Advertising in podcasting. It’s not working!

In March 2016, Pacific Content conducted three surveys with podcasters and their attitudes to advertising in podcasts.  The research showed that 49.2% of the surveyed listeners skipped ads placed in podcasts “all the time” and 31.9% skipped them “most of the time”.

That’s a whopping 81% who skipped commercials all or most of the time. Yet, we hear so much about advertising and whether a host-read ad is better than a programmatic ad; the exponential increase of advertising dollars flowing into podcasting; and how much revenue a podcaster can potentially receive per CPM, or per thousand downloads (ridiculously low, by the way).

The push for advertising flies in the face of all the data showing how much we hate it.

We know from Forrester’s research that 38% of American adults online have installed an online adblocker; 50% actively avoid ads on websites and 47% avoid mobile in-app ads.

Consumers are more empowered with what they consume online and less tolerant of being interrupted. They are demanding better content, more relevant content and on-demand content. How does advertising in a podcast reflect that? Is it good content? Is it relevant? Is it informative? Mostly, no, no and no.

Don’t advertise — add value!

It points to one thing: we all get out of our way to avoid advertising. 

As a brand, why would you want to interrupt and annoy your potential audience? Why not instead create content — bloody good content — that audiences want to listen to?

According to as JWT’s former Chief Creative Officer, EMEA, Craig Davis: 

“Audiences everywhere are tough. They don’t have time to be bored or brow beaten by orthodox, old-fashioned advertising. We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.

We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.

For a lot of brands, that’s hard to do. Actually, even for established media companies, it’s damn hard to create riveting and relevant content. But, companies which are building credibility, likability and trust are doing it by providing experiences and engaging content.

Being “hard to do” shouldn’t stop you from doing it.

If you can create content for your market — something that people want to consume and even pay for — then you’re adding value, and you’re not interrupting.

That includes podcasting. 

Brands that are creating great audio content

GE’s done it spectacularly with Decoding Genius, a 6-part podcast series on childhood geniuses and innovators, and which won an International News Media Association Award.


decoding genius branded podcast with no advertising


Joanne Woo, VP Communications of GE Australia, says audiences’ relationships with brands has evolved. Brands, she tells me, “really want to connect on a deeper level and they want to hear stories that resonate with their families and their aspirations.”

Podcasting is helping GE to build on its reputation as an innovative company.

“It allowed us to own the innovation space and be the head of the marketing curve plus engage GE customers and attract new ones,” Woo says. ” And to me, it proved that brands can own innovative and evergreen content and be storytellers.”

GE has invested a serious coin into podcast creation. Its other series include Decoding Industry and the massive American-made hit, science-fiction drama, The Message.

A branded podcast done well provides real and entertaining value to the market.

Choiceology is a prime example. A highly entertaining a thought-provoking podcast on par with Freakonomics Radio, it examines behavioural psychology and why we often make irrational choices. 


choiceology - a branded podcast - not advertising


It’s a branded podcast for Charles Schwab, an American bank and brokerage firm which provides services for people who are investing online and who make decisions about how they invest. 

It’s a brilliant series as it humanises Charles Schwab and sets it apart from an otherwise less-than-respected industry.

Other branded podcast examples include Officeworks’ Paper Cuts, Genea’s Modern Babies, and Gimlet Media’s Open for Business.


PaperCuts - An Officeworks podcast - not advertising


And they’re not interrupting listeners’ experience with a desperate “look at me, look at me” thwack in someone else’s podcast.

A company could do much more to inform and entertain audiences; podcasting is the “now” medium in which to do it. Done well, it can be highly effective and engaging.