Say hello to Conversational Targeting
The creativity coursing through the veins of the podcast industry never fails to amaze me. Whether it’s creators telling new stories to entertain their diehard fans, or advertisers finding new ways to become a relevant voice in those conversations, the people involved in podcasting are some of the most creative you’ll ever meet.
We’re pretty creative at Acast, too. That’s why, six months ago, we launched a new ad offering: Sponsored Stories. It’s a premium format with a focus on storytelling: advertisers get longer spots with high production values, more opportunity for creativity, and a greater share of voice within ad breaks.
A host might interview someone external to the podcast, for example, or record outside of the normal studio environment — which all makes for an immersive listener experience.
According to a recent study from Nielsen, longer ads (of 60 seconds or more) drive even higher lifts among consumers. When it comes to seeking more information about a brand, for example, Nielsen found that longer ads are nearly 70% more effective — and that’s been borne out in the results brands are already achieving through Sponsored Stories.
Uptake has been swift, and we’ve even received industry acclaim for the launch. Brands already running successful Sponsored Stories campaigns include American Express, Sainsbury’s, AMC+, Corsodyl, Uber Eats, the UK Department for Education, Heinz, HelloFresh, Belong, Channel 4, Kia, Sky, and Transport for London.
The list goes on — and it’s growing — but, six months in, it feels like a good point to reflect on how things have gone so far. Let’s take a closer look at five campaigns that I think nailed the reasons we introduced Sponsored Stories in the first place.
Corsodyl wanted to get people who weren’t already using their toothpaste — and those who didn’t realise that gum disease is a serious problem — to talk about it, take care of themselves, and react.
We created The Summer of Self Improvement, a campaign featuring some of the UK’s biggest wellbeing and lifestyle podcasts, designed to help us all make some positive changes to our daily routines. As part of this, we ran Sponsored Stories featuring four podcast hosts speaking to a periodontist about how listeners can improve their daily oral care routine — discussing common problems and misunderstandings and steps that can be taken to prevent gum disease.
We were able to introduce voices from very different shows — like Dan Snow’s History Hit and Self Care Club — but have them tell a collaborative and compelling story for the brand. And a post-campaign effectiveness study by D.fferentology showed that, by using Sponsored Stories, Corsodyl had achieved significant increases in brand awareness, perception, and consideration.
“The Acast team were fantastic to work with throughout our campaign, they understood our objectives and connected the brand to relevant talent to reach our audience through contextual content,” said Kate Wearden, Brand Manager at GlaxoSmithKline.
“The Sponsored Stories produced by the talent were engaging and motivating, which came through in the performance of the campaign. We saw fantastic results; increased brand awareness, brand perceptions and consideration. I’d definitely recommend working with the Acast team to reach your audience through podcasts.”
Recipe box Gousto wanted to spread the word about their delicious recipes and industry-leading choice to hungry listeners. Cooking can be a sensory experience, and a glance at the podcast charts will tell you that food is something a lot of listeners are rather passionate about.
We created a bespoke collection of podcasts for Gousto and sent the hosts into the kitchen to record their Sponsored Stories — all while creating a dish from their own Gousto box. In the clip above you’ll hear Katherine Ryan, host of Telling Everybody Everything, preparing a South Indian-style chicken cashew curry, with the help of her daughter and husband.
It’s a great example of what sets a Sponsored Story apart. Here we have the host in a much more relaxed environment, actually using the product — which you can hear sizzling away in the background — and you also get the appearance of some fresh voices, in this instance Katherine’s family.
“Working with Acast and leveraging their Sponsored Stories format was an incredible experience,” said Anna Greene, Marketing Director at Gousto. “It was the first time Gousto had used this format, and with the team’s support and best practice insights we were able to really get under the skin of the podcasters’ tone of voice and style.
“This ensured that we landed Gousto’s brand messages with authenticity and impact, resulting in a really strong campaign which we are planning to extend into 2022.”
Telecommunications giant Belong wanted to showcase its new brand anthem to a receptive audience via the endorsement of some trusted voices. Step forward much-loved parenting show Too Peas in A Podcast.
Hosts Mandy and Kate reflected on their own positive experiences of online communities, a theme running through Belong’s new song, before introducing the piece of music. The reaction from listeners, who were served something quite unexpected, was huge — and the authentic messaging clearly resonated with the highly engaged audience.
“Never has an ad inspired so much conversation,” wrote one listener on Facebook. While another simply replied with, “a wonderful, whimsical and weirdly irresistible ad.”
The DfE’s goal was a simple one: encourage more people to consider a career as a teacher. Our Sponsored Stories campaign ran in 10 different Acast podcasts, including the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, with the hosts joined by a real-life teacher and pupil.
Rather than hosts talking about why teaching matters, we got to hear from two people living it on a daily basis. And, as you’ll hear in the Football Weekly example above, crucial to the success of this campaign was ensuring the presence of shared interests between our hosts and the teachers and pupils joining them.
By using Sponsored Stories, the DfE was able to bring more authentic voices into the conversation — while the podcasters were still given the opportunity to deliver in the unique style their listeners know and love.
The partnership led to more than 70% of the DfE’s target audience agreeing that teaching is a career for people like them — the campaign’s main objective — while Sophie Gray, Assistant Campaign Manager for the DfE said the results were “above and beyond anything we’ve tried on audio before”.
While it’s a rare occurrence in comparison to the number of journeys taken, hate crime is sadly a regular occurrence on the London transport network, with both staff and passengers being subject to abuse. Over the summer, TfL developed a campaign to take a stand and make people aware that it won’t be tolerated on buses, trains or tubes — and Acast helped bring that message to thousands of additional podcast listeners.
The hosts of the podcasts taking part in this campaign, which included the likes of Growing Up with gal-dem, Homo Sapiens and Hip Hop Saved My Life, all created Sponsored Stories telling personal stories of their own experiences — both positive and negative — of travelling across London. This was coupled with guidance for listeners on what they should do if they encounter abuse of any kind on the network.
James Evans of Wavemaker, the media agency Acast worked with on the campaign, said: “Change requires provocative thinking, but it also requires an inclusive mindset. We applied both to this campaign. Through the power of personalised, diverse, thought-provoking stories that shared lived experiences of hate crimes, we encouraged people from all backgrounds to report future experiences, knowing they have TfL’s full support behind them.”
Corsodyl, Gusto, Belong, the DfE and TfL all approached Sponsored Stories with an open mind and an emphasis on creating an immersive experience for the listener, and I think the results speak for themselves. We’ve got plenty more where this came from, so keep your ears peeled.
If you’d like to hear more about Sponsored Stories or the other ways Acast can help your brand become part of the millions of conversations happening across our network of 35,000 podcasts every day, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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