Podcast Upfronts 2021: 5 things we learnt

Posted on Monday 11 October 2021 | IAB UK

Brand new shows and exciting ad opportunities were shared at Podcast Upfronts 2021, plus a generous smattering of star talent

We all wondered whether podcasting’s popularity would decline when working from home became the norm, said our CMO James Chandler, opening our third annual Podcast Upfronts - but the opposite happened. “We found different ways of listening, at different moments” and advertisers’ investment in the medium has skyrocketed, with our latest full-year Adspend report showing a huge 43% increase in spend in 2020. With sessions from Acast, DAX from Global, Fresh Air Production, Podfront and Sony Music, here are some of our key takeaways from Podcast Upfronts 2021. 

1. Make ‘em laugh 

Dax’s session was all about laughter and how it can work wonders for your brand. “People are leaning into comedy… we are craving laughter and positivity” explained Global’s Tony McAllister and Faye McDowall, with DAX having seen massive growth in demand for comedian-hosted or comedy-based podcasts across its portfolio. However, just because a show is funny doesn’t mean that it can’t be a vehicle for meaningful conversations and brand messaging, said McAllister. For example, GiffGaff successfully partnered with podcasts including ‘Out with Suzi Ruffell’ and ‘Pop Off with Lewys Ball’ to show its support for the LGBTQ+ community. 

2. Change the prism of success

With digital advertising traditionally seen as a performance-driven, click-based medium, the rise of podcasts means that we need to “change the prism of success”, said Michaela Hallam from Fresh Air Production. “Podcasting is all about engagement” and the measurement strategies applied to it should reflect that. Engaging young audiences was one of the driving goals behind WWF’s decision to start its own podcast, with the wildlife charity’s Greg Armfield telling Hallam: “The podcast has allowed us the breadth and depth to talk about WWF’s work and engage younger audiences.” A total of 67% of its series one listeners were under 34 years old. 

3. Sharing the same ethos counts 

As part of Acast’s session, Fearne Cotton, host of podcast ‘Happy Place’, highlighted how important it is to her to work with brands that share the same ethos as her podcast. She described the ideal brand partnership as being one that “understands what ‘Happy Place’ is” and doesn’t jar with the community of listeners she has built up. In her view, one of the positives of podcasting is that “you can deliver top-quality content to anyone that wants to listen” thanks to the ad-funded model. Continuing to develop new and native ways for brands to work with podcasts is a priority, with Acast’s Josh Woodhouse debuting a new ad product: dynamic host reads. This will allow brands to work with content creators to tailor messaging to audiences based on factors such as location or device.  

4. Listen to the audience

Quality original content is paramount when it comes to podcasting, with Sony Music’s Jez Nelson explaining: “Through the content we have now and the content we have on the way, we can reach a wide range of audiences and give brands the opportunity to have context-rich conversations”. He said that the company has been conducting research into what its audiences want from new podcasts, as well as advertisers’ appetite for different content. This is helping to inform the creation of new shows, including one of its newest projects, ‘The Female Gaze’, which will premiere next year from illustrator, writer and feminist social activist Florence Given. From sex to social media, the podcast will look at different topics via a feminist lens.

5. There’s more choice than ever 

Throughout the afternoon, new shows and ad products were shared, including exciting news from Podfront UK - Wondery’s Declan Moore announced that Podfront UK is now the exclusive sales representative of Amazon Music podcasts in the UK “giving [brands] an even greater range of ad solutions and access to audiences''.  The deal gives advertisers access to over 400 podcasts, including shows such as ‘SmartLess’ with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett and soon-to-be-released podcast ‘Storytime’ with Seth Rogen. Both Podfront and Acast also announced that they are working with Podsights to deliver better attribution around podcast advertising and equip advertisers with the insight they need to make data-informed decisions. 

All sessions from Podcast Upfronts are available to watch back here

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