Podcast Advertising Case Study Review

We breakdown a podcast ad campaign case study from a brand that came to us looking for help. We share opportunities for improvement and podcast advertising best practices.


Podcast advertising campaigns can be tricky, especially if you are new to the space and its quirky nuances. There are specific criteria that marketers can implement to make a solid strategy even better. We will break down a podcast advertising case study to help us work through the best practices for podcast advertising. 


This article will cover the following:

  • The pros and cons of the podcasts they selected.
  • The benefit of the number of podcasts they chose. 
  • Their target audience – who should have targeted instead.
  • The delivery type and frequency of the ad placements.
  • Why the ad reads had the most significant impact on their advertising campaign.

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Before we unpack the case study, you should know some backstory about the brand. The company is relatively new, about a year old, and in the health and fitness industry. Their target demographic was fairly gender-neutral. 40% of their consumers are female, and 60% are male. (This is an important piece to remember as we break down the campaign.) Their campaign type was direct response, and they were only interested in host-read ads.

They came to me for help because their formula wasn’t working. The brand knew they could succeed with podcast advertising, but they needed some expert advice to tighten their strategy.


The first step was to analyze the entire campaign and find the wins and the areas of opportunity. I was pleasantly surprised by all the things they had done well. There were definitely some best practices included in their podcast advertising campaign.


Number of Podcasts

Going into the campaign, the brand realized that they couldn’t just purchase one podcast. They knew that they had to buy multiple, which is an excellent strategy for testing. They sponsored five podcasts in total, a solid number to work with, and what I recommend as a best practice. When you work with at least five shows, you can compare and contrast which shows performed well or not and scale from there.

Type of Ad Read

As I previously mentioned, they were interested in host-read ads. Because they are a new company with a limited brand reach, using the power of influencer endorsements from the hosts was also a win in my books. Not only would this help with conversions, but it will also spark more brand awareness and brand recall. This is one of the best podcast advertising practices they chose.

Podcast Demographics

When we look at the types of podcasts they sponsored, there was definitely room for improvement. The shows that they selected were predominantly male-based. So the audiences of the shows that they were advertising on were primarily male. Now, given the fact that 40% of their purchasers were female and 60% were male, it made sense to go in that direction, to begin with. However, when we looked at their website visitor demographic, more women visited the site, but the men were the ones converting.

This tells us that their messaging or call-to-action is not resonating with women and something that should be reviewed.

My recommendation for their next podcast advertising campaign:

  1. Split test the campaign to include shows with female demographics and mix up the messaging. 
  2. You can provide two creatives and landing pages geared towards the different segments and share them with the respective podcasts. 

Note: Most companies have a more substantial gender segment; this is an unusual case. 

Podcast Hosts

The brand chose podcasts based on relationships that they already had. So they knew some of the hosts and, in some ways, were advertising with friends.

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This was an interesting part because I was impressed with the numbers they went for. The brand chose downloads between 75K and 130K downloads per episode within a 30-day period. So, I would say definitely on the high end of middle to larger shows. Most companies will start small and work their way up, but they went straight for the big ones. Now, I will share some more thoughts on this in a bit and why I think this was ambitious. First, we have to talk about ad delivery, frequency and spend.


The brand chose to do four embedded ads on each podcast over dynamic ads. Embedded ads are stitched directly into the episode and remain there for at least 120 days. Dynamic ads are digitally inserted into the episode for 30-45 days and then removed. They are also inserted across the entire catalog of episodes, not just a single episode like embedded ads.
So, they were picking five shows, running four embedded ad reads on each podcast, reaching between 75K and 130K downloads per episode.
Back of napkin calculation tells us that they spent probably in the range of about $60,000 on their campaign based on industry standards. And what they received was a minimal return on spend. Of course, this is highly discouraging. The company was looking for direct response and had the wind knocked out of its sails.


Now, this is where I come in. Let’s unpack exactly what it is that they created. And let’s talk about how we could approach a campaign like this slightly differently.

Here are a couple of wins:

  • They got a return on spend from one of the podcasts. This is a win because they are an unknown company, and they only place four ads on that show. People are not familiar with the brand, so it takes time to win trust.
  • The brand awareness for the company got a boost, which is super helpful for the next campaign they do to drive brand recall. 
  • I give the brand a thumbs up for buying five podcasts. 
  • Host read ads were perfect for their goals. 
  • Their 20% off call-to-action was higher than most. I think that was a solid offer. If your company has done influencer marketing, look at offers that have succeeded and use them in podcast advertising. These two intersect really well.  
These are the tactics I would have used to improve results. Do another test and include these best practices:
  • I would stick with the podcast that performed. Find similar podcasts, as well as diversify the shows based on the demographics we talk about earlier. 
  • If the company wanted to stick with embedded ads, I would have increased the frequency. Run two ads per month for the next 3 months.
  • I would recommend considering dynamic insertion because you can get a much higher frequency and repeat ad delivery to the same listeners. 
  • Choose podcasts that were a bit smaller. Review the average dollar sale of the product that the brand is selling and compare it to its investment. If you have a $100 sale and a $60,000 spend, you will have to sell a lot to recoup the investment. Smaller shows (10K – 50K) cost less but still move the needle. 


The last piece I want to cover is the ad-read. This made such an impact on this brand’s campaign, it deserves a stand-alone moment. In our conversation, the marketer mentioned that a couple of shows really missed the mark when understanding their product. If the product is relatively new, make sure you give the host a good breakdown. You need to send them the product to try. Follow up to make sure they like and understand your product. Give them clear talking points, so they know what to cover. When they’re creating the ad-reads, they will be more authentic and native. Now, it’s possible that because they recruited friends to advertise with, this impacted the ad-reads because they said, “I got it,” but they didn’t get it. The other caveat is that the hosts (except for one that got results) did not create an ad with personal experience. They just read the talking points. This makes a massive impact on conversions.
We focus a lot on downloads, but I think it is equally important to review how a host does an ad-read before sponsoring them.
You can have all your campaign ducks in a row, but you will be wasting your budget if the ad is lackluster.  So, there you have it, my breakdown reaction to a podcast ad campaign gone bust. I shared the wins and used some best practices to reconfigure the formula and drive results. If you need help with your podcast sponsorship, reach out to truenativemedia.com.

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