Stephanie Shang, head of media, Australia, at Essence
I listened to my first podcast (shout out to The Dawn and Drew Show!) in 2004 on a fourth-generation iPod that was my pride and joy - so to see the commercialisation of podcasts 17 years later is pretty surreal. Podcasts with cult followings have been propelled to mainstream status over the last few years, making it much easier to educate brands and marketers, and test podcasts on media plans. Personally, I love that podcasts have become an entertainment and content channel in their own right - titles are consumed, exchanged and discussed like movies, documentaries and TV shows.
Advancing technology and content partnerships
From a technological standpoint, digital audio is still a relatively nascent space compared to display and video. What is promising is the year-on-year growth and appetite to advance quickly from key players in the market. Advancements such as Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) and Dynamic Ad Insertion (DAI) technology help reduce the barrier to access, while also allowing for greater flexibility in trading spots and dots. While there is still room for progress in measurement and ad-serving technology in the industry, the progress achieved from leaders in this space thus far is undoubtedly impressive.
Content and sponsorships-wise, my experience with podcast advertising has been a great learning curve as no two briefs are the same. If agencies and brands are interested in advertising beyond spots and dots, the process and lift required are similar to that of a content partnership, and require a lot of collaboration across the board (between the brand, media agency, creative agency and audio partner) to deliver an authentically entertaining message. Podcast audiences are generally very loyal to shows they listen to, so it is important to ensure there is a good contextual fit between the talent and the brand. It is also really important to work with media partners that have strong processes in place with talent to ensure the best outcomes.
Driving brand lift and attention metrics
At Essence, we adopt a rigorous approach in calculating brand lift for our clients - which is a much higher standard than the industry average. This is a standard that many local media partners find challenging to meet due to the minimum sample sizes we require. That said, with a lot of collaboration and ambition, we were able to drive statistically significant lift in brand consideration for one of our campaigns in Q4 2020 when we ran podcasting solutions via Acast. It is very hard to shift mid to lower-funnel metrics to these standards, so this was a really promising indicator that we should continue to test, iterate and scale in this space, which is in line with Essence’s culture of experimentation, learning and constant improvement.
Strategically, at Essence, we are experiencing a shift away from spots and dots, and putting more of a focus on attention metrics, evolving consumer behaviour trends and quality ad experiences to inform our media planning decisions. This makes podcasting a great space for us to explore as it ticks a lot of boxes in these areas - tapping into a highly captive and leaned-in audience. We do believe podcasting is here to stay, which is why we have made a huge effort to determine its value to our clients.
Ensuring holistic standards in measurement and effectiveness
Given we have seen strong results to date, we are committed to consulting and collaborating with key audio partners to advance their technology offering to ensure holistic standards around measurement and effectiveness. Operationally, we find that partners with global connectivity or diversified businesses are able to innovate the fastest and manage the creative content process most effectively, easing the lift on marketers and agencies. This gives us a lot of confidence in reinvesting in this space.
Stephanie Shang is head of media, Australia at Essence, a global data and measurement-driven media agency which is part of GroupM.