Social & Influencers

Influencer-led podcasts are proving popular for advertisers

From YouTube sensation Emma Chamberlain to former Bachelor Nick Viall, podcast networks are scooping up influencer hosts, who rake in the ad dollars.
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Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photos: Apple Podcasts/ The Viall Files, LadyGang, Impaulsive with Logan Paul

· 6 min read

There’s no question that influencers are in high demand among marketers. But it’s not just Instagram posts and TikToks they’re after. Some are finding a backdoor to reaching their coveted followers: influencer-led podcasts.

Influencers have flocked to podcasts en masse in recent years, with some success. Logan Paul’s show is in the top 50 pods globally across platforms, according to Chartable. In 2018, podcast company Cadence13 teamed up with United Talent Agency to create Ramble, a podcast network dedicated exclusively to social media stars like Emma Chamberlain and the D’Amelio sisters. And The Bachelor franchise’s many contestants-turned-influencers practically have a podcast category of their own, given the number of pods they host.

Just like they post ads on social, these influencers also endorse brands on their podcasts, often evangelizing for 60 seconds or longer about the companies they choose to work with.

“These are real celebrities, and to be able to do these types of brand deals with them is unprecedented,” Lizzy Denihan, head of partnership strategy and operations at Audacy’s Cadence13, told Marketing Brew. “When you’re getting your thoughts, your creative, your messaging read in their voice, there’s a huge value in that.”

That could be why its Ramble influencer network is “our most well sought-after category, right next to sports” for both direct response and brand advertisers, Denihan said.

In the past few years, more advertisers have started showing interest in influencer-led shows, according to several hosts and the networks that sell their ads.

Hear it from the hosts

AJ Leone, an audio agent at UTA who works with influencer and celebrity clients to develop their podcasts, said influencers come to him asking to start podcasts “all the time, because they see it as the next big frontier.” But to be successful with listeners and advertisers, they need to be dedicated to the medium, Leone said.

“You want to do this weekly,” he said. “It’s what works best for advertisers. It’s what works best for momentum in the marketplace. If you have a show that’s coming out every Tuesday, your audience gets used to that.”

Take Nick Viall, who rose to fame during his time on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. He has more than 1.1 million followers on Instagram, but these days, he told Marketing Brew, “my podcast is my biggest priority in my career.”

Viall works with Kast Media to produce and monetize his 3x weekly podcast about relationships, The Viall Files. Recently, he’s plugged brands like MasterClass and Theragun on his show.

Mike Jensen, Kast’s chief business officer, said his company invests in podcast hosts with preexisting followings as a way to scale its content. Kast now has 13 million unique viewers and listeners per month to its audio and video content, Jensen told us.

Plus, “there is a ton of interest” from advertisers in the “talk-show format”, the umbrella most influencer podcasts fall under, he said. But podcast companies like Kast don’t have total control over meeting that demand. Hosts like Viall can often have final say over their ad deals.

Viall told us he doesn’t often turn down an ad, but said that’s because the Kast team is familiar with his style as a host and knows the kinds of brands he can authentically promote. He’s also come to expect a certain level of creative freedom over his ad copy.

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“I think agencies are aware that the more the host can incorporate the ads as part of their show, the greater the chance that the listener will take the time to just enjoy the show and not feel like they’re going to a commercial break,” he said.

Keltie Knight, author, Entertainment Tonight correspondent, and one of the hosts of the LadyGang podcast, said she and her two cohosts only work with brands “that we actually use and love.”

Knight and her cohosts partner with PodcastOne to monetize their show. The PodcastOne sales team will send the hosts emails with brands that want to advertise on LadyGang, Knight said, and then it’s up to them to research and test the products to decide which ones they want to work with. Not every brand makes the cut.

“Early on in the podcast, we had some sort of thin pill, or tea, or something, and our girls basically revolted,” Knight said. Now, “we just say ‘no’ to anything that promotes a diet culture.”

More bang for your buck

For brands that do earn an endorsement from the LadyGang, they’re paying “probably one of the highest CPMs in the industry,” reaching as much as $100, according to Sue McNamara, EVP of sales for PodcastOne. They’re willing to do so because it allows them to grab the attention of younger generations who aren’t always easily swayed by traditional ads, she said.

“If Keltie Knight is talking about a hair product, and she’s talking about how great it makes her hair look, listeners don’t see that as Keltie doing it as a commercial, they see it as one of their friends telling them about a product they really like,” McNamara explained.

Not only are these brands willing to pay high CPMs for influencer pods, but they’re also submitting inbound requests to advertise in the genre. McNamara said advertisers contact her asking about shows like LadyGang and former Bachelorette and Bachelor contestant Kaitlyn Bristowe’s podcast Off the Vine “all the time.” LadyGang tends to sell out of half its ad inventory for the year before the calendar has even turned, Knight told us.

To maximize the value of these campaigns, brands that work with influencer podcasts can occasionally find opportunities to run ads across platforms.

“Some podcasters are thinking about the business ecosystem, and that just gives you more places to play,” said Shantae Howell, Acast’s creative director of the Americas, explaining that a social following and know-how can give advertisers the “360 aspect” they might be looking for.

Brands also understand the potential benefits of working with a creator who has developed an engaged following on more than one platform, said Stephen Perlstein, SVP of podcasts and corporate marketing at Studio71, which works with almost 1,000 creators to expand their businesses, often into podcasting.

“Influencer hosts have been talking and connecting with their audiences on many channels, in many different ways, for maybe years at a time,” Perlstein said. “There’s value there for brands.”

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