Research Finds Branded Podcasts Are 22% Better Than TV at Engaging Consumers Who Avoid Ads

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Self-identified ad avoiders were 22% more engaged, emotionally involved and likely to remember brands mentioned in a podcast compared to a television benchmark, according to a new study from the BBC.

The study, which was commissioned by the BBC’s branded content division, StoryWorks, found that listeners were 16% more engaged when hearing about a brand on a podcast than when they were listening to the surrounding podcast content. They also had a 12% higher likelihood of remembering the brand than surrounding podcast content.

For the study, researchers identified 263 regular podcast listeners and finance enthusiasts who said they avoided ads in the New York, Melbourne, Munich and Singapore markets. Those test subjects, who also had a combined annual household income of $100,000 or more, listened to 30 minutes of a branded finance podcast Money Movement, which BBC’s branded content division produces, and their brain activity was measured to determine their emotional responses, cognitive engagement and memory of the brand.

“It’s well-known fact that ad avoidance is something that the industry grapples with, and we wanted to see if these people could be positively reached with branded podcasts,” said Caitlin Harley, BBC News director of multiplatform ad sales research, North America. “What we ultimately found out is that they are.”

Researchers also collected the audio consumption habits of more than 2,000 survey respondents from 10 different global markets using consumer surveys, video diaries and video interviews. About 94% of podcast listeners surveyed tune in to podcasts while doing other things, including doing chores, driving, exercising and running errands, researchers found.

Listening to a podcast while doing other things ended up making listeners more engaged. Test subjects who were asked to scroll through their phones while listening to the podcast ended up being 18% more engaged in the podcast and had a 22% better long-term memory of the podcast than those who weren’t doing anything else while they listened.

“If you are in that secondary listening group where you are multitasking, you are just more open to the experience as a whole,” said Harley, who led the research. “You are going to be more open to hearing the content itself, but you are also going to have a higher likelihood of remembering the surrounding ads as well.”

Harley said that listeners who tune into podcasts while doing other things were also found to have a higher level of engagement over time, whereas listeners who were focused on just the podcast tended to dip in and out of engagement.

“Simply put, we could say that secondary listening reduces listener wear-out,” Harley said.

BBC, of course, stands to benefit from the research it conducted, as the media company develops branded podcasts for sponsors. But the research provides information about the listening habits and levels of effectiveness for advertising in podcasting, which has long attracted attention and investment despite lacking some of the measurement tools and metrics that have become the norm in digital advertising.

Podcasting advertising is estimated to exceed $678 million in 2019, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. In 2018, Nielsen found that when it came to brand lift, podcast advertisements performed better than digital ads.

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