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HomeMarketingPodcast listeners want clear signposting for ads, study finds

Podcast listeners want clear signposting for ads, study finds

Podcast listeners want clearer signposting for adverts in podcasts, according to research by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP).

The research suggests listeners want clear labels to identify when they’re listening to an ad in a podcast, with the terms ‘paid-for-advertisement’ and ‘sponsored’ seen as the most effective.

Phrases such as ‘partnered with’ or ‘brought to you by’ imply a two-way relationship between the host and advertiser that is not necessarily transactional and can be confusing to consumers.

Listeners also prefer clear signals, such as musical jingles at the start and end, to separate the editorial from the ad and want a distinct change in the host’s tone to be more robotic, animated, or scripted to distinguish the ad easily. Additionally, they prefer short ads.

Project lead Beth Erwin argues listeners shouldn’t have to “play detective” when distinguishing between what is and isn’t an ad.

“By being upfront and clear about when an ad appears, podcasters can continue to build the connection with their audience and avoid eroding the trust and authenticity they’ve spent time and effort building,” she says.

The new CAP guidance published today (May 16) follows a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in 2022 about deceptive advertising in podcasts.

The ruling related to an advert for nutrition brand Huel aired during an episode of Steven Bartlett’s podcast The Diary Of A CEO on Spotify. The complainant challenged whether the ad was obviously identifiable as marketing. The ASA told Huel and Bartlett to ensure they made clear the commercial intent of ad content in podcasts in future, ensuring a break from editorial content was clearly and audibly identified.

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Podcast landscape

The CAP research suggests listeners feel a more “intimate” connection with podcast hosts than with other forms of media, leading to a strong sense of trust in their opinions.

The podcast industry is also perceived to be less commercial than other mediums, such as TV and radio, increasing the sense of trust placed on podcast hosts and advertisers.

Advertising that felt far removed from the podcast genre, host or episode topic was felt to infringe on or disturb these initial perceptions.

“Podcasts command huge audiences and are a very popular way for people to access fun, informative and engaging media for free, and we recognise that advertising is the primary way most of this content is funded,” says Erwin.

“Our research shows that people want there to be clear delineation between ads and editorial content, and there’s a risk that people may feel misled if they can’t hear the difference.”

Podcasting is growing in popularity and economic potential. In 2023, ad spend on podcast advertising was up 23% year-on-year to £83m compared to £68m the year before, according to the latest IAB/PwC Digital Adspend report.

Nearly half of podcast listeners choose to skip ads

However, a 2023 YouGov study reported just one in seven listeners (14%) find ads in podcasts interesting and not interruptive, while more than two in five (42%) skip them altogether.

According to YouGov, one in five (18%) listeners find podcast ads to be intrusive but choose to listen to them anyway, and 14% say that while they do not find them particularly intrusive equally they don’t find them particularly interesting.

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The funding framework for podcasts remains a live issue. This week some of Britain’s major media companies, including ITV, Sky and Bauer, raised concerns with the government regarding the BBC’s plan to introduce podcast advertising for UK listeners.

In March, the broadcaster announced plans to start advertising on podcast platforms, explaining that “adverts are the norm”.

A group of 20 media businesses have now signed an open letter to Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, saying the move would have a “disastrous impact”.

“The impact of it extracting audio advertising funds from the nascent UK podcasting market would be disastrous, especially for the numerous small independent podcast producers,” the open letter states.

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