Despite being a young medium, theres already a bounty of conventional wisdom in podcast advertising.
Much comes from the real-world experience of advertisers, informed by their successes, who then shared conclusions about what worked. In turn, these insights—though often anecdotal—have been passed along over the years, becoming engrained through repetition.
No doubt, there are concrete observations at the core of received wisdom. But as podcasting solidifies its place in the media landscape, it’s vital to continue pushing the envelope, questioning what we assume to be true, and doing the research that confirms, disproves or complicates assumptions. This takes time and resources, which is justified by helping brands make the best and most effective use of the platform.
In my seven years with Stitcher, we made these investments whenever possible, commissioning thought leadership research and aggregating performance metrics. Yet, we always wanted to do more. Now as part of the SXM Media team, we’re embarking on an ambitious program of research and analysis both to interrogate podcasting’s received wisdom and address many of the still unanswered questions we get every day from ad buyers.
Determining the Best Length for Podcast Ads
In our first study, we took on a long-standing nugget of conventional wisdom: Longer podcast ads perform better than shorter ones. This near-mantra is one reason why buyers are commonly advised to select mid-roll spots, which tend to be around a minute in length, over pre-rolls or post-rolls, which tend to be 15 to 30 seconds long.
So, is this a myth?
The answer is not “yes” or “no.” In fact, when it comes to upper-funnel metrics, we discovered that a 15-second ad creative performed just as well as a longer 60-second spot. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In March 2021 we conducted a brand lift study with Signal Hill Insights. A panel of 575 podcast listeners heard a 30-minute episode of “Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations” or “Hidden Brain.” During their episode, they were exposed to either a 15-second, 30-second or 60-second announcer-read ad for Xfinity xFi, produced by Pandora’s Studio Resonate. Another panel of 189 heard one of the same episodes, but without advertising. At the end of the episode, participants took a survey, asking them about what they heard.
Turns out, 46% of the listeners who heard the 15-second creative could remember the brand Xfinity xFi without prompting. Surprisingly, that’s on par with the unaided recall norm for Stitcher podcasts, based on four years of brand studies that primarily tested longer 30- to 60-second host-read ads. It’s truly an impressive showing.
The 15-second spot also generated a statistically significant lift of 13 points in brand awareness for Xfinity xFi, compared to listeners who didn’t hear an ad. The 30-second ad and 60-second ad performed equally well, each with significant 11-point lifts in brand awareness.
Aligning Ad Lengths With Campaign Objectives
With that kind of performance, one might ask: Why not choose 15-second ad creatives all the time? Well, it all depends on your objectives.
Down the funnel is where we saw the longer creatives shine. In the mid-funnel, the 30-second ad generated a significant 9-point lift in familiarity for Xfinity xFi, while the 60-second ad resulted in a significant 12-point lift in consideration.
Farther down, the longest ad length was most successful in driving understanding and action. Compared to those who heard no ad, significantly more listeners exposed to the 60-second creative agreed with all five of the Xfinity xFi features and benefits contained in the spot. These were statements like, “The Xfinity app lets you control your WiFi” and “Xfinity xFi offers the fastest streaming speeds.”
This group of listeners was also significantly more likely to say they would visit the brand’s website to learn more. Overall, the 60-second ad beat out the two shorter formats in these lower-funnel metrics.
In the end, the assumption that longer podcast ads work best is both confirmed and busted. At the top of the funnel, it’s busted; shorter ads perform just as well. Down the funnel, it’s confirmed: 60-second ads are better for consideration, education and moving listeners to act.
Your campaign objectives should be a driver in choosing podcast ad lengths. Shorter ads are excellent choices to drive recall and awareness, while longer ads move audiences down the funnel. A well-optimized podcast ad campaign will employ creatives of different lengths to motivate audiences not just to be aware, but to consider and convert.