Are SA brands missing a trick by not using podcasts as a new sales and marketing platform?

Though there’s little formal research on the medium, media planners tell the FM that podcast consumption is thought to have grown by as much 50% in the past two years.

A podcast is a digital audio file made available on the internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device and typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

Investec is one brand that has embraced the podcast route with its Big Picture podcast channel, featuring a series of interviews by asset management professionals. Tim Spira, head of digital content at Investec, says: "Podcasting is part of a broader initiative to bring thought-leadership content to the fore in our marketing and communication efforts. Podcasts are a great way to give exposure to the expertise that exists in the group and deliver valuable and relevant insights to our clients and prospects. On-demand audio is a great option for people who don’t have a lot of time and want to access media on the go — on the commute, for example, or at the gym."

It might serve the marketing community well to take a lead from new global trends. WARC, the international marketing intelligence service, has found that podcasts could account for 4.5%, or $1.6bn, of global audio advertising spend by 2022. This is almost double the $885m in expected investment this year, equal to 2.5% of the audio market (inclusive of broadcast radio and online formats such as in-stream ads). "Much of this money is coming from brands’ experimental budgets. Advancements — such as more accurate, real-time audience measurement and programmatic ad trade — are required for this nascent format to unlock future growth," says WARC.

Local research suggests that 80% of South Africans listen to the majority of a podcast, and most listen to a podcast within 24 hours of download. The most popular type of podcasts are entertainment-based, with information-orientated podcasts coming in second.

In SA, the primary podcast listener is aged between 35 and 54. One of the first brands to successfully jump on the podcast train was insurance giant Sanlam, in what was described last year as a ground-breaking future-facing podcast series which painted a picture of a world 200 years from now that’s full of possibilities. Dan Pinch, executive creative director at the King James advertising group, said at the time that the series was created as part of the group’s centenary celebration, looking forward to the next 100 years and asking big questions that count.

Pinch says there was one big lesson that came out of the series: "We were not making an ad. To have any chance of gaining an audience and keeping it, we needed to be clear that the story came first. If we promised something using the conventions of entertainment and podcasts, we had to put our audience first and not make a glorified infomercial."

The brand, he adds, had a clear role as the creator of the content and the themes aligned with the brand’s focus, "but other than that we focused on telling the best story we could".