Podcast Upfronts 2019: Catch up on the sessions

IAB UK

“Over 7 and a half million of us listen every week, my commute has been transformed and decorating my spare room has been made more bearable” said IAB UK’s CMO James Chandler, opening our first Podcast Upfronts at Shoreditch Townhall. So began an afternoon of all things audio, with leading podcast players and their guests – including Jamie Carragher, Jessie Ware and James O’Brien – giving the packed auditorium an insight into what makes podcasts unique and how advertisers can best tap into their engaged listeners. Here’s what went on:

Football player and friend

Acast: It’s all about the content

“Without the content we are nothing” said Acast’s Joe Copeman, going on to discuss the Holy Trinity of Podcasting (ads, sponsorship and branded content) and the rapid growth of the business; taking the audience on a whistle-stop tour of recently launched products and partnerships, including Acast Access and Acast Pippa. He also announced that the platform will be Comic Relief’s first podcast partner, amplifying and exploring the charity’s work.

Jessie ware and other person

Bringing star-factor to the session, popstar and podcast host Jessie Ware then told the audience how podcasting has given her a new outlet and stems from her interest in people and their stories. The show, ‘Table Manners’ sees her and her mum host celebrity guests for dinner, with Ware saying that its unfiltered nature and the mother/daughter banter appeals to listeners.

Spotify: Tailor the message

Rak Patel, Spotify’s UK Head of Sales and James Cator, UK Head of Podcasts, outlined how the platform has gone from being “the world’s biggest music platform to the world’s biggest audio platform” with the help of podcasts. Discovery mechanisms, how advertisers can harness the help of creators to engage listeners and how to fuel future growth were all discussed.

two people that work at Spotify

They pointed out that people don’t tend to skip podcast ads as they become part of the show, taking on a consistent tone with the rest of the content. Cator’s main piece of advice for advertisers is to “think about the audience and allow the creator to tailor the message”. Looking to the future, he thinks that podcasts should look to growing a more mainstream audience: “How do we get people to think about listening and creating podcasts outside of London? There’s a wealth of talent that really needs to be tapped into.”

DAX: Invite the listener in

The strong relationship that listeners have with podcasts came to the fore during DAX’s session, with Radio X’s Danny Wallace interviewing LBC’s James O’Brien. “You feel like you own a podcast, it’s in your pocket or purse, you have a relationship” O’Brien said. He also explained how podcasts allow for a rawness that isn’t captured with other forms of broadcast: “On a podcast, you’re there for every nano second, every sneeze and I really like that.”

Danny Wallace interviewing James O'Brien

Up next was ITV’s Partnerships Controller Bhavit Chandrani who highlighted the synergy that exists between Global (DAX’s owner) and ITV; producing content such as the hit Love Island podcast. For advertisers, this allows brands to extend their presence into a new area and also attracts brands to ITV that wouldn’t usually spend with them.

The Guardian: Respect the listener

Where podcasts stand in a landscape of falling advertiser trust was up for debate during The Guardian’s panel discussion. Chaired by Natasha Murray, Client Partnerships Director at The Guardian, the session saw Reuters Institutes’ Nic Newman, OMD UK’s AV Director Michael Williamson and Marvyn Harrison, founder of Dope Black Dads, share their views.

For Harrison, ensuring that potential advertiser partners are genuinely adding value for his audience is key to maintaining trust: “We can’t just be a window into the black community for you to tick a box.”

four people talking about trust

With the talk also covering discoverability via smart speakers and how KPIs should be used for different brands, each speaker gave their predictions for podcasting’s future. Newman said that ensuring ads aren’t interruptive or out of sync with content as the podcast sector grows is key, while Williamson highlighted the need to consider context when it comes to ads. Finally, Harrison emphasised the need for co-creation between advertisers and podcasters as the latter “know their audiences better.”

Take a look at photos from the event here.

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