Big brands are making a return to audio, in large part due to the continued explosion of podcasts. Advertisers are excited about the effectiveness of podcast advertising, but many have questions regarding brand safety.
The freedom of podcast hosts to express themselves authentically is what most engages listeners, but it can be a potential source of concern for advertisers. That’s why at SMI, we take active measures to avoid placing ads in a context that could harm an advertiser’s reputation.
“The magic of Podcast advertising is the connection the audience feels with the hosts as they authentically share stories, conduct interviews, make jokes, express opinions – whatever they do that draws in their listeners,” says Christina Baeten, Direct of Client Services at SMI. “So when they talk about your product, you get exponentially more engagement than a traditional ad would. But that same authenticity can be dangerous if the host says something some listeners perceive as offensive – with or without meaning to do so.”
In the unregulated realm of podcasts, an advertising agency cannot ensure brand safety for its clients, but at SMI, we take steps to increase the likelihood that a brand’s message will not be served alongside problematic content. According to SMI’s Vanessa Verrillo, Client Services Senior Account Manager, the first step toward ensuring brand safety is to establish clear parameters with each client about what brand safety means to them. Will they tolerate potentially racy content if the show generates favorable performance? Or are they more cautious? Outlining these parameters early on, before genres or shows are vetted, is crucial to the advertiser and agency being aligned on brand safety.
Steve Mondor, SMI’s Podcast Operations, agrees. “The onboarding process is an opportunity to review with the podcast host the initiatives of the client. It also provides the client with the opportunity to communicate their rollout expectations, necessary copy points, and anything that should not be mentioned.”
Next, Verrillo recommends being familiar with a show’s content and overall tone, and having a general idea of any guests who appear. For example, she says, “if a client is very risk adverse in nature, placing their ad on an explicit comedy show that includes derogatory language and typically features controversial topics or guests would likely jeopardize brand safety.” Verrillo also says it’s important to keep a pulse on what other brands or categories are appearing regularly on the show. Do these brands have similar core values?
According to Mondor, Podcast Campaign Operations, “During our strategy planning process, we utilize third-party resources like Magellan to gain insight on show content.” Shows that regularly air explicit content are noted in Magellan, and media kits from podcast groups also keep us informed of shows that contain explicit content. Additionally, with many hosts and influencers on various social media platforms, SMI checks social media posts for potentially problematic content. “We can’t catch everything,” says Mondor, “but by reviewing the content, we can get an idea of the typical posts you’ll see from podcast hosts.”
Finally, SMI reviews all air checks and the surrounding content to confirm that the advertiser’s message is being delivered as intended, and that brand safety is not being compromised. “We review all airchecks from our clients’ campaigns,” says Mondor. “We provide aircheck scoring and reporting to our clients. This process not only allows us to ensure that the client’s goals are met but also to review content to ensure brand safety based on our client’s expectations.”
“When we’re vetting podcast shows, we take into account each brand’s guidelines and will advise on the guardrails to put up,” says Baeten. “For example, certain genres tend to have more red flags, like News/Talk and Comedy, while others are safer, like Health & Fitness and True Crime. But ultimately it comes down to each individual show. And while we cannot predict if or when a ‘brand safe’ show will end up with some controversy, we can pretty well guide our clients around the majority of controversial content.”
By utilizing various tools, clearly communicating with clients and podcast hosts, and performing air checks to confirm that ads are delivered as the client intended, SMI takes important steps every day to establish brand safety for our clients.
Are you ready to advertise on podcasts with an agency that will prioritize your brand safety? Contact SMI today.