There is a continual debate in podcast advertising about how long an ad should be to be effective. Paul Riismandel, Senior Director of Marketing and Insights for SXM Media, shares his findings with me after they do control testing on ad length and campaign goals. The results may surprise you!
There is a continual debate in podcast advertising about how long an ad should be to be effective. Paul Riismandel, Senior Director of Marketing and Insights for SXM Media, shares his findings with me after they do control testing on ad length and campaign goals. The results may surprise you!
We also talk about why goals are critical in determining how a campaign is run and the different results you will see. Paul shares his experience with campaigns that did not go well and what he did to convert them into successes.
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The transcription has been edited.
[00:00:29] Heather Osgood: Hello, and welcome to the Podcast Advertising Playbook. I'm your host, Heather Osgood.
[00:00:34] And I would say probably about a month ago, I read a fascinating article about ad lengths and what the appropriate ad lengths should be in podcast advertising. And after I finished reading the article, I was like, I have got to get the author of this article on the show. So I am pleased today to be joined by Paul Riismandel.
[00:00:55] He is the senior director of marketing insights at [00:01:00] SXM Media. And really, um, that is their parent company is Sirius XM. So they have their hands in lots of different companies. I'm really excited to talk with Paul today. Welcome to the program.
[00:01:14] Paul Riismandel: Thanks for having me, Heather.
[00:01:16] Heather Osgood: Yeah, yeah, for sure. So you have been in the podcast industry for a long time, you have really studied the effectiveness of advertising in the podcast space.
[00:01:26] And so I'm just super excited to talk to you about it. Of course, we want to dig into the article and what some of your findings were, but also just get some insights from you. Before we get to that, though, can you take just a minute and tell us a little bit about yourself and what's going on with the multitude of different companies that are kind of under your umbrella.
[00:01:46] Paul Riismandel: Sure. I focus a lot on podcast ad effectiveness, but also, you know, podcast metrics. Understanding the industry and all the ways we have now to understand and [00:02:00] measure podcasting. I started with Midroll Media, which itself grew out of the podcast company, Earwolf, which specializes in comedy podcasts.
[00:02:10] The EW Scripts company acquired us in 2015. A year later, together, we acquired Stitcher, which is the podcast listening platform. And then, we rebranded the entire company as Stitcher, where Midroll Media remained as the ad sales division of Stitcher.
[00:02:28] And then last year, in October of 2020, Stitcher, Midroll Media, and Earwolf were acquired by Sirius XM satellite radio and Pandora. And so in 2021, now we've been, uh, putting all the pieces together. So I still focus a lot on podcasts, and Stitcher still exists and, you know. So now we represent several hundred podcasts exclusively to advertisers and a larger array of podcasts, [00:03:00] which are not exclusive. So we, we basically, you know, are the number one podcast company in the United States in terms of overall audience reach. We simply reach more podcast listeners in the United States than any other podcasts sales outfit.
[00:03:15] And that's according to, uh, Triton and as well as according to Edison Podcast Consumer.
[00:03:21] Heather Osgood: Nice. That's great. I did not know that. It sounds like you guys are really doing some amazing things, and I didn't realize that that was a statistic.
[00:03:38] Paul Riismandel: Yeah. We need to get better about how we promote that out there. Podcasting is a large open ecosystem. And being able to reach the entirety of the ecosystem, wherever they are listening, is critical to us.
[00:03:55] And so that's partly why we can be at the very top of the largest audience share because whether they're listing on Apple Podcasts or listening on our own Stitcher or Pandora apps or listening on Spotify, we're able to help advertisers reach those listeners.
[00:04:12] Heather Osgood: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think that kind of dovetails really well into the article, which is that oftentimes because podcasts are open source, we make a lot of assumptions about what's happening in podcasting. One of the things that you said in your article was, are we really questioning those assumptions? And there's this repetitiveness that I know I'm guilty of, and I'm sure lots of other people are. You hear a statistic, and you're like, oh, that's a cool statistic, I'm gonna repeat that 500 times.
[00:04:44] And then all of a sudden, that statistic gets repeated so often that we feel like it's factual when maybe, in fact, it isn't. And so the basis of your article was, how long should an ad be to be effective? And I thought it would be interesting to start with my own personal assumptions.
[00:05:02] So, you know, having sold podcast ads now for five and a half years, I definitely had an assumption about what worked and what didn't. And so I assumed that longer was better. I will say that when I first started, I would, I would say probably within the first year and a half, I had an agency that we were dealing with call me, and they were like, Heather, the ad was five minutes long, and I'm like, Yeah, that was great, right?
[00:05:30] Like, no, please. She needs to shorten it up. A five-minute ad read is not going to be effective. And I realized in that conversation, well, of course, it's not going to be effective because who's going to listen to a five-minute ad? At some point, you're bound to push fast forward.
[00:05:47] So I was like, okay, five-minute ad, way too long. And then I think that from our agency relationships and just the advertisers we've dealt with, I have heard that maybe one and a half to two-minute ad reads are a suitable length. So, at True Native Media, we sell 60-second ad reads. They're host read ad reads, which I do think are different than producer read.
[00:06:14] And that most of the time we get five minutes' worth of ad copy that the host is trying to cut down. But in general, most ads are going to be 60-seconds and above. At the beginning of the article, you state that maybe that assumption needs to be questioned. So can you tell us a little bit about the research you did and the results you found?
[00:06:52] Paul Riismandel: Yeah, we definitely need to question the assumptions and effectiveness. There's a lot of things that any given advertiser or sponsor is going to want to accomplish. Is it branding? Is it more a direct-to-consumer thing where you really want to move consumers down the funnel? Is it about building awareness or getting someone to tune in to a new show on Netflix or Hulu?
[00:07:20] And a lot of it is trying to match the right campaign to the objectives. Sometimes multiple objectives can be well planned to enhance the overall effectiveness. And so we actually go out and we test it. So in this particular case, we did a brand lift study, working with our partners at Signal Hill Insights, trying to really dig in and understand why things work.
[00:08:03] What we wanted to do is to test these three different ad lengths and put them on par with each other. And so what they do is they recruit listeners to listen to podcast content that has these ads. And then, we test their recall. We test what they remembered.
[00:08:22] And then we test, specifically, what they remember. Did they remember specific attributes of the brand or product that was mentioned? And look at the differential and we compare this to a control test. So these are folks who heard the podcast content but did not hear an ad. And so we can be relatively sure if there's the difference between the control, people who didn't hear anything, in terms of an advertisement or branding, and the people who did hear it, we can attribute that to the advertising itself. And that's great because it also helps us control for the fact that everyone may have heard ads for a particular brand on the radio or, seen it online, heard on television or something. So we can equalize to make sure that they're roughly equal in terms of those factors.
[00:09:05] And so we tested 15-second creative, we tested a 30-second creative. We tested a 60-second creative all for a Comcast Xfintiy. And what that allowed us to do is really separate what the effectiveness is. And the big learning, the sort of headline learning, was when it comes to recalling, people's ability to remember the brand in particular. There's virtually no difference between the 15-second and the 60-second creative, which is an amazing finding. And it wasn't necessarily the finding I was expecting. And we equalized it. We used a producer-read or announcer-read spot because we know that host reads are variable.t.
[00:09:47] And we have to be very careful when researching that we're isolating the variable we want to isolate. We are doing additional research around host reads. At Stitcher, we did some research last year on host versus announcer reads as [00:10:00] well, before the acquisition to try and help understand that.
[00:10:03] But if we want it, you know, we want to make our variable, the length of the particular podcast ad. Then they must be about as similar as possible to one another. So we also had the same voice doing the reads. And, you know, I think that's super important to find out that 15-seconds is enough to really resonate.
[00:10:22] And that's in terms of both aided recall and unaided where we say, what brands did you hear in your content that you listened to and people to fill it in. So rather than picking it and getting a good guess out of a multiple choice, they have to sort of come up and recall that.
[00:10:36] And so what that means is that, wow, if you're looking for branding and especially sort of brand recall, um, those ad units can be very efficient, right? I mean, simply put, in most cases, if you're buying podcast ads, you're going to pay less for that shorter ad unit compared to the longer ad unit. And allows you to bring some efficiency into a campaign.
[00:10:58] But the story doesn't end there.[00:11:00] You know, we started here with the assumption that a longer ad unit works better and it does, right. And so if you want to move someone down the funnel, if you want them to understand features, benefits, uh, you know, really understand what it is about the product or about the brand that makes it unique, that makes it different, that's where that longer ad unit really shines.
[00:11:26] And we found that we had brand statements. We had statements about Xfinity and the product and across the board, we saw lift. Meaning that people exposed to that 60-second ad , we're much more likely to say they agree with these statements about the brand compared to people who had not been exposed to the ad at all. This was also more people overall, we saw more lift than we saw with either the 15 or the 30-second creative. So there we've seen that right where we can, you can sort of put together shorter and longer ad units [00:12:00] together to kind of both build up that awareness and make sure people are aware of the product and aware of the brand.
[00:12:07] But as you want to move them down the funnel, if you want to move them closer to purchase, if you want to move their intent to look for more information, if you want to get them closer to intent, to recommend or to buy, well, they need to learn more. They need to understand more about what the benefit of this product will be.
[00:12:24] And that's really where these longer ad units shine.
[00:12:27] Heather Osgood: Yeah. I thought that made so much sense. Because, realistically, a 15-second ad is going to create brand awareness. So I'm really looking at that. But then looking if you're if you want action, and looking for a direct response, having a long ad read makes more sense. But ultimately, what I love that you talk about is it's all about the goals you're setting. If you're coming into the podcast space and you're like, Hey, we just want brand awareness. Maybe a 15-second campaign is all you need. [00:13:00] And truthfully, maybe then moving into more of a sponsorship role where you, you know, the host even says something like, Hey, today's podcast is brought to you by L'Oreal.
[00:13:09] L'Oreal making everyone beautiful. You know, like something like that could be helpful, right? Because you're just creating brand awareness. Whereas if you want to see a direct response, we need to know more about the product. We need to know a little bit more about what exactly you want us to do as consumers, right?
[00:13:28] Where should we go? You know, why should we buy your product? Um, how should we buy your product? Those sorts of things are communicated in a longer ad. So ultimately it comes down to what are the goals for the campaign? And like you mentioned, too, I feel like they don't have to be mutually exclusive.
[00:13:45] You might decide that a campaign is even going to start with a branding exercise and move into direct response. And so there, there can be, you know, different strategies that you take. But really kind of just having this information is [00:14:00] super important. But what are your thoughts? Do you feel like it really is about what the goals of the campaign are?
[00:14:06] Paul Riismandel: It's always about your goals. We do a lot of brand lift research, right? So we do many tests like this for our advertisers, for our clients on campaigns, right. And that's always the first part about, um, designing the test. Whether it's in the brand lift, which is sort of like what we did here, where we're looking at sentiment and recall, or an attribution where we're looking to see, how do we measure online or offline action that occurred as a result of this, of this podcast ad we need to understand what is the goal you're driving. And that's also important then for building the creative, right. You know, I mean, I'll give you an example of, you know, I was asked to take a look at a campaign, um, you know, that we were running online attribution for. So being able to see how well the campaign was driving conversions to a website. And the concern from our salesperson was it seems not to be driving great conversions to the website.
[00:15:03] So I look at the data I'm looking at. I was like, yeah, so it seems to be running at the lower end of the curve, right. It could be improved. So then I go into an analytic mode, and then I start, you know, I go and I look at the ad copy and listen to the ads, and lo and behold, no one mentions the website. And that sounds simple, right. But they're talking all about the product. They're talking all about the brand, but without a call to action. Without the go learn more, get your discount, whatever it is at brand.com. And it wasn't as if consumers weren't taking action. We were seeing that they were just hoping for more and, you know, sort of, that's a mantra I have in podcast advertising.
[00:15:46] It's really for advertising in general is, uh, tell people what you want them to know. If you would like them to take action, ask them to take action. And not every campaign is about action, right? Campaigns can be about education can be about [00:16:00] brand building, can be about building brand affinity.
[00:16:02] It can be about, uh, bringing out new products and make people aware of a new product within a brand. And that's great. Right? And then you really want to be sure that you're keeping people focused. But if you have actually sort of objectives that are, that are further down the funnel, you want people to take action, you do need, you need to tell them and you need to make sure that that's very clear within the advertising that you're doing. And you may be able to do that with a 15-second creative. Uh, we often see, uh, tune in advertisers, you know, talking about a new series, you know, they could do a lot in 15-seconds.
[00:16:35] Right. And, and with a very obvious, go check it out on Netflix, check it on a Hulu, HBO,etc. And we can find that's very effective. But often, you know, for a product, especially maybe if it's a new product or a new category of product, a new way of selling the product, um, folks are going to need to understand this better, right?
[00:16:54] When it was a new thing to get a mattress shipped to you in a box, the size of a mini fridge, [00:17:00] podcasters had to spend some time explaining that to a person. Right. And some of those ads were not just a minute. They were, there were multiple minutes because it really needs to be explained, and a really great podcaster does it, not just clearly, but in a way that's entertaining. That makes you, that piques your interest, and you go, wait, I want a mattress in a box. I want to learn more about this, right. And it really, I mean, frankly built a whole other industry right on, on podcasts. So, you know, it's understanding where you want this campaign to lie in this customer journey.
[00:17:32] And it's true. I mean, many times, advertisers don't always know what that KPI is. We will have a kickoff call for research, and we'll say, well, what is your primary KPI? And they'll say, we have to get back to you. And you know, and very often it's not that they don't have a clue. They're not sure if this one is awareness or whether they're looking for something more like affinity. That informs not only your choice of ad length but also the creative itself. What type of copywriting? How do we make sure that we're aiming it towards the correct side?
[00:18:06] Because it's not unusual for us to do a brand lift study where we go in and at the beginning of the campaign, the advertiser is very clear and says, you know, recall, we really want brand recall as our number one priority. And then they come out and say, well, we're a little disappointed we didn't see more lift for intent to recommend.
[00:18:25] And then we can look at the copy and say, well, you don't get enough into the product here. You don't give folks enough to hang on, to really understand why they would feel like, oh, I learned about this amazing thing on the podcast yesterday. And I'm going to tell my friend, my coworker, my family member about it.
[00:18:43] And certainly, if that is actually emerging as a KPI, we'll give you some recommendations based upon what we learned from this campaign; we can give you recommendations for the next one. And then we can measure that.
[00:19:00] But going in really knowing what you want to accomplish is very important. And that's something which, honestly, you know, your sales partner ought to be able to help you with, right. They ought to be able to sit down and help you refine that and help you move into turning that KPI into a real podcast ad.
[00:19:16] Heather Osgood: Right, right. Absolutely. No, I totally agree. I think we also have to look at brand recognition when you have a company that everyone knows, you know, we, if we say, Ford, most people aren't going to say what's Ford, right?
[00:19:30] Like they already have such high brand recognition. And if you're looking at, like you said, a new product, a new way of buying a product, all of, you know, if people have no idea who your company is, creating brand recognition isn't necessarily going to drive sales at all because they now know about a company they don't understand at all.
[00:19:51] So it's, I think it really does depend on the goals of the campaign, but it also depends on the type of the product that you're selling. Where you're [00:20:00] at in the growth cycle of the organization. And I think you do make such a good point. And, and I do find that this happens a lot with advertisers is they don't clearly communicate what their goals are, and then you do get to the end of the campaign, and they will say, well, gosh, I wish it did X, Y, and Z.
[00:20:17] And to your point, you're like, that wasn't the strategy going in, right. So I mean, and in my opinion, you could say this about any form of advertising. If you want to get a result, you're going to have to go in with a perfect plan, a perfect strategy. And then I also think it's so important for us to test things.
[00:20:36] What did that call to action bring about? Was, was that the intent, and did it work? Oh, that didn't work? Well, maybe it was because we talked about the worst-selling product. After all, we were trying to increase sales for that product. When maybe if we want overall results, we should talk about the best selling product.
[00:20:53] So it seems to me like there are always little adjustments that need to be made as we [00:21:00] test campaigns. And as we see what's working and what's not working, is that something that, that you see as well?
[00:21:06] Paul Riismandel: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely see that. And I see that both with the emerging brands and direct to consumer brands as well as, as well as really well-known everyday household brands that are taking that approach from quarter to quarter, let's say, adjusting their strategy.
[00:21:22] And, you know, very often, uh, especially with the larger brands it's in concert with an overall brand strategy. It matches up with what they're doing with OTT, with what they're doing in radio, what they're doing in digital. But, you know, the smarter ones are doing it also tuned the podcast to make sure that, um, you know, it really does translate well to the medium,
[00:21:45] And that's something which again, we've been able to do often is we, we do like a roll-up and look at three-quarters of performance and look at the different creatives and compare when we are testing it with, say a brand lift study and compare those results and give those recommendations. You know, we certainly had a [00:22:00] campaign once where it was a, a very well-known computer product.
[00:22:04] And, uh, you know, it was the brand product. But mostly, they talk about product name, product, name, product name, and at the end, they are so well, we're a little disappointed that people didn't know it was a brand product. And it really came down to the analysis based upon our dozens and dozens of research studies we've done.
[00:22:21] We've looked at it, and we, we see the effect of, of the repetition of making sure to mention a brand a certain number of times. And it was a simple fix that every time you ask the podcast or say product, you say brand product, Right. So that the association is built-in people's minds, there are some products like iPhone, right, so ubiquitous. You don't need to say Apple iPhone for the average person; they're going to get it. But you know, even huge, you know, well well-known brands when they're introducing a new product, they have to do that work to make that association. To make sure that they're going to get that ubiquity and then understanding that it's [00:23:00] part of the same family and not kind of a standalone thing.
[00:23:03] Well, we could go back and very easily help figure out how to do that because we've been studying it. Right. And that's because it's important, is that for us to build the spaces of knowledge, it means every new advertiser, every advertiser that comes to us should be able to benefit from that. That every study doesn't stand alone.
[00:23:19] And certainly we know. Share somebody's results with somebody else, but we can aggregate all of this. And we can look at 60, 70, 80 different podcast campaigns and start to understand what drove recall, what drove a recommendation intent. And part of that is raw numbers. Part of that is a little bit of content analysis.
[00:23:41] What was that call to action like? You know, and you have to dig it a little bit, but it's work that can be done. There's a long tradition of this sort of content analysis work to make those recommendations to future advertisers.
[00:23:54] But then we get to these questions, like the ad length. It's so rare that we have a campaign [00:24:00] that is set up, that we can really make good assumptions about the ad length being a factor just that, because the, the, the campaign is put together based upon the different shows which might have, which do ads differently and some, some hosts go on longer than others.
[00:24:16] And so you have all these things going on and, you know, we, we could kind of say, well, we were starting to get some assumptions that we can take away from all this research, but really what we need to do is sit down and design it ourselves, right. And find a partner who wants to do it with us, where we can really isolate the question, you know, because, uh, for any given advertiser most of the time, sure they might want an answer to that question. Still, mostly they want to get a really great campaign and, and that is secondary. Right. Right. And so for us to really go and put together what we think is good research design with a really great partner that understands our objective. Then lets us get at that, uh, bit by bit.
[00:24:55] And for me, I can say, having been able to join the entire Sirius XM [00:25:00] and Pandora team has been fantastic. At Stitcher I was kind of a team of one on this. And now I, you know, the, the sales research team, uh, at Pandora now, uh, SXM media is large and there's so much talent and so much experience there.
[00:25:16] And as well as the ad innovation team, we can work together and accomplish a lot more, a lot more quickly than we could as, frankly, a smaller company.
[00:25:26] Heather Osgood: Right, yeah, absolutely. Well, and I think one of the things that are so fascinating about podcasts, as you mentioned, the variables are different all the time. So you've got different hosts. You have different abilities; you have different engagement levels. You have, uh, like if you're doing host read. Obviously, you have a difference in how they're doing the ad read. You have a difference in the length of the content. And sometimes, even like with Joe Rogan, his content links all over the place. Then you have a difference in the posting schedule. So how often is the [00:26:00] content coming out? So it's, I feel that it can sometimes be challenging because we're saying, we're saying podcast advertising like they're all the same thing. When in fact, they can be very different.
[00:26:14] Paul Riismandel: Yeah, I think we're doing the work to articulate that right. Podcasts advertising today is different than it was a year ago. Very different than it was two years ago and remarkably different than five years ago. But one of the constants has been that really works is that we, we continually have new advertisers who come in and find success, right. And then we have new advertisers every year who clearly are building their brands and building their sales on podcasts.
[00:26:42] Heather Osgood: Right. Amazing. I mean, Casper essentially was built on podcast advertising, and they're just one, I mean, look at all of the companies who the bulk of their ad investment is going to podcasting, they're not doing that because, oh, it's a nice to do they're doing it because it works.
[00:26:58] Paul Riismandel: Yeah, absolutely. And that [00:27:00] brings in other companies who often feel like, oh my goodness, if we're going to compete in this space, we have to be on podcasts as well. You know, and it is articulating right as we have the technology, like direct ad injection so that, that ads can be placed efficiently. That does kind of even out some of the differences. Now it doesn't mean Conan O'Brien isn't going to go on for minutes and minutes. That's what Conan does. That's what we want him to do. We love it when he does that, right. Um, other hosts are like, no, I, I do a 30-second, I do a 60-second creative, and I'm going to do the best one that I can, and, and you will see results from that as well. Uh, and you know, I think, goodness, I hope we never get to the point in which it's all completely ironed out. I mean, usually a lot of the fun, that's the fun there's magic here and, you know, I think that that's what we've seen in the history of advertising, especially in digital, you get to these moments when everything seems to get all very programmatic and I don't mean necessarily just the buying technology, but it gets to be very ironed [00:28:00] out. But then when it does, it's very efficient, but it seems like sometimes it starts losing some of its effects, right.
[00:28:08] Because the the consumer, the viewer, the listener, um, starts being like, well, these are all cookie cutter. I don't have to pay as much attention anymore. Whereas, you know, we all understand it's good for ads to stand out. And for us here, that listener experience is super key. It's very, very important.
[00:28:29] Here's the hypothesis. If you make an ad, that's fun to listen to. That sounds good. People will listen to it.
[00:28:37] Heather Osgood: Paul had is profound. I think we just need to stop at that moment. Right? If people, if it's interesting, people will listen. Right?
[00:28:47] Paul Riismandel: Well, as you get into like, you know, the loudness war, which happened that sort of television and radio, right.
[00:28:52] Heather Osgood: I always say like the monster truck effect, the louder I say it.
[00:28:57] Paul Riismandel: And, you know, and I guess if you're listening to hard rock [00:29:00] radio, the monster truck fits in better than it does on soft rock, but it, it becomes fighting for attention in a yelling match versus, well, why can't we offer a delicious carrot here that is that this is still content. It's still excellent content, you know?
[00:29:20] And so. You know, you, you sort of set up at the top, you, you know, you talked about, you know, these ads that would go on three, five minutes, and those will and do really work. But I think what we've, what we're learning, is that they require, um, time and planning to make the most of right. And so that's something which we really leaned into actually is, you know, sort of custom segments, custom content, custom episodes, where the branding is there.
[00:29:48] And it is, you know, truly native advertising. It's something that somebody wants to listen to and stays tuned into, is also branded, you will also learn about a brand or a product [00:30:00] along the way. And so we're doing those kinds of custom integrations, and we're testing them, and they're doing well.
[00:30:06] We recently did, um, a really great campaign with Buick where they did a custom episode of The Office Ladies. And it's really because, you know, Buick is really working on that brand appeal and, and growing that appeal with their new line of like crossovers and compact SUV's and looking for that millennial audience, which the office ladies reaches very well.
[00:30:29] Um, and it did really great in sort of building that brand affinity. Which is really the objective of doing that sort of thing. There's the halo effect of being associated, but, you know, in this particular case, both The Office Ladies had a chance to drive these vehicles.
[00:30:45] Right. And take that personal experience which their listeners have grown to trust and, and bring it into the ad. I mean, that's, that's a much more involved sort of integration, but we're finding that that investment pays off. And [00:31:00] so we can really kind of help advertisers and understand it, that there are many different options and, and that any given campaign doesn't have to take advantage of just one of them.
[00:31:10] That we can, we can use everything from that 15-second creative all the way up to a custom integration that runs a few more minutes, a custom episode, things like that. And also combine in, and some, some creatives can be host read, and for efficiency, because it allows us to spread them up across more shows, some of them could be announcers. Right, right. And we can lean on our studio resonate, uh, which is a fantastic ad studio to make sure that they're casting out an ad with voices that match the content, match the tenor and tone of the advertisement in the brand. It's not. Do we choose A or B? Well, let's help you put together the best campaign amongst these options that fit your objectives because you may want to get that reach. And with that reach, you need some efficiency. Well, let's help you do that. And [00:32:00] then really kind of dig down and deliver those kinds of down the funnel goods with, with some awesome host reads.
[00:32:06] Heather Osgood: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And I think you make such a good point because I would just hate it if we lost all of the creativity and the connection that podcast advertising brings. I feel like what what happens in advertising is we do we go straight to scalability. Everybody's like, how do we scale this? How do we scale this? We need more and more and more, but it's so important that we don't take away the effectiveness because if you have more of something that's not working, you don't need more of it.
[00:32:41] Right. And what we have in podcasting today is we have this, this great flexibility. I mean, we, we can do programmatic and, and even smaller companies can start to do programmatic ads. And we also have the host read ads, and we also have the product [00:33:00] integrations. And I just really hope as an industry that we can hold on to the value of those greater integrations and those host-read ads simply because they're just more entertaining.
[00:33:12] I would listen to a host read ad over a producer-read ad, especially a well-done host read ad any day. Right. So I just, I really hope that we don't lose that spark of creativity because I really do feel when we look at the ad industry as a whole, how many ad blockers are out there, right.
[00:33:33] People don't want ads. And I always feel like I need to say this, but nobody ever says like, oh, please give me more ads. I mean, even you and I, right. We're in the ad space. I still don't want more ads. But I do want to purchase products and services that I feel are going to edify my life. And you know what, happy to take recommendations from people that I know like and trust. And so there is magic happening in this space, and I believe it's our jobs to really [00:34:00] maintain that and to cultivate that instead of going straight to scalability, how do we make this as quick and efficient and broad as we can.
[00:34:10] And to your point, there, there is a place for that. There's nothing wrong with programmatic ads. They can do well. And, you know, gosh, like the other day I was listening and heard a programmatic Audible ad, and I was like, oh yeah, I guess, well, I mean, I've heard a bazillion host read Audible ads and why not do programmatic ads? And to your point, too, it was done well. So it was like, Hey, this podcast is brought to you by Audible. If you like listening to podcasts, you're gonna love an audio book. And it was like; it was done so well, it didn't feel monster truckish right,
[00:34:41] Paul Riismandel: Right. Yeah. I mean, I think that's really it. And, and our job is, will also be to, to measure that. To be able to articulate what is the likely return. Right. And to understand how to maximize that return on investment. That's what we're here to do ultimately for [00:35:00] our, for our advertisers, for our clients. So help them articulate it. Which salesman do, do you prefer at the car lot?
[00:35:06] The one who it seems like it's just trying to pile up the options or the one who says, you know, You really don't need the third clear coat, right? Oh, well, you know, in this, in this environment where you live, it's not going to help you if you lived in the desert Southwest, yeah, I would say we, you know, with the sun beating down on it, you need this, but here in the Pacific Northwest, where, where you won't see the sun for three months, you don't really need that.
[00:35:32] Right. Which, which salesmen are you going to trust? Which one do you prefer? And which one is really looking out for your interests while also helping sell you a car. And ultimately, I think that's where we need to be is, is helping to articulate what you can expect from this?
[00:35:46] And so if we're able to say, and it's not, you know, host read more, better, longer ad, more better, but really is well it'll enhance these things. This is what you can expect. This is the kind of return. These are the results that, that you should be able to [00:36:00] observe that will come from these differential types of investments. Right?
[00:36:04] Because not only that, I mean, you also have time. How long does it take to put together a campaign? How quickly do you need to activate? Is this a holiday campaign and we, you know, we need to get something going for the end of the Christmas buying season because objectives changed. And now we have two weeks to pull off.
[00:36:18] That's going to put some constraints on it and it's going to make it difficult to make custom content. Are we planning for two quarters out? Well, then we have more time, right? All these different variables go into these choices.
[00:36:29] And I think it's a test to do that research to say, if you choose the host read, oh, you know, as part of your plan, here are the things that we can expect that it's going to help do for you. Things like maybe a little bit more of the affinity will come through compared to the announcer-read ad. You'll get the lifts compared to not hearing the ad. No, you'll see action with that, but maybe some of that action will be enhanced. And you'll get a little bit more out of it. You'll probably also pay a little more for it. But you can't go into a BMW dealership with no money (to make it a very old reference),
[00:37:08] This is simply not going to happen. Mercedes-Benz could get a really great freelance voice-over artist to do their commercials, but they choose John Ham. And for those who, even if they don't always know, it's John Ham, have heard his voice before,
[00:37:28] It makes a difference. Right. And, and there's some, there's a Genesee quad. There's a little bit of magic there that comes from that association that certainly the Mercedes-Benz agency, the folks who worry about the brand, understand. And then the great thing about a podcast ad is, wow,
[00:37:45] I mean, where else do you get Conan O'Brien to read an ad? How else do you get Rob Lowe? How else he get Jenna Fisher? Right. Otherwise it's tough and probably a lot more [00:38:00] expensive. I have been getting a podcast ad campaign.
[00:38:04] Heather Osgood: I do. I do. Uh, really find it shocking that some of these huge names like Conan O'Brien will do an endorsement ad read where in the past, before ad reads, like he would be like, if I'm going to endorse this product, granted, I'm speaking for Conan here, but you know, if I'm going to endorse this product, you need to pay me a bazillion dollars? Like that's how celebrities have operated in the past. And now, here, we're moving into this podcast space where yes, of course they are, are benefiting handsomely from the ad buy, but still like, it's pretty impressive.
[00:38:40] Paul Riismandel: Well look, how much control he has though, right? I mean, if you listen to the ads you listened to his ads, he's clearly having a ball.
[00:38:47] Right. But there's no part of listening to his show that doesn't sound like it's, he's just enjoying the heck out of himself, you know, along with his cohost and right. He's making up the ad. [00:39:00] Right.
[00:39:01] Heather Osgood: That is an excellent point. They are making up the ad. So they have so much creative control. And a lot of times when you're talking within the celebrity realm, they're creative individuals.
[00:39:09] So maybe they really just get a kick out of it with an endorsement. It might be a lot more structured.
[00:39:14] Paul Riismandel: Right. And even if it is sort of the traditional endorsement, right. And they, I mean, they have, they have veto power. Conan can say, no, Conan say, I won't say this. Conan will say, you know, or, you know, I don't, I don't want to speak for Conan, but anybody in his position can say, well, until I've tried this product, I'm not comfortable talking about it.
[00:39:32] Right. And we can make that happen and we do make that happen. So it's making sure that everybody is comfortable. Because whether you're Conan O'Brien or whether you're the host of My Favorite Murder, everyone understands that the listener affinity, their trust is being leveraged here.
[00:39:49] And also then you have some accountability. But you know, if all of that is made true and sincere and trustworthy, I think then [00:40:00] everyone can benefit. Right. And I think that that's, what's happened and that's part of that equation in podcasts. Right. How do you, how do you automate that? How do you turn that into just a rubber stamp product?
[00:40:11] Well, it's hard but as, but also, how do we help advertisers reach scale. How do we grow the business? How do we make sure that podcasting as an industry has an opportunity to grow as a whole? Because if an announcer reads ad that is heard on say Office Ladies or, on Conan O'Brian Needs A Friend, that's also income for them as well. Right. Everyone should benefit out of this equation. And, and all along the listener is included in that benefit. At the very least, they're getting great content, amazing shows that you know, that they don't have to pay a subscription fee for free free for the downloading whatever app they want to use.
[00:40:57] They don't have to try and figure out who's on what [00:41:00] service right now? I don't know. We used to be on Hulu now it's on Netflix. And now it's on this new service. I know where to find my favorite show. What subscriptions do I have to get? No. Are you on apple podcasts? Are you listening on Spotify? Are you listening on Pocketcast? The show is there. Nothing more than clicking play, clicking download, subscribe, favorite, whatever, whatever the action is needed. And it comes to you.
[00:41:23] And I think that something we've tried to do all along is educate audiences about the bargain that the ad support allows these shows to exist, allows them to prosper, and gets better, often more frequently um, because of the advertisers. We survey all of our listeners. We've been doing this, uh, for, uh, well over eight years, nearly a million people have taken our listener survey. And when we ask people to take our listener survey in the show, we say, hi, this show is supported by ads, which allows us to produce the show and deliver it to you. Um, and we want to make sure if we're talking about products, [00:42:00] recommending products and informing you of products, that's something that you might want to hear about, right? Something that matches, you know, something you would be interested in and to do that we could use to learn a little bit more about you.
[00:42:11] And folks take our survey because they get the value exchange. And they're being told explicitly they're being educated as part of this process, that this is a free show. It's ad supported, um, ads that match you. And of course, we really do need that data because we don't have the kind of, uh, identity, persistent identity match with the podcasts.
[00:42:31] But it's also, I mean, w what's nice is that if you're a podcast listener, that's going to be anonymous. We're looking at the aggregate. What is the listenership of this show look like? And what are the sorts of things they're interested in?
[00:42:43] But, we do not, and we've promised not to map that to any individual listener. So you get some of that personalization that we're promised. As part of digital advertising as a consumer, without actually giving up as much privacy and feeling like, you know, is my [00:43:00] phone listening to me? Why do I keep seeing that ad for something? I only thought I talked about it dinner last night.
[00:43:06] Heather Osgood: Right, right. No, for sure. For sure. And I think that it's also really nice to run surveys because it tells a story about how engaged and responsive your audience is. If people are responding, that means that they care and they want to give you feedback.
[00:43:20] So yes, would it be great if we just had automated stats and we knew it exactly who's listening to the show. Yes. And I think you and I probably both dream of a day when that comes, but for right now, I think surveys are a perfect way of doing that.
[00:43:34] Paul Riismandel: Yeah. And we find they're really accurate. So when we've been doing it so long, we've set up a regime, we know how to replicate it.
[00:43:40] And then we're, we're able to test those results. So we were able to get, for some shows, uh, often the bigger shows we were able to get back demographic data from third parties uh, based upon other methods. They tend to line up. We tend to see that our survey is relatively close to something we get from Nielsen's [00:44:00] podcast buying power Scarborough, or, uh, even from say like Edison's podcast consumers as two examples.
[00:44:06] Or when we were able to with some attribution partners get a sort of after a campaign is done, understand what is sort of the household demographic composition, where those segmentation looks like on what the campaign reached. And again, we compare that because always looking to make sure that we're, that we're as accurate as we can be. And we find that is quite accurate within the standards that we work and making sure that we get, frankly, just simply get enough responses and not really calling it accurate until we get that many responses. So we feel the data has integrity. Um, we find, yeah, it really does work. But to your point, it is an indication of still, you know how involved the audience is.
[00:44:46] And one of the shows that we have received the most, it's a record number of, of survey responses for was when the show debuted and with an audience that we know, cause we asked them, were [00:45:00] really a large percentage of brand new listeners to podcasts. They were coming to podcasts because of this show and they acted right.
[00:45:08] Cause some I've heard say, well, in the old days, you know, 10 years ago, seven years ago sure podcast listeners they were all like, you know, super fans and really hooked in. And so yeah, they would take your survey, et cetera. But you know, as more other folks, average folks come in, they like, no, if you, if you explain the value proposition to them and they understand not only will they take your survey, but in that particular case, they far exceeded. Are what we would have wanted as a response rate. Well, we would have predicted based upon our experience, right? So they were coming in, new, excited about the show, and made the show a big hit, of course. Still, they were also understanding because they were being told by the host what the proposition was and given a good reason why they should go and share a little bit of information through an anonymous survey.
[00:45:59] Heather Osgood: So [00:46:00] interesting. Well, I know we need to start wrapping it up. Um, you have so much knowledge about how to create effective campaigns. So I was hoping that just in our last few minutes here, you could share maybe your top three tips and, and granted, yes, I know we've talked about, Hey, every, every goal and objective may be different for a campaign.
[00:46:20] So of course, we're going to tweak things depending on what those goals are. But if you had a company that came to you today and said, Hey, Paul, we really want to get effectiveness in podcast advertising. What would you recommend? What are those three things you would tell them?
[00:46:34] Paul Riismandel: I mean, no, your KPI. It can be your, your top, it can be secondary, that's fine. Know them. That is really what should dictate the approach you take. Then, you know, when you're getting into creative, really make sure, one, you're being clear. And two, you are not kitchen sinking it. If you've got a couple of things you want people to know. [00:47:00] You do need to tell them, and you need to tell them very clearly.
[00:47:03] And this can be either in the form of a script that an announcer might read or in terms of the bullet points that can copy points that can go in front of the podcast host, but make sure they're obvious that there's no, um, sort of, uh, not getting it. And a lot of times what's great is if multiple points illustrate the same idea. So if you've got a new mayonnaise brand and you want to make sure everyone knows it's creamy. You want to tell them that, but you also want to talk about mouthfeel. You'll want to talk about all these other things that are related to it. So rather than trying to say it, it tastes great and it's got fewer calories and it does this and it it does this, and it whatever. If you try and do all of that different folks will remember different things, but know what you want them to remember. That's part of the KPI, but then it's putting it into action, really understanding what you wanted to remember. And then, you know, having that clear call to action. [00:48:00] Time and time again, a clear call to action, whatever that action is. Check us out online, learn more here, you know, use the promo code for 40% off. Whatever that action is. And sometimes, you know, with a branding campaign, maybe there isn't an action. Maybe there is not specifically something you want someone to do. That's okay. Then make sure that you're leaving the listener with something memorable. Even if it's just simply repeating the premise, making sure they understand the brand, the product and one of its primary qualities could be a tagline, things like this.
[00:48:36] Cause we definitely have found that that will help bring it all home and it will definitely make sure that someone remembers it. And that that's about, you know, taking a KPI, turning it into a great ad and that works regardless of your ad length. That's going to work regardless of who's reading the ad.
[00:48:54] So you can apply that across the board. And then of course, if you're able to enhance [00:49:00] it, if you have a host read ad where they can have personal experience, they can try out your car, your mattress, or your new energy drink. Right? Those are all things that you can weave into that and say, we're going to give up some of those copy points in favor of you telling us how delicious the new drink was and how much you enjoyed it. Or we'd like you to focus on how refreshing it was on a hot day and have the hosts speak to that as well. But that's assuming again that you know what you want to get out of the campaign and you have a good sense of the incentive, and then ultimately what's the call to action for the listener to follow.
[00:49:36] Heather Osgood: Yeah. Yeah. Excellent. Well, Paul, gosh, I feel like we could probably talk for another hour. I really appreciate you being on the show today you have so much knowledge about the space and how to create effective campaigns. If people want to connect with you, where's a good place for them to connect.
[00:49:52] Paul Riismandel: Well, if they want to connect, go to LinkedIn. Paul Riismandel. Uh, it's not a common, last name, so it's [00:50:00] effortless to find me. And then we're publishing our insights at sxmmedia.com. As we build out and do more and more experimentation and research around what makes podcasts effective and how you best take advantage of that, you'll certainly be able to read it there.
[00:50:16] Heather Osgood: Excellent. And that's free to the public so anyone can read those insights.
[00:50:20] Paul Riismandel: Absolutely.
[00:50:21] Heather Osgood: Excellent. Well, thanks so much, Paul. We appreciate you being on the show today.
[00:50:24] Paul Riismandel: Thank you, Heather.
Senior Director of Marketing and Insights
More than seven years ago, Paul built the sales marketing strategy for Midroll Media (now part of SXM Media), one of the trailblazing innovators in podcast advertising, then established the industry's largest podcast ad effectiveness program. Today He leads the podcast research and insights for SXM Media.