Podcast advertising could be a blueprint for cookieless advertising


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This article was contributed by Jonathan Gill, founder and CEO of Backtracks.

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Keyword-based advertising has long been a staple for marketers looking to connect with customers. Simply put, when consumers search for products, services, and more online, they have a set of words, terms, and intent in mind and anticipate that the results of their keywords and search terms match what they’re seeking. Advertising on the internet is based on this concept; however, a few extra ingredients related to personally identifiable tracking have been added over time.

Parts of the internet advertising industry are built on a stockpile of stealthily collected personal information and data trading of cookie data that consumers often did not see, but the tide is shifting in federal and consumer sentiment — now, this type of tracking is viewed as an affront on privacy.

With an increased focus on consumer privacy and a decrease in availability of cookies for targeting, advertisers fear they are facing a growing challenge. But are they really? In fact, there’s a land where cookie-based advertising never existed, which thrives on the core principles of the early days of internet advertising that matches keywords, context, and results to enhance the lives of consumers.

Does removing cookies affect ad efficiency?

Many platforms that act as search engines have built-in advertising tactics that augment and match the user’s expectations, with the externally stated goal of increasing the number of relevant results. While seemingly contradictory to the modern principles of advertising, this process does not require invading the privacy of users regarding data, sales/resales, and trading. If you take away cookies and personally identifiable information, but keep an understanding of the content, keywords, and ads, the search results will largely remain the same. If this article is about topic X, or if you purchased a car last year, does it change the topic, or keywords of the article or is it irrelevant? It’s true that cookies may impact cross-platform capabilities (especially in word-based advertising), but it turns out that this isn’t the crisis many feared.

Audio and podcasting: A cookieless medium

Podcasting is one of the fastest growing media formats: IAB projected that podcast advertising revenue would top $1 billion in 2021 and double to $2.2 billion by 2023; it happens to be an ad-supported medium; and according to a neuroscience-based study on Pandora Radio, consumers’ long-term retention of audio advertisements is 36-39% stronger when compared to video ads.

Podcasting is surprisingly built on long-standing and open standards for technology like RSS and was built in a way that was not cookie-dependent. In fact, when consumers listen to podcasts in most listening apps and platforms, cookies used to track users cannot be activated. Initially, the inability for audio and podcasting platforms to utilize cookies was thought of as a roadblock for advertisers and monetization, but it has proven otherwise.

A new perspective on cookies

In podcast advertising, there is a stronger understanding of who the audience is, coincidentally reverting back the core principle of early delivering value by providing contextually relevant matches keywords and concepts between ads, content, and the audience. Podcasts and spoken-word audio rely on accurately aligning ads to their audiences. Furthermore, audiences prefer contextually relevant ads, which in turn increases overall podcast loyalty, as it is growingly obvious when they receive ads based on data tracking. This is evidenced by the 4.4x ad recall from podcasting when compared to other forms of digital advertising. As a result, many major companies, including Google G Suite, are willing to test out deactivating cookies, especially as brands are discovering the once central tool is not necessary, nor a primary contributor for generating revenue.

What can advertisers learn from podcasting?

Podcasts are a great example of why contextually relevant ads are a key component of advertising strategies. For marketers and advertisers to be successful in this area, they must utilize cohesive audience segmentation efforts and in-depth content analysis. This combination, while requiring additional efforts, efficiently places ads and meets the targeted audience’s expectations.

Sharing relevant ads with ease spawns a warmer response from users. Therefore, it is important to minimize the realization of cookie-based ad placement. In order to ensure and maintain a positive/neutral response to ads, it is essential to place ads that naturally flow within the original content.

In essence, cookieless advertising data is just as relevant as cookie-driven data — contingent on the platform applied to and the type of audience. In order for the data-restricted audio industry to appease both advertisers and audiences, it is crucial, as a publisher, to have a firm comprehension of the industry’s key differentiators, and furthermore, to know how to circumnavigate them as it pertains to advertising.

Jonathan Gill is the founder and CEO of Backtracks.


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