Podcast Advertising Negotiation and Execution

Hi folks a little background I have been executing advertising campaigns the past nine years as the CEO of RawVoice / Blubrry.com. And while the advertising landscape is changing, I want to share with you tenets of my success and give you guidelines that enable you to best negotiate and execute advertising deals.

Above all, I want all podcasters to be successful in their advertising campaigns — the more success we have as a collective the more money advertisers are going to invest in the space. The following is my process — you are welcome to use as-is and/or modify as you see fit.

When contacted by a company for podcast advertising, first find out if the individual is the information gatherer, the bottom-line signature authority or someone in between. This will help mold the initial phone conversation.

In that first call share your podcast philosophy with them and/or examples of successful campaigns you’ve executed. I tell the media buyer my background and advertising campaign experience; the production schedule of my show and its genesis/theme; the complete demographic of my audience with examples of who my listeners are; the nitty-gritty of how I execute campaigns; and lessons I have learned.

You want the advertiser to be confident in your ability to execute the advertising deal in which they’re going to invest their hard-earned dollars. As important, you will want to know how they found your show and why they think your show is going to be a good fit for their product or service.

It is critical early on that you get a budgeted dollar amount, otherwise you could end up putting a number of hours work into this to find out their budget is only a $100. If their budget is too small, I generally end the conversation gracefully. You can have situations where the budget is so small you would not be able to execute the campaign effectively. Don’t take the money unless you feel you can execute the campaign. If they have a large budget — more than you can move on your own — consider working with a company such as mine (RawVoice) to build a bigger campaign.

Ask them their campaign goals. This is where you get a feel if their budget is within expectations. Dig in and try to find out what it is currently costing them to acquire a customer. This provides insight on how you should price the campaign. My goal is to always deliver ROI that is lower than their acquisition costs. When you do that, they will spend money for a very long time. If it costs them $100 to gain a customer on radio and $150 with you, they will never renew.

When speaking to prospective advertisers, I make sure I describe the basics of how we would execute their campaign: introduction of the product through use cases, talking points on features and a special call to action to the audience. I always try to lock in a special price/offer that the listeners cannot find anyplace else.

I caution the advertiser about having a script; I push telling a story through talking points. I encourage the vendor to allow the ad to flow as natural as possible and ask them for source material, samples of the product or an account on their service so I can do my homework to best sell the product or service. One exception to the spontaneity is the call to action. This will always be scripted and never change from episode to episode. This hammers home how to obtain the product or deal being promoted.

As added value, I provide my advertisers a free banner ad above the fold, and put a sponsor message within my show notes with a trackable URL to their site. The listeners hear the ad and then see the ad on my website, which increases the likelihood of an action.

At this point, you can close the conversation and build an RFP (request for proposal). I always promise to deliver an official proposal by a specific date, along with providing the terms of the campaign.

Some media buyers have their own RFP, but they generally lay out what you are going to deliver and how much, start/stop date, ad frequency, ad length, banner sizes, CPM (cost per thousand), CPA (cost per acquisition) or flat-rate sponsorship rate, suggested text for the blog post and the cancellation terms.

The RFP is essentially the contract. Once you have a signed RFP, you need to be on your “A” game. You should do your very best to execute that campaign with the utmost respect and meet all the terms that you have agreed to.

Another aspect outlines what the sponsor is going to deliver to you before the start of the campaign:

  • Banners (correct size)
  • Product/service case studies
  • Talking points for your campaign
  • Call-to-action with promo code and/or landing page
  • Service or product trial

As a word of caution, if you have doubts about the vendor’s product or service, don’t sign the deal as your audience will smell that a mile away and the campaign will fail.

An important element in your pitch is to get the media buyer to understand the advantages of longer versus shorter campaigns. I try to get them to do a three-month campaign from the start. Why three months? It concerns the number of times the ad is heard. On traditional radio, their ad would be heard two to three times an hour. In my podcast it will be heard once an episode, twice a week. Our data shows the audience needs to hear the ad or variations of it three or four times before they make a buy or sign up for a service.

Those three to four exposures on my show will take two weeks. So in most campaigns, you see a minimum two week ramp up before you start seeing the campaign firing on all cylinders. At the end of 90 days, they will get a couple of weeks more of exposure due to the delay in audience listening. In my discussions with the advertiser I emphasize the on-demand listening aspect of podcasting that causes the ramp up period. A good analogy is how most of us, use our DVR’s most of us watch shows after they have aired the same applies to podcast listeners.

I explain that I offer a quick pre-roll at the beginning of the show, aka, “This show is sponsored in part by . . . ,” then do a full host endorsed sponsor spot within the first 25 percent of the show, lasting anywhere from 60 seconds to 3 minutes. Note: I take whatever time I need to get my point across in the sponsor spot.

Don’t get greedy! If they have a large budget make sure you are able to deliver the ROI according to what they are spending on your show. If you find an advertiser with a big budget, my company offers a finders fee based on gross ad spend of that vendor. We have some podcasters making more money from referrals than their podcast will ever deliver on its own. So do not be afraid to reach out.

Ask if their commerce system can handle a promo code and whether they would be willing to put up a trackable landing page. This is critical. You want to be guaranteed the ability to track and measure your campaign success. I use a third party banner-ad server so that if I need to show and display banners on websites or text-link click throughs as part of the campaign, I can ease the implementation for the advertiser. For that reporting I simply add them to the banner-ad’s reporting system so they get the banner-ad performance via the provider.

Most campaigns require a weekly report, episode link, ad time hack, certified downloads from Blubrry Podcast Statistics, and the link to the blog post. The vendor will be listening to you: Encourage them to critique each ad spot. Be ready to try a different approach if the campaign is not getting results and work with the vendor early and often to make tweaks to the campaign.

If the campaign is underperforming, do not be surprised if the vendor asks for more ad spots. My goal is to keep the vendor happy. I would rather give the them some more spots to bring performance in line and adjust the pricing for the next go-around versus losing the advertiser.

In closing, price your campaigns for success. As a rule of thumb the smaller the ad buy the more scrutiny the advertiser is going to have on your show and the campaign success. Never ever make your show appear bigger than it is. Use a reputable podcast statistics platform to backup your reporting so that when you are audited you come out smelling sweet.

I have shared an incredible amount of data here and I encourage you to go through this info a couple of times let me know @ ceo@rawvoice.com if this information helps you score an ad deal..
Happy podcasting and be a good ambassador for the space.