

[00:09:59] Glenn Rubenstein: Our [00:10:00] internal metrics and say okay, this has worked for nine out of 10 products and services. We've advertised through it. It's worked for these types of brands. Their audience really resonates well with these sorts of products. And we're able to make more informed decisions for our clients based on that internal data.

[00:10:15] Glenn Rubenstein: And I think with that in mind, we also. It's not just that we know what's working. We know what's still working because I think that when you have these tools out there, that will let you research this data, and charge you a healthy fee to research this data about historical advertisers on a podcast.

[00:10:34] Glenn Rubenstein: The other challenge is you don't know what that advertiser was paying for that spot. And if your information is six months out of date, a year out of date and some cases, three months out of date, depending on the network, you could be looking at something, and yeah, that worked incredibly well for one advertiser, but they were paying 50% of what you're going to be paying now due to audience growth or an advertiser demand.

[00:10:53] Glenn Rubenstein: So I think that as an agency, we're able to offer a lot of value in terms of knowing who's still performing, whatever the current price point is. [00:11:00] 

[00:11:00] Heather Osgood: And are you using a tool like Magellan to research that information? Or what do you have specific tools that you use? 

[00:11:07] Glenn Rubenstein: Podsights has a free research tool. We've definitely made use of that. I do full disclosure. I am an investor in Podsights. 

[00:11:16] Heather Osgood: I forgot about that, but yeah I haven't tried that tool, but it seems interesting 

[00:11:21] Glenn Rubenstein: It's nice. So Magellan is doing it. Podscribe is doing it. Someone told me that the day a Podchaser is starting to get into, I think they are this as well.

[00:11:29] Glenn Rubenstein: So I think it's interesting. I know Thought Leaders offer something and these tools are great. I like Podsights cause it's free as part of being a member there. And I think, I think that definitely kick the tires before you sign something long-term for one of these tools. And recognize it again, grain of salt, this is just more data to feed into your information funnel.

[00:11:51] Glenn Rubenstein: But again, the pricing is what they're not going to be able to tell you. And I think that. You know, And I don't care if it's us, any agent, any agency [00:12:00] that's been in this space. I think if you're coming into the podcast ad space and you haven't done this before, it is probably a good idea to seek out somebody who advocates for brands and buys for brands.

[00:12:12] Glenn Rubenstein: We're representing the brand, we're representing the advertiser. But what we're really trying to do is work with our network reps and work with the podcasters directly, almost to, to create a win-win-win. That's where it just works for everyone.

[00:12:23] Glenn Rubenstein: And I think the challenge is you're going to, you go to a network and if you've never done this before you go to a network and say, Hey, we want to advertise our products and service. Well, it's in the network's best interest to say well, every podcast on our network would be a great fit for you. Here's let's sign you up.

[00:12:36] Glenn Rubenstein: Let's do it all we can. And I think in our case, we're trying to help advertisers really make informed buying decisions. And sometimes it's knowing what works, but additionally it's working with them to see where their instincts are, and what their ideas are, and to help give them some real world perspective on what they should perhaps stay away from, because we've got the battle scars or just the bad experience to relay about advertising at [00:13:00] some podcast that, that haven't worked for any of our clients. And, ultimately we'll back their play. We'll do what they want to do, but I do feel that we need to give them, full transparency in what we've seen in our history with any podcasts. 

[00:13:11] Heather Osgood: Yeah, for sure. Now I'm curious. Do you find that the shows that work the best sell out? And that, I mean, I, I know that in our corner of the world, we definitely sell shows out. And I'm curious if you're running into more and more of that. Cause I think that's becoming more of an issue. 

[00:13:32] Glenn Rubenstein: It is, but on the flip side, and this is what's dangerous for the industry. I saw that article on the verge a while ago, talking about the increase in prices causing some longtime advertisers to like not to renew with podcasts anymore.

[00:13:47] Glenn Rubenstein: And I think. 

[00:13:47] Heather Osgood: The people who need to invest a million dollars to be on Joe Rogan. Is that what you are talking about?

[00:13:51] Glenn Rubenstein: Well that, and some podcasts that just raise their rates? I recommend everybody watch the YouTube channel Defunctland had a great thing about the history of Disney's FastPass. And one thing they talked about was that when you arm your customers with data and that data is available to everyone about how to hack the system and work the system to high effect, and everybody figures it out.

[00:14:14] Glenn Rubenstein: It creates this almost inelastic demand. So what happens when you have inelastic demand and this, everybody having the same playbook or data points, and we see that with these podcasts that works so well, right? Because with the podcasts that perform well if it works really well and you're getting a $25 CPM and you say, Hey, I feel like we're selling out and turning on people away next year.

[00:14:34] Glenn Rubenstein: Maybe we should try $50 CPM and see what that does. And I think right now, what we're witnessing. COVID delayed this mentality and this strategy by about two years. But I think that now what we're seeing going into 2022, I mean, Hey, if you're a podcaster and your podcast is selling out constantly, by all means, do what you can to get paid and do what you can to make things.

[00:14:55] Glenn Rubenstein: But what I am seeing at the same time are some podcasts that are turning down [00:15:00] very real dollars from long-term advertisers and long-term relationships that would probably be rock solid for the length of an entire year. They're turning down that money. It's normally not the podcast. I think it's like the network that believes hypothetically, if they hold that inventory, maybe only sell it quarter by quarter, maybe sell it at a higher price. They might make more. But what's funny though, is there's never been a flow, right? Because if you raise those prices and you're still not sold out, and then you're putting out shows with fewer ads, we'll get free advertisers that did pay that, but might there be more to make by fostering more of these long-term relationships at a price that worked for everyone

[00:15:37] Heather Osgood: No, I totally agree. And it's, and it is so difficult because in many ways we're on the opposite side that you are where we've got these shows we're representing and it's like, we had some shows that sold out mid-year and I was like, oh my gosh, Why didn't we raise the rates?

[00:15:52] Heather Osgood: Like we should have raised rates sooner. They're already sold out, you know? And now going into the year, we've got the question of, man, if a show is sold [00:16:00] out, if we have a cancellation, do we raise the rates? Because obviously, we want it to be a win-win. What I hear you saying that is so important, especially for podcasters to think about, which I don't think they always do, is it has to be a good investment for the advertiser.

[00:16:17] Heather Osgood: And if the advertiser suddenly doesn't get the return that they're looking for, they're not going to keep advertising. And it's that number isn't endless. So unless we're doing brand advertising, which I know brand advertising is increasing in this space, which is great, but there are still are a lot of direct response advertisers.

[00:16:33] Heather Osgood: So it's really important as a podcaster that you understand who's advertising with you? What their expectations are? What their goals are? Because ultimately it does need to be a positive return. And if you just keep jacking that price up, it's not really benefiting anyone and it's not even benefiting the show, ultimately, because I think at the end of the day, are they even going to make as much money as maybe they did the year before?

[00:16:57] Glenn Rubenstein: And what's that going to look like? If you're a podcast and you're putting up a pretty consistent return. And here's the craziest thing about direct response advertising. I got in this business cause I love advertising. I love marketing. I love creating meaningful connections around great content. Truth be told with direct response advertising, I am a glorified stock portfolio, money market manager that is just betting on horses for my clients and looking at it. Here's the prediction part of our fund. Here's the part that's more experimental and here's the part that will maybe only work at a certain price.

[00:17:27] Glenn Rubenstein: I'm always going to be trying new things, but I always have to call that fund and call that spend based on what's not working anymore. So the other thing is, and we've seen this, we've seen this in competitive categories. I mean, We're, we have very candid and transparent conversations with a lot of our podcasting partners.

[00:17:44] Glenn Rubenstein: And we see this sometimes where, they'll be saying, okay, with one brand, we know they're really easy to work with and maybe they're going to pay us a little bit less, but we know it'll be a very, long-term beneficial, low-maintenance relationship where everybody's [00:18:00] happy. And they're going to give us free rein to do what we want.

[00:18:02] Glenn Rubenstein: And yeah, we went there to get $5 more CPM by going with this other brand. But they're going to be going over every single ad with a fine tooth comb and saying, you're only at 58 seconds and we paid for 60. We need to make good. Like podcasters need to keep this in mind. And networks need to keep this in mind.

[00:18:16] Glenn Rubenstein: It's about the balance, right? It's yes, money is important, but how dependable is that spend, and how much maintenance is going to be required? And it's the same thing. If I was paying you a $25 CPM last year and a $50 CPM this year. Me and, and our team of six, we're going to have to be all over the performance of that.

[00:18:35] Glenn Rubenstein: And if we start to see a dip performance, you're going to get that call from me the second I see it and saying, Hey, we need to boost this. We maybe need to reduce the number of spots through the rest of the year. You're creating a situation that in the best case scenario could work, but realistically is going to need some management as the year goes on. 

[00:18:52] Heather Osgood: So let's talk about the mechanisms. Do you find that there are certain size shows that work best, certain [00:19:00] CPMs that work best? What do you see there? 

[00:19:03] Glenn Rubenstein: I think for podcasters, the lowest barrier to entry is anything that's at, you know, like a $20 CPM or less with an audience that's probably 50,000 listeners or less.

[00:19:17] Glenn Rubenstein: And I say lowest barrier to entry, meaning that you're going to be able to sell that all day long because advertisers aren't going to blink. They're going to say, Hey, let's buy five episodes at that price. They want to spread it around. It's like they don't want to put all their eggs in one basket. And for me, the scariest things are the podcasts out there where it's no, we have 3 million listeners, an episode and a $30 CPM, and they're going to a brand.

[00:19:39] Glenn Rubenstein: They say well, should we maybe split that up. Slice and dice it over 12 other podcasts? So I actually liked smaller opportunities and lower barrier to entry risks for our clients because it means we can do more of them. And when they work and when they work really well, people really value that.

[00:19:59] Glenn Rubenstein: But with the large podcasts, it's kind of crazy too, right? Because I think the larger podcasts, the ones that do get in the millions of downloads. You can have success and you could have ones that do okay. But I think dollar for dollar, you're going to see much more return on your investment going on small and mid-sized podcasts than larger ones.

[00:20:16] Glenn Rubenstein: I think there's a variety of reasons for that. One is just that, you get such a massive scale and yes, it's going to work and yes, you're going to notice it. But it's you're not going to find those unicorns that just seriously over-performed based on what you're spending. But additionally, I think that podcasters that are at that level are probably getting such high profile opportunities, whether brand awareness of brands that want to reach massive scale. Or they have direct response advertisers, not that are oversaturating the show, but ones that are keeping it in the mix. So they probably have more individual advertisers running at a less frequent cadence than smaller podcasts that tend to have the same core advertisers that support the show on an ongoing basis. 

[00:20:55] Glenn Rubenstein: So I think because of that they perform, but the scale is really [00:21:00] the benefit you're getting from it, not the dollar for dollar ROI. But then additionally, on those larger podcasts, and this is no knock against them. I mean, we have successful relationships with a lot of large shows. But if you're making that kind of money, where you're charging serious five figures per spot, or in some cases like a six-figure spot. And if you're doing that with any frequency and regularity, I think as a podcaster. You're, you're almost, this sounds so strange. Even as I say the words, thinking about that amount of money, but I think as a podcast, or you're almost not investing as much in your advertiser, as someone who has 20,000 listens is getting 500 bucks an ad, like the podcasts are getting $500 an ad is going to just care about you a lot more and probably do a much better job because they know they don't have a line out the door for other people waiting to replace you.

[00:21:47] Heather Osgood: I totally agree with that. And I think that's the value of the mid-level show for sure. I also really think that when you have smaller shows, you have more engaged audiences. The reality is that if you are some nobody podcast or creating some, off the wall content, and you've got 20,000 people who want to listen to that, there's a reason those 20,000 people are there and it's because they like you.

[00:22:11] Heather Osgood: And they like what you are doing. Yeah, Whereas, like when you look at the bigger shows and the, I feel like celebrity podcasts are just like the thing now. Right? Like since COVID all the celebrities in the world are like, I need a podcast. Those are the types of shows where people are going because they want to listen to that celebrity.

[00:22:25] Heather Osgood: There isn't maybe that same kind of connection. Oh, I could be like the host or I'm like friends with the host there. I just don't think that people view them the same way. So to me, the effectiveness of that endorsement is really weakened by the fact that, oh yeah, big celebrity, multi-millionaire, you can afford that and you buy it, great. Like how does that relate to me where the smaller podcasters do? So I think there's a lot to be said for that. 

[00:22:53] Glenn Rubenstein: Absolutely. And, you know, I can say this being a podcast for myself and doing a podcast that reaches like a very engaged [00:23:00] community. It is astounding to me to see how much of a connection there is within these highly engaged communities. I got roped into a couple of years ago hosting a podcast for fun about professional wrestling and I get it.

[00:23:17] Glenn Rubenstein: I didn't start the podcast and I feel like it believe me it's worked sometimes. But what keeps me there is the community. We have 10,000 listeners and I get messages on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on people that don't only want to talk about wrestling but are saying like, Hey, your podcasts this is what I listened to.

[00:23:35] Glenn Rubenstein: When I worked, this is what I listened to. When I work out, it helped me through some tough times. There's a real community there. And when I advertise or recommend a product or service, I don't do it if it's not something that I really believe in and thinks that I can really speak to authentically.

[00:23:51] Glenn Rubenstein: And I think the audience sees that. And that's what I look for in the same thing with the ads that we buy at Adopter Media. I mean, we're looking for people that really believe it. [00:24:00] And audience audiences could tell insincerity. 

[00:24:03] Glenn Rubenstein: And for me the trend, I don't like, I mean, programmatic ads, it's a whole different argument and discussion to have. But with dynamic advertising, what I don't like is you can hear on some of these podcasts that the podcasters going in on their day off, or they're taking five minutes after the show. And they're just banging these out, banging out these tight sixties one after the next. They're talking really fast.

[00:24:28] Glenn Rubenstein: There's no sincerity in their voice. You know, I think back to what Leo LaPorte does at Twit at This Week In Tech. And, you know, I used to, I worked in that studio for five years, so I would hear Leo doing every ad. And no matter the advertising, no matter what the content or story was of the podcast, Leo would really take the time to tell a meaningful story about how the product or service was important to him, important to his audience.

[00:24:50] Glenn Rubenstein: And he would go out of his way to make everything engaging. And I think that with a lot of these dynamic ads that are just batch recorded one after the next, and they're trying to juice and get [00:25:00] every cent out of every impression possible. I think it is starting to come across as inauthentic and insincere and you know, I don't even need to see the data to tell you that those ads are not working as well as the ones that are thoughtful, meaningful, and engaging. Because that's what sells products. 

[00:25:17] Heather Osgood: So what I hear you saying is it isn't necessarily the dynamic nature of things. It's really the time and attention that the host is putting into that sincere endorsement of the product.

[00:25:28] Heather Osgood: So if that product is something that they really are giving their attention to, and I try to explain to our podcasters that when you create an engaging ad, people are going to listen to the ad. And when people listen to the ad, then they will buy that product. Like If you create an ad that no one wants to listen to, they're going to fast forward through it and that's not going to help anyone.

[00:25:54] Heather Osgood: Ultimately, it doesn't help the podcaster because they aren't going to get those returns on investments. And we really want, you know, 78% of people in a recent study said that they responded to podcast advertising. That's an insanely high number. We need to make sure as industry professionals. And as pod-casters out there that you're giving a good, sincere endorsement of a product, because if you're not long in the long run, you're costing yourself money. 

[00:26:27] Glenn Rubenstein: Yeah. I mean, Heather, let me give you an example here right now, the difference between a baked in native ad read and what we get in terms of transition and authenticity versus something that's dynamic.

[00:26:37] Glenn Rubenstein: So Heather, you talk about fast-forwarding, and in life, day to day, we all feel we're all trying to move fast. We're trying to get through it. And what do we do a lot of the time when we're doing that activity, we forget to hydrate. We forget to drink water and water is so important. Has it been all about the water?

[00:26:51] Glenn Rubenstein: Do you drink much water? Are you drinking enough? Probably not, but I drink water and that's why we need our audience to all, remember you need the hydrate, you need to be drinking water, making sure you're hydrated and those moments they're going to go just a little bit slower because you're going to be focused.

[00:27:06] Glenn Rubenstein: You're going to be engaged. You're going to really be just interacting and engaging with you in a day with in a way that you haven't before. So you get that transition when you do an ad. That's a part of the episode now with the dynamic. You get this cut in. Hey, everybody. I just want to take a second here.

[00:27:22] Glenn Rubenstein: Pay some bills. Talk to you a little bit about water. How do you know about water? We all know about water. We'll drink water. Are you drinking enough water? And it's this motormouth delivery that sounds very abrupt and abrasive. And the audience just cannot hit that skip button soon enough.

[00:27:34] Heather Osgood: I tell the podcasters that we work with, I'm like, please, don't say, we're going to talk about a sponsor. Please don't say that. That doesn't help anyone. All that does is it says please fast forward now. So anything that you can do start your ad read with a story. Start it with an engaging story.

[00:27:55] Heather Osgood: That is the best way to start an ad read and then talk about the product and talk about [00:28:00] how it's important to you and your life and why you're excited to have the sponsor, right? Why you're excited about this product. It's so important and it's not done that way. And I would agree with you that I think we are definitely hitting a place in the industry far more than we were six years ago.

[00:28:18] Heather Osgood: Right. Where the hosts are just like, got to pay the bills, got to get through this. And I feel like that is the worst approach to podcast ads you could have because it's just killing the industry. So we really need to work on getting back to the basics of that host right.

[00:28:32] Heather Osgood: Endorsement. 

[00:28:33] Glenn Rubenstein: Well, and even the idea of using the product and service, do something meaningful. We make that a requirement of every ad that we place. If we ever hear an ad go out and the podcaster says, you know, I haven't tried this, but I'm definitely interested to try it.

[00:28:47] Glenn Rubenstein: Or, you know, if you're in the market for this, you should definitely check it. I mean, This is just like, oh, that is an ad killer. Like, you can't do that. I want, look, I don't need everything to be you telling me a life story about how the product or service absolutely changed your life since [00:29:00] childhood.

[00:29:00] Glenn Rubenstein: I don't need that. And I don't want you to fake that either, but I just want you to spend 15 minutes, using the product or service, familiarizing yourself with the talking points. If you're a host, you will earn massive points with our agency. If you show up to your own onboarding calls and don't just send a producer, you know, and tell me that you actually are putting some thought into this.

[00:29:20] Glenn Rubenstein: And it's funny, cause I don't wanna be critical and saying that this is something that's overly prevalent in the industry, but at the same time to what you're saying. Yeah. These are the things I worry about killing the industry that I would very much like to see, continue for your sake, for my sake, for the sake of podcasting as a whole, and certainly our advertisers.

[00:29:39] Glenn Rubenstein: And I just, I'm seeing this more and more. This is like the pervasive idea, this gold rush mentality. And it's more on the network side, but it's definitely on the podcast side as well. And because I think that we're all trying to figure out at the same time, we're all trying to figure out how much longer does this industry has in its current incarnation before it just becomes like digital radio and streaming ads.

[00:30:04] Glenn Rubenstein: And so there is that sort of, Hey, let's make what we can make while we can make it mentality. And I understand that to an extent. But isn't there a way that we could find a way to preserve what works about this and keep it going for the long run and not just have to have this attitude that we need to make what we can now?

[00:30:19] Glenn Rubenstein: And, before, before the bubble bursts.

[00:30:23] Heather Osgood: I totally agree with you 1000%. I like programmatic ads. I think that they serve such a huge purpose because the reality is that we're never going to sell a hundred percent of inventory or impressions. I think that there is a place for them to backfill, but if they become the industry, we are literally going to kill the heart of what makes podcasts special? What makes us different. And the reality is that, how does it help us as an industry? From an industry perspective, from an advertiser perspective, how does it help us to get rid of the lifeblood of what really makes this [00:31:00] industry special and different and gets those 78% reaction rates to advertisements?

[00:31:06] Heather Osgood: We really have to protect it. And I really do think, and I'm curious about your perspective, as long as we can hold onto the influencer marketing aspect of host read ads, I think we'll be okay. And I really do think that Spotify is doing some interesting and engaging things in the industry.

[00:31:24] Heather Osgood: The reality is that they are one of the only. I mean, there are others, but I think that they're the leader as an audio first kind of company that is coming in to invest in the space. So I see the place of everything that is happening, but I'm curious, what are your thoughts or what are your predictions about where the industry is headed?

[00:31:42] Glenn Rubenstein: If I was doing programmatic or targeted audio, Spotify would be my number one choice simply because they own the players. So they have the best demographic data on the actual consumers that you're targeting. They can also give you skip data, fulfillment data. They can provide an additional layer there to where I think they are by far the best option for programmatic and targeted ads.

[00:32:01] Glenn Rubenstein: But with where the industry is headed, I think the challenge is, and then this. Spotify and this isn't even to call like one company out, but I think that you've got a lot of these huge corporations that were previously radio companies, streaming audio companies, or satellite radio companies that are now getting into podcasting.

[00:32:23] Glenn Rubenstein: And I think that they're not looking at it with the split between new episodes and then back catalog. And we do our programmatic and dynamic insertion. We slice and dice it on the back catalog. I think they're looking at it all like 360, all impressions. Like we're gonna, we're going to cut these up any number of ways.

[00:32:40] Glenn Rubenstein: And I think that's a real threat to the industry because It's a different way of looking at things. And it's one where it's going to satisfy the needs of some larger brands that want to come in and kick the tires and say, okay, we just want this number of impressions. And we just want to reach consumers in these geographic areas.

[00:32:59] Glenn Rubenstein: But then by [00:33:00] doing that and opening that up, you're almost leaving all the impressions that they don't want or what you're filling for your other advertisers. And it creates this really weird imbalance. So I w I worry about that. I worry the more that we open up all catalog sales to programmatic and dynamic that it's just going to get spread so thin.

[00:33:15] Glenn Rubenstein: It's not really going to work for anyone. And at the same time, we have a lot of brand awareness clients. We've done a fair amount of brand awareness advertising. And I can tell you that it is a complete fallacy and fantasy if this industry thinks that brand awareness money is going to lead to that low effort, like nobody's going to rake you over the coals over, over the number of signups you did it on a coupon code. There's different accountability with brand awareness advertising. And it's not bad. I think our clients are a hundred percent right on this and we definitely help them with this. Brands that we've seen come into the space don't want to just go out and buy raw impressions.

[00:33:52] Glenn Rubenstein: We've actually seen brands care more about the podcasters they're aligning with and the quality of the ads themselves and the authenticity of the ads themselves. They actually care more about that than our direct response clients. Here's the great thing about direct response, we've all heard the famous Bill Burr's Sherries Berries ads.

[00:34:07] Glenn Rubenstein: Tim Dillon did an ad for the Magic Spoon, then went completely off the rails two years ago, but it ended up being like a half an hour ad like a piece of performance art. And with direct response is very forgiving if you're making the sales and they're breaking even or hitting their KPIs off an ad.

[00:34:23] Glenn Rubenstein: That's what they look at the bottom line. So it's the director you're going to see directly that that's why you hear direct response ads on all sorts of content is because it's if it's making the money and it's working for them, that's ultimately what direct response cares about. you know, as long as, As long as you're not crossing the line in key areas. But with brand awareness, it is much more about that.

[00:34:44] Glenn Rubenstein: When Dunkin Donuts was in the space, they didn't say, Hey, we just want to go out and buy a hundred million raw impressions. No, they wanted to work with Bill Simmons because they liked how Bill Simmons told stories about going to Dunkin Donuts.

[00:34:53] Glenn Rubenstein: And that was part of his life, his entire lifetime. And it really was important to him. So I think that in the short term, we see some programmatic buys happening. But not with as much predictability. That's the other thing that I challenge people to all the time. If I name anyone to add uh, name, direct response advertisers, them off the top of your head, but with brand awareness, like who's doing this consistently over a period of time in the brand awareness space.

[00:35:18] Heather Osgood: That is such a good question. And I really don't know the answer. I mean, I will say I know the answers from looking at the charts of advertisers, but I don't know them from actually hearing them advertise on the shows that I listened to. So that is really interesting. By saying that, are you saying that you don't feel like brand advertisers are advertising as consistently as direct response advertisers?

[00:35:44] Heather Osgood: Is that way we're not recognizing them?

[00:35:46] Glenn Rubenstein: Absolutely. A hundred percent. I mean, Geico and Progressive are the two brand awareness advertisers that I hear with pre-produced ads, like consistently over time. And I think that, you know, again, I don't even need to look at it. I'm sure they're getting [00:36:00] rock bottom remnant rates to do these.

[00:36:02] Glenn Rubenstein: That's the other part too, which we should talk about is like what these ads are worth versus host ad read. Sure. For sure. But to my point though, yeah, here, and I can tell you the same thing with our brand awareness clients. It's seasonal. It's a couple of months out of the year. It's still experimental enough.

[00:36:20] Glenn Rubenstein: That they know, this is something they want in the mix. But even look at TV and radio, if you're not McDonald's, Coke, or Pepsi, you're not running 12 months a year brand awareness campaigns. You're doing it when you have new products, when you have new things. So with brand awareness, it is not predictable, but with direct response, every new advertiser that we work with basically tells me some version of this.

[00:36:43] Glenn Rubenstein: They say, we need to come in and prove out the medium. And if we can make this work, the sky's the limit on budget. We will spend in line with what we can make. And this will be an always on thing. In fact, it's if it's going well. In fact, the only times we've had a direct response [00:37:00] advertisers take a break is when we've sold them out of product.

[00:37:04] Heather Osgood: That is such a good point. I don't know that I have ever heard anyone talk about that. So I really appreciate that because you're totally right. And I have thought like everyone else, we just need more brand advertisers. When we get the brand advertisers in that's like the holy grail, everything will be good.

[00:37:18] Heather Osgood: We won't need to worry about data or demographics. Well, we won't need to track things and track conversions and all of those things, but you were totally right. I've never thought about it from that perspective. Brand advertising is much less consistent than direct response because why would it be as consistent?

[00:37:35] Glenn Rubenstein: And you're going to be held accountable to entirely different standards. Yeah. And I'm not saying that like is a bad or a good thing, but don't think that they're not paying attention. And I think that's the fantasy. I think that, Heather, we've all been on that call before from the direct response brand that says this ad only did one signup.

[00:37:55] Glenn Rubenstein: What can we do to boost these sales? We all hate that. That's the worst part of this [00:38:00] job. And I feel like the brand awareness fantasy is trying to move away from that thing in the Coke or Pepsi is just going to pull up a truckload of money. They're going to place their ads. And then no, one's going to think about it.

[00:38:09] Glenn Rubenstein: They're just going to, you know, pay their bills on time. But that's, we have not seen that. With brand awareness, we are working just as hard or in some cases it's actually harder. It's just in different areas than with direct response. But it is still largely experimental. Part of that's the CPM also.

[00:38:23] Glenn Rubenstein: So Progressive and Geico, yeah, buying like $2 CPM rock bottom remnant rates. That makes sense for them. But, yeah, here's the scary thing to think about when it comes to programmatic and dynamic pre-produced ads bought in that fashion. And I'm just using loose numbers that completely made up for the sake of an argument right now.

[00:38:40] Glenn Rubenstein: Let's say that 40% of the volume in podcast advertising. Is the dynamic programmatic like low effort, low energy, low touch ads. A 60% being host-read more traditional ads. But because of the lower value, and again, I'm going to be generous with this. Let's say that it's worth half as much. So [00:39:00] 40% of the volume, 20% of the dollars.

[00:39:02] Glenn Rubenstein: The thing that should terrify this industry is if we're at 1 billion a year now, but the way we get to 2 billion is by ramping up that programmatic. Low effort, low energy ads that by the way, listeners absolutely hate and cannot skip past fast enough. If that's how we're going to get to $2 billion, the wave is going to crest on itself, and this is going to become just as bad if not worse than radio, which is what we were all trying to get away from by listening to podcasts.

[00:39:26] Heather Osgood: Right, right. I do totally see that. Now, what would you say though? I have been hearing that the Spotify audience network is getting like $60 CPMs because their targeting is so off the charts that because they can prove who exactly is hearing your ad, the CPMs are actually increasing. 

[00:39:51] Glenn Rubenstein: I think we're in a situation right now where a lot of folks are trying to test the limits of what they can actually get.

[00:39:58] Glenn Rubenstein: I can't speak to Spotify specifically. I mean, we see the rate card as we do with every other network. But I think that better targeting uh, you know, I come back to this. There's been this sort of black box sales pitch for probably well, three or four years now, the Experian database, the Nielsen database, this idea that based on your IP address, we can instantly match you with one of 17,000 psychographic profiles and give you targeted ads.

[00:40:23] Glenn Rubenstein: I don't know that any advertiser that we've ever talked with, even those that have done it ever really believed that technology was very sophisticated. But I will say that I can't say whether $60 is fair or not, because I haven't done it and seen the actual results, but I can tell you that, you know, that what I said earlier. I would trust Spotify's demographics simply because they control their own ecosystem.

[00:40:43] Glenn Rubenstein: But based on that Verge article. And again, because it's not verified, it really depends on what the minimums are. That's the other thing, too, right? With any new podcasts that goes back to what we talked about earlier - the podcasts of 3 million listens are so daunting to test, it all depends on the minimums.

[00:41:00] Glenn Rubenstein: If you have a marketplace and you tell me, even if it's a hundred dollars CPM, but you could tell me that one of our brands could just toss $10,000 at it to test it and prove it out if it works. Look, my issue with CPMs has nothing to do with the price tag. You know, Leo Laporte my former boss famously brags about getting a hundred dollars CPM.

[00:41:19] Glenn Rubenstein: And if you listen to Leo shows, Leo's sold out most of the time. So if something works for an advertiser by all means, get that money and make what you can. But if the barrier to test is so high, that's really where it becomes a challenge. You know, Because if it's $10,000 for a direct response advertiser, like in the grand scheme of things is a risk, but that's not an absurd amount of money. 

[00:41:40] Heather Osgood: It's not going to kill the business.

[00:41:41] Glenn Rubenstein: Yeah. But if it's a hundred thousand dollars? If you take, if you do a hundred thousand dollars test and it fails. Yeah. Things are going to be tense. 

[00:41:49] Heather Osgood: Yeah. Yeah. So I know we need to start wrapping it up here, but I do feel like that leads me to another good question, which I get asked a lot. Is there a minimum spend that the brand should look to place?

[00:42:00] Heather Osgood: I mean, is $10,000 enough? Should they look at $100,000? What budget range is best? 

[00:42:04] Glenn Rubenstein: For us as an agency, like $50,000 is our minimum for new clients right now. And I think we can make $50,000 work because there's a $25 CPM. That means an average 2 million impressions in aggregate in a campaign, split up amongst 6 to 12 different podcasts, running for three to five episodes each.

[00:42:21] Glenn Rubenstein: Now that being said, we can make $50,000 work because we've got a huge, unfair advantage. In our a hundred million dollars of performance data that we can use to give you a roadmap to a higher probability and likelihood of success. If you're a new brand coming to this blind, or you're doing this on your own.

[00:42:39] Glenn Rubenstein: Yeah. I think you're going to be spending at least a hundred thousand dollars. Before you know what works and what doesn't, and you're going to make some mistakes. Because you just don't have that data. 

[00:42:48] Heather Osgood: And I am sure that your learning helps brands immensely because you already know what works and what doesn't, but with each campaign, every brand is different.

[00:42:57] Heather Osgood: And there is always going to be a test period in an experimental period where we say, what is going to work, what is not going to work like, oh, we think that this is going to work, but ideally it's good for, advertisers to set up a test campaign and see where they're getting traction and then double down where it's working and cut.

[00:43:14] Heather Osgood: What doesn't is that the strategy you kind of take? 

[00:43:17] Glenn Rubenstein: I mean, we'll look it this way. It is like betting on horses. The first time builds you a diversified portfolio that's going to hit, hopefully, you know, anywhere from three to six different verticals that are adjacent to your core customer demographic. And we're going to see what moves the needle, what moves the hardest and where we should grow scale and optimize from there.

[00:43:36] Glenn Rubenstein: The problem with doing $10,000 campaigns is that you're coming in and maybe you just get on the wrong podcasts or like go podcast advertising doesn't work, but it's no, you were just on a podcast that for whatever reason didn't work for you, or maybe isn't working for anyone, maybe it's just a bad choice.

[00:43:51] Glenn Rubenstein: And I think the the problem is, three years ago. Yes. You could do this in $10,000 increments and just keep reinvesting your profits and seeing what worked. The problem [00:44:00] is, right now, there are so many advertisers in this space. Heather, think about this when you and I started our agencies, there were like 20 advertisers in the space.

[00:44:06] Glenn Rubenstein: Two years ago, there were 200 advertisers in this space. Now there are 2,000 advertisers in this space. So if you're trying to come into this with 10 grand, like you better run the table and make some really smart choices out of the gate or else you're just going to be like, ah, if this doesn't work for us, but it's like, no, you never had a chance.

[00:44:24] Heather Osgood: And I do think that is such an important thing to say, because. You do, you have to invest enough to see what's working and what's not. And if you don't invest enough, then like you said, you just think the medium doesn't work and you walk away. So I do think it's so important. There are lots of important takeaways from this conversation for sure, but it is important to make sure that you're investing enough.

[00:44:47] Heather Osgood: And as you said, the space is so much more competitive now than it used to be. Granted when we started, there were 400,000 podcasts too, and there aren't many. But how many more of those podcasters actually have audiences is the next question. 

[00:45:01] Heather Osgood: And that's the thing too. So here's the other thing.

[00:45:03] Glenn Rubenstein: And then an important follow up to that point. One, if you're you're in a highly competitive category like meal delivery or vitamins or vitamins. Or if you're coming in and your competitors have been in this space for any period of time and seeing success, you better double that initial budget because you're going to have to work a lot harder and hunt high and low to find opportunities that are even available to you. And we like disruptive campaigns. We like competitive industries, but I could tell you that yeah, you spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the competition isn't on and then also.

[00:45:34] Glenn Rubenstein: This is where we do our due diligence. Why isn't the competition on it? 

[00:45:38] Heather Osgood: Exactly. That's what I was just going to say. When you've got a competitor, let's say athletic greens, that's buying up everything and they're not buying the show and you're a similar product. Is there a reason they're not buying that show?

[00:45:49] Heather Osgood: And is it because they tried it and it didn't work. 

[00:45:51] Glenn Rubenstein: And that's the thing. And so Athletic Greens, respect for what they've been doing to grow their brand in the space. Um, And I'm there every night, you know, um, [00:46:00] not too much of a religious man, but just for, not our clients, but for the sake of the industry, I say a prayer that Betterhelp and Manscape do not leave this space. Cause there are like 20% of the entire industry right now.

[00:46:11] Glenn Rubenstein: I know it's 

[00:46:12] Heather Osgood: totally true. Thank you, Brittany, at Betterhelp. And just keep at it. That's all we have to say. Absolutely. On that note, then it was great having you on the program. If people want to connect with you or learn more about podcast advertising, where can they find you? 

[00:46:26] Glenn Rubenstein: Glenn@adopter.media.

[00:46:28] Heather Osgood: Okay. Awesome. Thank you. And thank you for listening to the show. And if you would like to download a marketing guide on how to succeed in podcast advertising, you can head on over to truenativemedia.com. Thanks so much and have a great day.

Glenn Rubenstein Profile Photo

Glenn Rubenstein


Since 2012, Glenn Rubenstein has helped companies grow their business through podcast advertising. He founded ADOPTER Media at the start of 2016 as an independent podcast advertising agency. Since then, he and his team have worked with startups and established brands to help plan, launch, and manage hundreds of podcast sponsorships.

Working with over a thousand of the top podcasts (and growing), ADOPTER Media has built strong relationships across the entire podcasting industry—from podcast networks to independent podcasters.

He has written for publications such as Wired Magazine and the Village Voice. He has also been a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner and a Senior Editor at CNet.