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There are a lot of things 2020 will be remembered for, and another for that list may wind up being it was the year when marketers began digging deeper into podcasting to hone-in on smaller targets. Armed with new third-party tools to hone-in on their niche, Magellan AI’s year-end report on podcast advertising shows some advertisers have spread out their spending across more shows. In January, the typical advertiser appeared on an average of 3.6 podcasts. By November, Magellan says the number had nearly doubled to 6.2 podcasts.

Despite the pandemic’s impact on the ad market, Magellan’s roundup puts on display a growing industry. When stay-at-home orders hit last spring, even as some clients pulled back, others poured more dollars into podcasting. Newcomers also arrived.

“On average, we identified 160 new brands new to podcast advertising each week in 2020,” the report says. “Many new brands jumped into the channel perhaps encouraged by reports showing that podcast listeners have increased during quarantine, or perhaps enticed by the flexibility of the channel as it relates to flighting and creative.” 

Political advertising totaled more than $8.4 billion this year according to one estimate, so it should come as little surprise that Magellan says the industry with the biggest overall year-to-year growth was political advertising. It says political ad spending was up more than a thousand percent, far outpacing the gains recorded in other ad categories. 

But political ads come and go, so the better long-term growth story for podcasters may be in second place. That is where social network companies landed with a 732% increase in their spending this year compared to 2019. Magellan says it came from some of the most recognizable platforms, including Facebook and LinkedIn, but also included up-and-coming social networks like Peanut, an app that targets mothers and mothers-to-be, and CaucusRoom, a platform for conservatives. Not only did social network ad spending jump year-to-year, but it also accelerated through 2020 with year-end spending levels up nearly 1,800% from January. The Mobile Game, Appliances, and Gaming were also top five growth categories for podcasters this year.

While social networks had the biggest intra-year, with spending increases from first to fourth quarters, there were big gains among other categories too. Government ad spending soared 1,131% between Q1 and Q4 with paid ads related to the coronavirus, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Retailers may have been impacted by the pandemic more than most businesses, but that rapid adjustment seemed to have led more brands to podcasting. Magellan estimates retail ad spending was up 636% between the start of the year pre-COVID and the end of the year. “Many retailers had to pivot to serve their customers online and make up for the lack of physical and social interaction,” its report says. It says retailers including Home Depot, Target and Whole Foods all spent money on podcast ads this year.

Magellan said the biggest year-to-year increase in ad spending was on the History genre, which saw spending grow 167% compared to 2019. Also up were music (+131%), Kids & Family (+127%), Technology (+114%), and Science (+105%).

“With growing diversity in the industries investing in podcast advertising, it is congruous that the genres where advertisers invest also shift,” its report says. “Anecdotally, we know that media planners still target content more than demographics when planning placements,” it added.

Overall, Magellan says only two of advertising’s top ten ad spenders in 2020 were not podcast users – Charter Communications and General Motors. Two brands, Amazon and Comcast, each spent more than $10 million.

Looking ahead to 2021, Magellan Head of Sales John Goforth said in the report that his prediction for the new year is one of growth – with more advertisers, bigger dollars, more podcasts, and new networks all on the horizon. “We fully expect the percentage of the ads delivered programmatically to continue to rise and won’t be surprised to see the percentage of total podcast ads delivered programmatically to slide into the double-digits in 2021,” he said.

Download a copy of Magellan’s year-end report HERE.