What’s the perfect length and placement for a podcast ad?

We asked 15 podcast marketers to weigh in.
article cover

Francis Scialabba

· 4 min read

As brands continue investing in podcast ads, they’re bumping up against questions marketers have asked about other channels for years: What’s the ideal ad length? And where’s the best place in an episode for an ad?

Marketing Brew asked 15 podcast industry experts over email to describe the perfect length and place for a podcast ad. We break down some of their advice below.

Go long

Several said podcast ads that are one minute or longer are the way to go whenever possible.

“There is a clear linear relationship between ad length and impact,” said Carter Brokaw, president of digital revenue strategy for iHeartMedia. “Longer ads are more performant.”

Grant Durando, director of marketing firm Right Side Up, said his preference is most often a 60-second ad, because “we’re interested in as much airplay and airtime as possible for our dollar without causing negative brand sentiment because we’re overdoing it.

Rates are not significantly different between a 30-second ad and a 60-second ad, Durando explained, and hosts often read longer than planned when discussing brands they’re especially excited about.

Podcast advertisers should “always” lean into longer, host-read ads that run up to 90 seconds, or even 5-minute branded segments, according to Christiana Brenton, Acast’s group business director for the East Coast.

Many said a one-size-fits-all approach, however, doesn’t work well for podcast advertising. At sports podcast network Blue Wire, ongoing testing indicates that 30-second ads deliver about 25% more impressions than 60-second ads, according to founder and CEO Kevin Jones. However, he said 60-second, dynamically inserted ads work better from time to time.

“It’s not about length; It’s about the quality,” said Shira Atkins, co-founder and chief revenue officer of podcast company Wonder Media Network. “Every show is different. Ads should be, too.”

Mid-rolls > pre-roll > post-roll

When it comes to ad placement, mid-rolls (ads that run in the middle of an episode) trump pre-rolls (ads that run at the very top of an episode). But pre-rolls have their perks.

“Pre-roll is optimal placement for ensuring an ad is heard by the listener,” said Giancarlo Bizzaro, VP of sales at Crooked Media, although he added that mid-rolls tend to reach more engaged listeners.

Mike Kadin, founder and CEO of podcast hosting and monetization platform RedCircle, vouched for pre-rolls, saying they’re more cost-effective and aren’t skipped as often as some might think. Their CPMs also tend to be lower, according to Cyril Bornette, senior director of business development for podcasts at SiriusXM Media’s AdsWizz.

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.

But listeners are eager to get right to their podcast, and can easily fast-forward 30 or 60 seconds into an episode, so industry wisdom indicates that mid-rolls are the safest bet if you don’t want your ad to be skipped. That’s a valid concern, according to Dan Franks, president of the podcasting community and conference Podcast Movement.

“Listeners often have their phone in their hand as they are starting an episode, so it’s easiest to skip the commercials, and when an episode is over, they’ll often grab their phone and do the same,” he told Marketing Brew.

But by the middle of an episode, “listeners are usually engaged and locked in,” said Natrian Maxwell, general manager of emerging channels at The Trade Desk.

As for the post-roll, which comes at the very end of an episode, listeners are likely to bail before those ads can even be delivered, according to Robert Freeland, founder and CTO of podcast analytics company Podtrac. Freeland did, however, point out one caveat.

“The only time these are highly effective is when the show is episodic, and the player is set to dovetail right into the next episode,” he told us. “In those cases, it’s actually a great spot.”

Bryan Barletta, founder of podcast ad-tech publication Sounds Profitable, suggested that a “late pre-roll or the earliest mid-roll” is the best way to go. In other words, an ad that falls right between the intro or setup of an episode, but before any of the “meat,” he explained.

It’s worth noting, too, that these formats aren’t the only options. Advertisers can run branded segments, sponsor entire episodes or shows, or even start podcasts of their own. For instance, Macy’s recently ran an almost 10-minute branded segment on the Giggly Squad podcast, which resulted in a 77% listen-through rate, Acast’s Brenton told us.

“A really great host-read ad in a show where content aligns with the ad can be short and sweet. It can be in a pre-roll or a mid-roll. It can be baked in or dynamic,” said Jessica Cordova Kramer, co-founder and CEO of Lemonada Media. “It’s really about reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time.”

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.