Branded Podcasts are 22% More Effective Than TV Ads at Engaging ‘Ad Avoiders’

In a new study commissioned by StoryWorks, the BBC’s branded content division, people who have identified themselves as ad avoiders were 22% more engaged and more likely to remember brands mentioned in a podcast compared to TV ads. The study, which was released late last month, was conducted across four continents by neuroscience researchers at Neuro-Insight sought to take a deeper look into the minds of audio listeners to see what benefits were available is the marketing space for brands.

The word “innovative” was mentioned 12 times during the podcast used in the study. Listeners were later more likely to call the sponsor “innovative”, showing that they instinctively associate the brand with the message.

“This study provides real empirical evidence demonstrating the opportunity in the audio space for brands, and partnering with experts in this space offers an exciting and effective way for them to reach audiences in a genuinely meaningful way,” said Richard Pattinson, SVP BBC StoryWorks.


For the neuroscience portion, the study focused on subjects who are regular podcast listeners, finance enthusiasts with USD 100k+ combined annual household income, and are ad avoiders in four markets: New York, Melbourne, Munich, and Singapore.

The subjects were measured for “emotional intensity, long-term memory encoding and cognitive engagement using Steady State Topography (SST) when exposed to a 30-minute branded finance-related podcast called Money Movement

Distracted or not?

One interesting finding was that 94% of listeners consume podcasts while performing other tasks, which comes as no surprise. However, this mode of listening actually elevates engagement with the brand, the study said.

According to the results, brand mentions during a podcast deliver on average 16% higher engagement and 12% higher memory encoding than the surrounding content. The study called this a “unique effect” in light of the research showing that global radio benchmarks found that brand mentions on average score 5% lower than content.


The study went on to say that “The intimate and conversational nature of the podcast environment creates an elevated state of engagement for brand mentions. This also drives brand metrics across the board, helping to generate lifts in awareness (↑89%), brand consideration (↑57%), brand favorability (↑24%), and purchase intent (↑14%).”

Other Key Findings

Here is a roundup of takeaways the released by the BBC:

Branded podcasts achieve unique cut-through with ad avoiders

The study’s sample was comprised of ad avoiders, but their engagement, emotional intensity and memory encoding around brand mentions beat TV benchmarks by at least 22%*, showing that branded podcasts are an effective way to engage this hard to reach but commercially-desirable group.

Podcast listeners are active

94% of listeners consume podcasts while performing other tasks. Doing chores at home (61%) and driving (55%) were the most common, with exercising, shopping and running errands also popular.

Activity makes listeners more receptive

Rather than reducing the brand impact, the research shows that the active group scored more highly on all measures – engagement (+18%), emotional intensity (+40%) and long term memory of the podcast (+22%).

The study shows that two processes occur in order to deliver this:

  • Keeping the brain occupied with an activity enhances the ability for brands messages to achieve cut-through
  • The state of activity means that the podcast content is being taken in through ‘low-involvement processing’ – a much more ‘fuel-efficient’ process that has a lower cognitive load. As such, engagement with the content can last much longer; good news for this long-form format

Branded podcasts drive positive associations

Listeners create subconscious associations with the brand, based on words they hear in the podcast. In our sample, the word “innovative” was mentioned 12 times during the podcast. Listeners were later more likely to call the sponsor “innovative”, showing that they instinctively associate the brand with the message.

Podcasts provide extra time for brands

When people are listening to podcasts, they are doing so in moments that are not traditionally opportunities for advertising. Because of the unique way podcasts are consumed – usually whilst multitasking – brands are now able to reach people in what were previously thought to be unreachable moments. This is an enviable commercial opportunity as it is additive to the marketing mix.


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