BBC Global News study reveals effectiveness of branded podcasts

• Audio: Activated reveals the persuasive power and cut-through of branded podcasts

Branded podcasts are an effective means of advertising and a powerful addition to the marketing mix, generating real cut-through with audiences – particularly ad avoiders, according to the findings of a study from the BBC.

In addition, their impact increases when the listener is engaged in other tasks, which is true for 94% of podcast listeners, and therefore represents an entirely separate space for brands to reach their audiences. These are among the findings of Audio: Activated, a new study commissioned by BBC StoryWorks – BBC Global News’s branded content division – and carried out across four continents by neuroscience researchers at Neuro-Insight. It researches the minds of audio listeners to discover the unique benefits of this space for brands.

Using cutting-edge neuroscience methods, measuring second-by-second brain activity as content is consumed in passive and active states of activity, Audio: Activated reveals the persuasive power and cut-through of branded podcasts. Podcasts have a huge and growing audience. More than 30% of all adult Americans now listen to podcasts at least monthly – that’s more than 90 million people*. In a field filled more with excitement than reliable research data, this study provides much-needed insight.

The study’s key findings include: 

Branding stands out from the content, helping land the message

Within branded podcasts, the brand stands out from the content. Brand mentions in the podcast deliver on average 16% higher engagement and 12% higher memory encoding than the surrounding content. This is a unique effect, as global radio benchmarks show that brand mentions on average score 5% lower than content. The intimate and conversational nature of the podcast environment creates an elevated state of engagement for brand mentions. This also drives brand metrics across the board, helping to generate lifts in awareness (↑89%), brand consideration (↑57%), brand favorability (↑24%), and purchase intent (↑14%).

Branded podcasts achieve unique cut-through with ad avoiders

The study’s sample was comprised of ad avoiders, but their engagement, emotional intensity and memory encoding around brand mentions beat TV benchmarks by at least 22%, showing that branded podcasts are an effective way to engage this hard to reach but commercially-desirable group.

Podcast listeners are active

94% of listeners consume podcasts while performing other tasks.  Doing chores at home (61%) and driving (55%) were the most common, with exercising, shopping and running errands also popular.

Activity makes listeners more receptive

Rather than reducing the brand impact, the research shows that the active group scored more highly on all measures – engagement (+18%), emotional intensity (+40%) and long term memory of the podcast (+22%).

The study shows that two processes occur in order to deliver this:

• Keeping the brain occupied with an activity enhances the ability for brands messages to achieve cut-through.
• The state of activity means that the podcast content is being taken in through ‘low-involvement processing’ – a much more ‘fuel-efficient’ process that has a lower cognitive load. As such, engagement with the content can last much longer; good news for this long-form format.

Branded podcasts drive positive associations

Listeners create subconscious associations with the brand, based on words they hear in the podcast. In the sample, the word “innovative” was mentioned 12 times during the podcast. Listeners were later more likely to call the sponsor “innovative”, showing that they instinctively associate the brand with the message.

Podcasts provide extra time for brands

When people are listening to podcasts, they are doing so in moments that are not traditionally opportunities for advertising. Because of the unique way podcasts are consumed – usually whilst multitasking – brands are now able to reach people in what were previously thought to be unreachable moments.  This is an enviable commercial opportunity as it is additive to the marketing mix.

Alistair McEwan (pictured), SVP Commercial Development, APAC, says, “With our long heritage of audio content at the BBC we know it works and have consistently seen the impact it has on our audiences, but we saw a need within the industry to be able to demonstrate this impact for brands. The results from across APAC specifically speak for themselves, namely that not only do podcasts give you access to an almost 20% new and untapped audience of international news consumers but there is a higher level of engagement and emotional intensity that podcasts invoke, driving an 11% uplift in purchase intent.”

Richard Pattinson, SVP BBC StoryWorks, says, “The BBC has a near-century long reputation for excellence in audio-based storytelling. This study provides real empirical evidence demonstrating the opportunity in the audio space for brands, and partnering with experts in this space offers an exciting and effective way for them to reach audiences in a genuinely meaningful way. “

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