Podcast Advertising Formats Explained

Travis McKnight

Podcast advertising is the new kid on the block—and he is popular. Although given how swift podcasts commandeered the entertainment market, this popularity is predictable. More than 90 million people listen to a podcast every month, a skyrocketing increase of 113% since 2014. Podcasts have higher user retention and engagement rates, too: 93 percent of listeners get through the majority of any podcast episode they start.

What’s most impressive is the new kid’s silver tongue. If users listen to a podcast for at least four years, 72 percent of them purchase a product advertised on that podcast.

If you want to dabble in podcast advertising to see if it’s the right fit for your brand, part of the seven-step process is choosing what podcast ad format best complements your goals.

Podcast Ad Types: Live Ad vs. Pre-Produced Ad

How much control do you want over how your product, service, or company is described? This is the first question you’ll want to answer. Your answer determines whether the ad is read live during the podcast recording or if it’s pre-produced and inserted into the podcast. Each option has its strengths, and this decision affects your entire ad campaign.

Live Read Podcast Ad

A live read podcast ad is read by the host(s) while they’re recording the show, and are often introduced organically when the host(s) chats about a relevant subject.

Most live read ads are “off script,” and the hosts discuss your product or service in their own words; you can often provide a script, but it may not sound as natural or authentic. And because they are introduced organically during the show, live read ads become a permanent part of the episode.

Pre-Produced Podcast Ad

Pre-produced podcast ads fall into two categories: sponsor-produced and host-read.

The sponsor-produced ad is akin to a traditional radio spot, with high production value and various thematic elements, like music or sound effects. The host-read ad is read from a script—written by you or the podcast’s production team—and then inserted into the podcast during post-production. Since these ads are inserted after the episode is complete, they also have a shelf life, limiting the effectiveness of any time-sensitive campaigns.

The following two audio clips are examples of different types of host-read ads for Ahrefs. The first is scripted with the host reading what Ahrefs provided her:

The second is a live-read ad that was incorporated organically into the episode by the host:

For more examples where this came from, along with additional insights on podcast advertising, check out this post from the Ahrefs blog.

Which Do You Choose?

The answer to most questions about podcast advertising falls into one category: what makes sense for your brand, demographic, and goals? In this case, which production level you choose depends on how you want your brand to sound, and what action you’re trying to convince users to take.

Perhaps you’re advertising a free trial of your product for podcast listeners who use a special code, but your product has a high barrier to entry after the free trial ends. A live read ad where the host discusses, in their own words, why your product is beneficial may help break down some of the aforementioned barriers. Listeners trust the podcast hosts, and if they seem genuinely excited about your product or service, that enthusiasm is conveyed and influences the user’s choice.

On the other hand, pre-produced ads are best for companies that want strict control of how their product or brand is discussed. It’s also a great fit for any company buying multiple dynamically inserted ad placements.

After you’ve decided on the type of reading you want, the next step is choosing a podcast ad position.

Types of Podcast Ad Positions

The typical podcast has three types of ad placements: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll.

As we described in a previous post, pre-roll ads occur at the beginning of an episode, mid-roll ads happen in the middle (often as an intermission), and post-roll ads occur after the episode is complete.

If time is a factor in your advertisement, then you want to aim for pre-roll and post-roll, which are often 15-30 seconds long. If you’ve purchased a live-read ad, then mid-roll is the ideal choice since it ranges from one to two minutes long and gives hosts ample time to ramble about their experiences with your product.

However, considering 72 percent of listeners finish a podcast episode they start, and 93 percent of users actively listen to the majority of a podcast, we believe mid-roll ads are the best option for most companies because they happen when users are most in-tune with the episode.

After you’ve determined the ad type and where within the episode you want it to air, the last decision is the podcast advertisement format.

Podcast Ad Formats: Baked-in vs. Dynamically Inserted

Most podcasts offer two types of ad formats: baked-in and dynamically inserted.

Baked-in ads are live-read or pre-produced and become an inseparable part of the episode. Regardless of when listeners engage with the episode, they’ll all hear the same advertisement.

Dynamically inserted ads are pre-produced and inserted into the post-production episode by an ad server. Because a dynamic ad can be inserted into the podcast at any time, users will hear different advertisements depending on when they listen to the episode.

Which Do You Choose?

Once again, your choice depends on your goals and the podcast you advertise with. Many podcast publishers handle baked-in and dynamically inserted ads in different ways, and several popular podcasts only offer one type of ad.

The general rule of thumb is if you’re targeting a podcast with a stable demographic that closely aligns with your ideal user base, and you’re not running a time-sensitive campaign, then baked-in ads are a great option. Contrarily, any time-sensitive or seasonal ads, or podcasts with diverse user bases, should aim for dynamically inserted ads to earn enough exposure and provide more audience targeting opportunities.

Don’t Forget to Chat with the Podcast Hosts and Publisher

When you approach a podcast to sponsor, you should have an idea of who you want to target, what type of ad you’d like to run, and which format you want to use. But don’t forget the last essential rule: ask the podcast hosts and publisher for their suggestions.

Most publishers have an excellent idea of who their listeners are and which show(s) may be a great fit for your company. They’ll also know what type of podcast advertisement is the best fit for your needs. If you do your homework and get input from the hosts, you’re setting your ad campaign up for success.

For more information on podcast advertising, visit our Podcast Advertising hub page.

Travis McKnight

Travis McKnight

Content Strategy Architect
Content Strategy Architect

Prior to migrating to digital marketing, Travis spent many years in the world of journalism, and his byline includes The Guardian, New York Magazine, Slate Magazine, and more. As a Content Strategy Architect at Portent, Travis gets to apply his passion for authentic storytelling to help clients create meaningful content that consistently delivers a refined experience for users.

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