Part of series: Podcast Advertising 101

Planning Your Podcast Ad Campaign: Research, Copy, Budget, and Scheduling

April 01, 2019

You’ve decided that podcast advertising is right for your brand. Now what? Here are a few steps to get you started as you begin to plan a podcast ad campaign.


Step #1: Choosing the right shows

Getting through to your target audience will only come from pairing your message with the right show. Choosing the right show might be the most important part of your ad planning process.

It might feel daunting to start looking through all the podcasts out there. Podsights Research is a fantastic place to start—it sources the top 200 podcasts for you to browse.

One way to begin filtering shows is by looking at ads that are (or are not) placed by similar brands. Podsights Research monitors podcasts to determine who is advertising where, to help you better understand where competitive companies are placing their ads. Podsights combines machine and human reviewers to identify ads within each episode, and tag them according to the advertiser.

Top Brands

If you find a show that seems like a good fit you can also view a list of shows that those listeners also subscribed to, to continue narrowing your search.

Know your audience

When choosing a show, think outside the box of traditional demographics. It’s important to understand what type of genre resonates with your target audience, but also to get specific within general interest categories. If you’re audience is interested in science, are they humor-driven, fact-inclined, academic, or interested in storytelling? Building out a thorough user profile that matches your target audience will help narrow down your show selection.

Know your campaign schedule

Picking a show with a regular schedule will make it easier to manage a campaign and track the results. Some podcasts post only monthly or at irregular intervals, which can make tracking your results a bit harder if it’s a new show that you are trying out. Plus if you place an ad with a show that drops on a specific day of the week you will be able to tailor your ad copy to match any larger marketing campaigns you have going.

Step #2: Preparing your ad

Types of ads

Also called “Read Type” there are two main types of ads you can choose from.

  • Host-read ad: an endorsement style placement in which the host ad libs about a product or service; this type sounds more informal
  • Announcer-read ad: common in journalistic shows like The Daily and NPR’s Up First, this type of ad is scripted and read by the announcer or producer; this type sounds more formal

Select the ad position

There are three types of ad placement within the duration of a podcast, they are pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll, placed either before the podcast begins, within the middle of the podcast, and after the podcast ends, respectively. There are many differing opinions on which type is better for optimized audience listens. Here are a few pros and cons to each type:


  • Some podcast apps and players offer a 15 second skip option before the show begins, because of this listeners know that they have an option to bypass the pre-roll before the show actually starts.
  • Be sure to ask if your pre-roll will run before the show content or in the host’s introduction of the show. Pre-rolls in the announcement of the show are harder to skip and therefore more effective.


  • Some listeners might not listen to the entire podcast, therefore missing a mid-roll. It can be difficult to skip a mid-roll for those who listen to the whole show.


  • Post-rolls have the most value in a show like Serial, where the whole season will drop at once and people are likely to binge one episode after another.
  • If a price seems too high or you’d like the CPM to be lower, it’s ok to ask for added value in the form of post-rolls. Most shows have post-roll positions they don’t use so it’s not hard for them to give you a few as added value instead of reducing the overall price.
  • Some listeners might not listen to an entire podcast, therefore missing a post-roll.

We suggest starting with pre- or mid-rolls only, because post rolls are often skipped; they have value only in a binge-worthy show that drops all at once, such as Serial, which is rare.

Writing the ad copy

Most podcasts will accept a script or bullet points—we suggest providing bullet points to allow the show’s host to ad lib around them. Podcasts are often informal dialogue, journalistic reporting, or well-crafted storytelling; depending on the show, submitting a canned and stiff-sounding ad might seem out of place and turn listeners off from your product.

A 30-second spot is typically 70-80 words and a 60-second spot is typically 140-150 words. The best way to determine the length of an ad is to read it outloud. If your ad is host-read and not fully scripted, remember to allocate time for the host to talk about their personal experience with the product. Don’t expect a podcast host to explicitly endorse a product or service (“I love this” “This is the best product”). Do expect a host to talk about their experience with the product, in a positive and also realistic way.

Add a coupon code or custom URL to your copy. Not only will this help direct listeners to exactly where you want them to go online, it will also help Podsights match listeners with on-site visitors for more accurate analytics and tracking purposes.

Quick list of what to include in your ad copy:

  • Include a phonetic spelling of any words or names that might have difficult pronunciation
  • Highlight the required talking points and include a call to action at the end of the ad
  • Include a specific call to action
  • Include a coupon code or custom URL

Step #3: Budget and Scheduling

Understanding pricing

Podcasts are sold on by CPMs—cost per mille (thousand) impressions. There are two models of buying podcast campaigns:

  • Baked in ads: tied to a specific episode; an impression is considered a download. These can be priced per episode, per spot, or on a CPM basis.
  • Dynamically inserted ads: delivered on an impression basis and are put into the episode as the listener downloads the episode. These can only be priced per CPM basis.

CPMs range from $25 - $50. On the higher end, it’s totally appropriate to ask for additional value like bonus spots to support those high CPMs, or additional data points such as Podsights Analytics.

The formula to figure out the price of an episode is as follows:

Total cost = (Total impressions or downloads x CPM) / 1000

To back into a CPM, the formula is as follows:

CPM = (Total Cost x 1000) / total impressions or downloads

For example, let’s say you are quoted 2 episodes that are each $5,000. One gets 250,000 downloads per episode and the other gets 75,000. The episode that has 250,000 downloads backs into a CPM of $20. The episode that gets 75,000 downloads backs into a CPM of $66. The 250,000 downloads per episode show for $5,000 is a better deal.

Planning a budget

Your budget will differ depending on the size of shows you select. You’ll want to factor a significant cushion into your budget for trial and error while starting out, because the first podcast you choose to place ads with might not be your best target audience. We suggest buying at least three spots on a new show as a trial, and trying out two or three shows at once. If you have the same number of ads places in each of a selection of new shows, you’ll be able to quickly tell which ones are doing better for your brand.

One tip: if you choose to run three ads in a new show as a trial, often you’ll see more conversions after the last spot has aired. This is due to familiarity of your message. Studies have found it can take three times for an ad to resonate with a listener enough for them to result in an action (like visiting your website).

There is also the factor of how close together those ads will run. We recommend starting with an ad schedule like this: week one - one spot; week two - no spots; week three - no spots, week four - one spot. This is a “one week on, two week off” schedule.

Part 3: How to get the best deals when buying podcast ads.