Brands Are Safer Than They Think On Podcasts

A new study has revealed that consumers are highly accepting and open to podcast advertising despite persistent brand concerns about suitability and safety. 

The research, conducted by Alter Agents – an independent market research consultancy – in partnership with Audacy, found that podcasts provide a safe advertising environment for brands, with eight in 10 consumers finding branded podcast messages suitable as long as they are contextually relevant, even when it comes to controversial content. Podcasts garner an engaged listening environment that bolsters attention, with 80% of listeners claiming they listen to ads, most as they enjoy the whole podcast.

The study identified key themes regarding brand safety and suitability in podcast advertising for marketers and consumers. The B2B community listed controllability, genre-specific myths, trade-offs of produced vs host-read advertisements, and the complex categorizations of podcasts. Consumers indicated ads must be a good fit within the content, hosts must be authentic, and controversial topics in the content can be acceptable and even enjoyed as long it is not defamatory towards one group.

Engagement and ad fit are also fairly consistent across genres. Ad parings in potentially controversial genres like true crime and news genres perform similarly to less contentious genres like sports and health/fitness/lifestyle pairings.

Brand fit is not an issue for listeners. Few say they have heard ads unsuitable for the podcasts they listen to but are more likely to call out ads sounding too much like a sales pitch or not being more native to the podcast style as reasons for unsuitability or poor fit.

Foul language is not a top reason for not listening to a podcast, but where content or hosts cross the line is through racist statements. In fact, foul language is accepted in many genres, especially comedy, entertainment/pop culture, music, and true crime.

“This study illustrates that with the right mix of authenticity and awareness, brands have an incredible opportunity to foster trust and loyalty with listeners of all backgrounds in the ever-expanding space,” said Jenna Weiss-Berman, Executive Vice President, Podcast, Audacy. “Today’s podcast listener is open-minded and willing to engage with a wide range of brands on multiple levels as they consume content ranging from true crime to investigative documentaries to comedy, sports, entertainment and beyond.”

“Brand safety is critically important, and there’s a perception in the marketplace that certain genres of podcasts may not be as brand-safe, given the free-form host-driven nature of podcasts. In turn, podcast advertisers have hesitated to leverage the reach and scale of podcasts to remain brand-safe,” said Idil Cakim, Senior Vice President of Research and Insights, Audacy. 

“While brands are smart to assess the risks and rewards of advertising on podcasts, they may be missing out on reaching critical consumers. That’s because podcasts deliver highly engaged audiences, create prime listening environments, and host authenticity offers a strong personal connection to listeners.”

“Audacy’s study does a great job of highlighting that the material qualitative and technical advancements in brand safety and suitability within the podcast industry have mitigated a perceived risk for brands to advertise on podcasts,” said Kurt Kaufer, Co-Founder, Ad Results Media. “It also nicely contextualizes the positive listener perceptions of brands who make podcast ad investments a material part of their marketing mix.”


Audacy partnered with Alter Agents and leading media agencies for this 2023 study to assess brand safety perceptions among media industry executives and frequent podcast listeners. Audacy commissioned the 2023 Alter Agents study. Four audio and podcasting company executives were interviewed. 6,000 respondents were surveyed through a 20-minute online survey collected between July 28 and August 3, 2023. Participants were a nationally representative sample based on age, gender, and ethnicity.