We’ve all heard them, the bad adverts. You were enjoying that podcast you like, completely unaware of what was about to intrude upon your ears. And then. . .
The relative volume levels weren’t mastered properly, so suddenly the show’s host was bellowing something about a mattress at you while you scrabbled around to take your gloves off and turn the volume down on your smartphone.
The advert sounded like it was recorded down a well, or in an especially echoey bathroom stall, unlike the pleasingly dampened quality of the main show.
The host didn’t seem to be sure how to pronounce the name of the mattress company, so kept stumbling and correcting themselves.
You actually think that maybe you do need a new mattress but the company’s url is not easily guessable from the pronunciation of their name and it was not spelled out.
The host tried to do some “mattress banter” to use up 15 seconds of the allotted time and it was moderately offensive.
By the time the 90 second ad spot was over, you wanted to switch off the podcast and never listen to that show again.
Adverts, especially host-read sponsorships, are a necessary and vital part of how podcasts pay the bills and make money. By and large, listeners accept them as part of the ecosystem, and when the enhanced Apple Podcasts analytics came out recently, it seems like most people don’t skip them. Which is all good.
Because of this, I think podcasters owe it to their listeners to make adverts as pleasant and easy to listen to as possible. For the same reason that I think it’s vital to edit your show hard and thoroughly so you aren’t wasting anybody’s time, I think adverts should be short, to the point, and in keeping with the rest of the show.
If all you have time/resources for is a basic host read — ie your usual host, reading the ad script and explaining why the product is worth listeners’ consideration — at least make sure it’s matched to the same LUFS as the rest of the show, is cleanly spoken and nicely edited. If done properly, this isn’t going to turn anybody off your show.
However, I always appreciate it when podcasters go a bit further to try and integrate the adverts into the format of their show. For instance, the way the Wooden Overcoats team record their ad spots as if they are sponsorships on a radio station in their fictional universe was neat. Or how Helen and Olly of Answer Me This write and sing original jingles to tell you things about Squarespace. Or how the Reply All guys make dumb websites and update you on them when they record a new ad for that brand.
Obviously, not every company is as open minded as a certain website hosting platform when it comes to what hosts can say about them. I’ve done my fair share of back and forth on host ad reads when we’ve done exactly what was in the brief yet are still being told that we pronounced a word wrong or that they just don’t like the “vibe”. But, frustrating as that is, I still think it’s worth trying to make adverts interesting and nice to listen to. They aren’t going anywhere any time soon.