I’m looking forward to Podcast Movement next week where I’ll be presenting “4 Keys for Holistic Campaign Measurement” on Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 3:15 PM. I’ve been having a lot of conversations about this with folks from across the industry – including publishers, ad sellers and buyers – and wanted to take it to a larger audience. So I thought I’d use this opportunity to explain why I think the topic is important, especially for the podcasters, producers and publishers who make up the majority of attendees.
I touched on some components of Holistic Measurement in a recent blog post, but to quickly sum up, we can define it as: measuring all branding aspects of a digital audio campaign together – including all publishers, all shows, all placements and all creatives – in order to compare and optimize across all these variables.
Whether you’re a solo podcaster, work at a network or an agency, if you rely at all on advertising, then measurement affects you. It’s especially pivotal for renewals. So it only makes sense to lean in and understand what that measurement means, and how you can leverage it to improve the work you do for advertisers.
The aspect I want to home in on is the ad creative. Compared to other media channels, it’s where podcasters have unique agency.
The Measurement Binary Misses the Creative
However, too often ad effectiveness measurement barely brushes the surface of creative, used only to ask only very binary questions, like, did this show or placement work for us, or not?
Podcasts and their audiences are not monoliths, and they’re not one dimensional. Listeners are real people, responding to actual messages, whether delivered by a host, an announcer, or through a pre-produced spot. While a match between the brand or product and the show matters, the message is the magnet that makes the match stick.
What works on one show, placement or genre may not have the same impact on another. But if you’re only asking, “did this show drive performance?” then you’re missing out on a critical assessment: the message and creative itself. You’re only asking, “what happened?” not ,“why?”
Hosts and Shows Aren’t Solely Responsible for Performance
Historically, many of podcasting’s most successful advertisers have leveraged host reads, where they’re relying heavily on the host to help craft that message. So, it’s easy to see why we often conflate the show with the message and creative. Yet, even with a host read, that host has to rely on the copy points they get from the brand, and there are limits to how much they can change or improvise.
Put another way, it’s asking too much for a host to magically turn ill-fitting copy into a fantastic ad. The host and show are not solely responsible for the performance.
Moreover, while a good podcast host has a strong connection to their audience, even the best are not psychics. They might have well informed ideas about what messages will resonate, but they can’t know for sure. As any experienced marketer knows, one way you refine that is through testing how those creatives perform in the wild (such as with a brand lift study).
Messaging Needs to Fit the Audience
This becomes clearer with announcer reads and pre-produced spots where we lose the host’s direct influence. Let’s say a brand uses the same announcer-read across sports, business and comedy podcasts. In the brand lift results sports shows perform best in generating purchase intent, while comedy comes in last. It might seem obvious to drop comedy.
But what’s not taken into account is that maybe comedy listeners respond better to a different message or approach. If they just ax the comedy spend, the brand is potentially leaving a lot of reach and conversions off the table – and the comedy shows lose the spend. To me, that’s a lose-lose for the brand and podcaster.
Measurement for the Win-Win-Win
This is why it’s important for podcasters and publishers to be engaged in measurement, and even advocate for a holistic approach that digs into the ad creative. A really valuable opportunity lies in assessing what aspect of the messaging is working, and what’s not. This lets a podcaster or publisher be an active partner in optimizing performance. Then, when you measure many different brands across a show or network, you’ll see patterns emerge that give you a more precise understanding of what works for your hosts, talent and audiences. This enables you to make better ads, in general.
That’s a win-win for the podcaster and brand – and adds a win for the audience, because they’re hearing better ads.