Dynamic Ad Insertion for Podcasts: Are They Right for Your Show?

If you sell ads for your podcast (or you’ve begun pitching potential sponsors), you’ve probably heard of dynamic ad insertion for podcasts.

It’s a growing trend that will undoubtedly become more popular over the next few years. According to an IAB study, dynamic ads represented almost 42% of podcast ads in 2017.

What is this technology? How do you use it? What are its implications for podcast creators and advertisers? Is it right for your show?

In this article, we’d like to introduce you dynamic ad insertion for podcasts, explore the benefits and drawbacks, and help you decide if this approach is right for your show.

What is Dynamic Ad Insertion for Podcasts?

Typically, most podcasts ads are “baked-in.” This means they’re part of the episode’s recording. When one of your sponsors purchases an ad, you either read it alongside the rest of your content, or edit it in later, but the result is a single audio file for the listener to download.

Baked-in ads stay with the episode forever. It doesn’t matter when a listener downloads the file. The ad will always be there.

Dynamic ad insertion for podcasts, however, give you the ability to change the ads in your audio files on demand. You could swap one ad out for another ad without re-uploading the podcast episode to your website or podcatcher.

This means you can stitch a brand new ad into an episode you recorded five years ago. Anyone who downloads the old episode (that’s been sitting on iTunes or Google Play) will hear the new ad, not the one that published with the episode originally.

Dynamic ad insertion for podcasts allows you to insert the ad anywhere in the show – pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll. You just have to create different ad options and define the point in the episode where you want ads to play.

dynamic ad insertion for podcasts
Image: Cabana

Dynamic Ad Insertion for Podcasts Example

Let’s say you partner with a sponsor who purchases 20,000 impressions of their ad. This means they want their ad to run until 20,000 people have downloaded episodes with their ad content.

With dynamic ad insertion for podcasts, you can load that ad into all of your episodes –  including past episodes that you have already published. Anyone who downloads any episode will hear the new ad. Then once the sponsor gets his 20,000 impressions, you can replace his ad with a new one.

This is similar to how advertising works in other mediums. On television, for example, commercials aren’t tied to the programming. Networks and channels control which ads are shown during commercial breaks, even if they’re just renting the rights to that program for a while.

However, dynamic ad insertion for podcasts doesn’t mean your ads are a hodgepodge of independently produced commercials. Ads are still be recorded by the same host.

How Dynamic Ad Insertion Works

Dynamic podcast ads work in two different ways depending on the technology you use. They’re functionally different, although the result is usually the same.

Method 1: Multiple Audio Files

One method uses multiple audio files for the same episode. One version is your episode without the ad. Another version has your ad stitched on to the beginning or end.

When the user tries to download an episode, a decision engine determines which version the listener should receive. It makes a decision based on certain variables, such as location, cookies on the user’s computer, or UTM parameters on the link a user followed.

The decision engine plays a key role here. For example, you may have an ad that is only suitable for listeners in the United States. If someone outside of the United States download the episode, they would get the version without the ad.

But you aren’t limited to two versions of the episode. You can upload multiple versions with different ads stitched onto the beginning or end. You would just have to set parameters so the decision engine knows when to give out each version.

Method 2: Dynamic Stitching

The other method is even more dynamic. It stitches ads to episodes in real time whenever a listener requests a download. This means that not only can you change ads at a whim, you can show different ads to different people based on highly specific targeting rules.

For instance, a dynamic ad insertion platform could read the cookies on your computer and learn that you recently visited the Bass Pro Shop website. It would then stitch on the host’s most relevant ad – perhaps something to do with fishing or outdoor sports. If the platform is part of a large ad network, it could scour its database for a Bass Pro Shop (or similar) ad to serve you.

Theoretically, this kind of dynamic ad insertion could even integrate with services like Facebook and Google to serve targeted ads just like those platforms.

Dynamic Ad Platforms

At the moment, there aren’t any DIY dynamic ad insertion tools, so you’ll have to use a dynamic ad platform.

  • Art19 – A new player in the podcast advertising space. Art19 has some unique technology to help you target your ads. You can serve different ads to listeners based on their region and preferences.
  • Podbean – A self-serve platform to distributed dynamic ads. You simply set times in your episode to play dynamic ads, upload the ads, and track your campaigns.
  • Megaphone – Just like Podbean, Megaphone is a self-serve platform to insert dynamic ads. You control when, where, and in what order ads and promos appear in your show.

Here’s an example of how it works in Podbean. You simply create an ad campaign, upload your ad spot, then designate times in your episodes.

dynamic ad insertion for podcasts

The Benefits of Dynamic Ad Insertion for Podcasts

Why should use dynamic ad insertion for podcasts?

1. Dynamic Ads are Fresh

Imagine someone downloads an old episode, hears an old ad, and then navigates to the sponsor’s website only to learn that the sponsor’s offer isn’t available any longer. Annoying, right? You don’t want your listeners to go through that.

Since you can change dynamic ads over time, your listeners only hear ads that are timely and relevant. You don’t bother exposing them to offers that no longer exist, events that have already passed, or outdated techniques and information.

2. They Don’t Sound Any Different to Listeners

Like all podcast ads, dynamically inserted ads are read by the host, so the sound exactly the same as baked-in ads (if you do them well). They can fit into any of your usual ad spots. Most listeners don’t have any idea if the ads they hear were part of the original recording or not.

3. They Give You Control

Dynamic ads give you control over what your listeners hear long after you publish the episode. You can edit, remove, or replace an ad anytime you want, for any reason. For example, you can remove all of a sponsor’s ads if they fail to pay your bill.

4. They’re Great for Time-Based Events/News

Let’s say you’re a comedy podcast that gets paid to promote comedy shows. There’s no sense promoting a show that already happened, even in old episodes that people will still download. Dynamic ads ensure you’re always promoting the right events.

The Drawbacks of Dynamic Ad Insertion for Podcasts

Wild dynamic ads for podcast offer a number of benefits, they are right for every host and every show. Here are some of the drawbacks.

1. Sponsors Stop Getting Impressions Eventually

Some sponsors like to purchase podcast ads specifically because those ads will be a part of the show forever. Your current sponsors or future potential sponsors may not want to purchase ads that only appear for a limited time as this practice raises their customer acquisition cost.

2. They May Not Seem Organic

When you bake an ad into an episode, there are ways to organically transition from your content to the ad, making the ad seem natural (even if you identify the ad as an advertisement).  dynamically inserted ads, however, can seem artificial and contrived, especially if the ad is completely unrelated to the episode’s content.

3. Sometimes Listener Can’t Share Timestamps

Some listeners like to share timestamps with their friends to point out interesting points in the podcast. But dynamic ads might be different lengths, so timestamps won’t be the same for every listeners. What happens at 15 minutes and 35 seconds for listener may not happen until 15 minutes and 57 seconds for another.

4. They Aren’t Free

For the time being, you need to use a platform to manage your dynamically inserted past. That platform comes with a cost. it’s important to make sure your dynamic ads earn enough Revenue to pay for the platform’s fees.

The Future of Dynamic Podcast Ads

Will dynamic ad insertion for podcasts become a bigger part of podcast advertising? It’s hard to read the future, but we think it will.

Dynamic ad insertion is a big part of other forms of media. You see it all over TV, radio, web pages, and social media. They’re all over Facebook and YouTube. Podcasts are just the next frontier. In fact, NPR has been doing dynamic ad insertion for podcasts since at least 2008.

The real question is whether dynamic ads are right for your show. Are your ads timely, or do they work any time? Do you need to change them often? Do you plan to work with a large ad network rather than sell ads yourself?

Since dynamic ad insertion gives podcast creators and advertisers more flexibility, it will encourage more brands to sponsors shows. In turn, this will encourage more people to create high quality podcast content for us to enjoy.

Dynamic ads won’t replace baked-in ads entirely, of course. Some sponsors will always prefer to keep their ads in episodes indefinitely. But dynamic ad technology gives creators and sponsors more options, and choice is good for everyone.

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