Are Your Podcast Ads Working?

As podcasters and podcast listeners, we’re no strangers to advertisements. We’ve all heard our favorite host promote various meal delivery services or VPN providers, and it seems simple enough. Definitely, something you could do on your own podcast to begin to monetize it. 


But what happens when you’ve been working with a brand you love and are excited to extend the contract, only for them to say they didn’t see the return on investment they were hoping for? 


Or let’s say you’re having a conversation with a brand to see if your podcast is a good fit. If you can’t speak to your demographics or metrics that will ensure the brand is getting its money’s worth, you can kiss that contract goodbye. 


As a podcaster looking to monetize their show, you must understand the data advertisers will use to determine if they work with your show or your competitor. True Native Founder Heather Osgood knows audio can be a tricky medium, so she sat down with Jeff Vidler, Founder and President of Signal Hill Insights, to talk about the data behind podcast advertising research.

As a podcaster, how do I collect my data?

Your podcast is a business, and like any business, you’ll need to prove to your stakeholders that your business is profitable and worth it. You need to prove to your potential advertisers that your show is worth working with. 

The one thing podcasting has, is digital data. That gives us census-level data as a baseline that we can use to give advertisers a chance to see how the medium measures.

One of the first things a potential advertiser will ask for is your podcast’s demographic, also known as the people who listen to your podcast. Your first instinct might be to use the demographic tab on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, and that’s a great starting point, but that data is filtered through who uses the app. 


Jeff’s favorite way to collect demographic data is through listener surveys. These surveys should ask your listeners basic questions like their age range and gender, but they can also have free response sections that ask them other questions like which podcasts they’ve listened to in the past month and which ones they are avid listeners of. 

What can skew my data?

We mentioned earlier that the demographics apps like Spotify and Apple Podcasts producers are great tools, but you could be missing huge chunks of your audience if they are the only tool you’re using.

We had a show that recently joined True Native Media, and we were talking to them about their demographics. And we were like, well, what does Spotify say? And he’s like, well, Spotify is like 5% of my audience.

Just like your show has a target demographic, media platforms like Spotify have their own too. Generally, listeners who use Spotify as their primary podcast platform are a younger audience and, on average, 5-8 years younger than Apple Podcasts listeners. 


And if you’re also putting your podcast on Youtube, they have their own demographics. According to Jeff, Youtube viewers are either very young (18-24 years old) or older (55+ years old). 


If your podcast’s target audience is people who just graduated high school and are about to go to college, but you only use Apple to check your demographics, you could be missing key points of data. 

How do advertisers determine if the campaign is successful?

There are two different kinds of podcast advertisers. Direct response and brand advertisers (otherwise known as brand awareness advertisers). The main distinguishing difference is direct advertisers want sales conversions from their ads, whereas brand advertisers are interested building a strong brand reputation. 

The brand advertisers don’t necessarily care much about website visits or sales conversions online… [Podcasts advertisements] connect to awareness, favorability, and consideration. All those things put a brand in people’s heads when they’re ready to make a decision.

You might see great success from listeners clicking on the link in your bio or using your specific promo code at checkout, but there’s no need to panic if you don’t. Lots of brands play the long game when it comes to advertising and decide to focus on building strong brand recognition, which will later translate to sales. 


Brands typically look at two things when trying to determine if a campaign is successful or not – conversion and brand awareness. 

Conversion refers to how many times someone interacts with an ad, whether that be by clicking a link, watching a video, or using a promo code. If the brand you’re working with is interested in more conversions, they might ask for how many downloads or impressions your podcast episode made. 


On the other hand, brand advertisers might be more concerned about building awareness of their brand instead of the tangible results conversions can get them. Sometimes, your job as the podcaster is to help the brand build strong brand equity. The idea here is if the brand is strong, it will translate to success over time. 


For these brands, you might see them running surveys that help them identify who listened to the ad to get a better idea of how successful the campaign is. So, the next time you buy something online, look for an option at check out or a pop-up on the website asking how you heard of the brand. You might just be helping out a fellow podcaster! 


If you’re still not compleatly clear about why a brand would chose to aim for brand awareness over conversions, make sure you listen to Heather’s episode with Jeff Vidler, where he uses Milano Cookies to talk about brand awareness. 

What makes a successful ad?

Everyone in the podcasting world knows host-read ads tend to work best compared to programmatic ads, and a large reason for that is the strong brand you’ve built as the podcaster. 

When it’s a host you know, you’re like, ‘Hey, I like the host. I want to support the host. I’m interested potentially in the products that they’re sharing.

But Heather brought up an interesting question during her conversation with Jeff, as the podcasting space grows, aren’t programmatic ads inevitable?


And the answer is yes, but ultimately the research shows that for programmatic ads to be successful, they will still need the touch of authenticity that comes from host-read ads. As a podcaster, you create a brand around authenticity, and ultimately, successful ads come back to demographics. Your audience found your show because they related to you, but they keep listening each week because they trust you. When your listeners buy a product you’re advertising, they’re not just supporting you, but they’re supporting a product you believe in. 


The trust podcasters create with their audience is also the reason that you, as a podcaster, need to be mindful of the ads you’re running. It can be easy to get caught up in the idea of monetizing your podcast and running as many programmatic ads as you can fit, but this could have detrimental effects on the brand you’ve worked hard to build. 

Programmatic ads are a bit like self-driving cars. They will definitely be part of the future, but you still must keep your hands on the wheel. Because it gives a scary aspect of me sort of turn the switch on programmatic and then suddenly you have the wrong ads running on the wrong podcast… you also risk killing the amazing relationship between listeners and advertisers that is unique to podcasts.

The podcasting world is still new, and the way advertisers and podcasters work together is always evolving. To run your business effectively, make sure you stay up to date on your podcast data and what advertisers are looking for.

If you are interested in buying podcast ads but have no idea where to start, read this article, Podcast Advertising Best Practices Every Marketer Should Know, and contact us at


If you find this content helpful, you will enjoy this article: 4 Ways Advertisers Buy Podcast Ads

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