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Is It Time To Rethink Promo Codes?

LISTEN · · By Tom Webster

With the release of We’ll Be Right Back, part two of After These Messages, Tom Webster has a few questions about promo codes. Is it time to change how we use them?

Sound Profitable publishes We’ll Be Right Back - a continuation of After These Messages

Today, Sounds Profitable released We’ll Be Right Back, which is a continuation of After These Messages, our recent study of podcast advertising execution. In this new release, we threw in some unreleased demographic information and also had a quick look at the open-ended responses we got when we asked listeners to tell us the main message of the ad for Athletic Greens that they heard.

We got hundreds of responses! The brand was the message that cut through the most, followed by the category, and a few benefits. But here’s what didn’t cut through: the promo code for the product. Now, to be fair, we didn’t specifically ask about the promo code, but still–with 41% of the listeners to the Jordan Harbinger Show telling us that they’ve already purchased Athletic Greens, you’d think someone would have mentioned the code. In fact, we got five total mentions in a sample of 1049 podcast listeners.

Open ended questions

I do want to point out that while there were only a handful of specific mentions of the promo code, there definitely were mentions of the offer that the promo code would unlock. But not the specific code, or that one was needed.

Now, we know promo codes work. Advertisers and performance marketers have been relying on them for years. And we also know that people don’t always use the codes. Enough people do use the code to make them worthwhile, and we can project the overall impact of podcast advertising as some multiplier of the number of promo codes used. Still, I want people to get credit for great ads, and to get paid for products and services they sell in podcasts. If people hear a product ad that interests them, but the promo code or URL aren’t top of mind, guess who is getting the credit for that sale? Google.

We ask a lot of listeners when we cram a bunch of info into a :30 or :60 second spot. The promo code is a trailing piece of new information in a message that is already full of new information. We are asking listeners to process two things at once: buy this product, and buy it in this special way. Now, I am not suggesting that we do away with promo codes–again, they work! But maybe there is a way to cut down on all of the new information we are asking listeners to process in a short period of time.

So here’s my modest proposal, which I have to credit my brilliant wife, Tamsen, for: instead of sending people to a different site with each ad (www.product.com/podcast), what if we sent listeners to the same place, every time? It wouldn’t take long to train listeners to visit www.podcastname.com/offers for every promotion, which they could then click on to be taken to the appropriate website. Some shows do have their offers and promo codes listed (Gavin reminded me of Drew Ackerman’s Sleep With Me), but I haven’t seen its use consistently applied in the audio.

With this tweak, podcasts would not only see a rise in conversions, but the branding effects of podcast advertising could also be better sussed out. I think podcasts sell a lot more goods and services than can be accounted for by the use of promo codes, and who knows: this might work, hey?

I encourage you to download We’ll Be Right Back to supplement After These Messages. No promo code required!

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Market Insights with Magellan AI

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This week we are highlighting a brand that was featured in our August Monthly Market Update: Aspiration Financial. Aspiration positions itself as an alternative to big banks and advertises to individuals who care about the environment and want a credit card that makes a positive impact. It first started advertising on podcasts in 2019 and has so far spent over $2mm in the podcast space.

We compared Aspiration Financial’s spend in 2021 and 2022, where we picked up on a trend that emerged this past August. Between July and August Aspiration increased its spend by over 600%, which is notable since it had similar activity during the same period last year. Given the correspondence of the campaigns we would expect to see similar spending levels to continue through the rest of 2022. We also find it noteworthy that Aspiration chooses to run its campaigns in the months leading up to the start of school, when many college students would be considering their first credit card.

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Anatomy of an Ad with ThoughtLeaders

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Sponsoring brand: PrepDish

Where we caught the ad: The Best Laid Plans

Who else has sponsored this podcast? Gusto, Yipes, Green Chef, TopCashBack, Aura Frames

Where else has this brand appeared? The Open Door Sisterhood Podcast, Simple Families Podcast: Parenting + Minimalism, How Humans Heal, Mom Struggling Well

Why it works: Best Laid Plans focuses on all-things planning and planning tools, which also includes planning out your meals so you can worry less about ‘what am I going to eat today, tomorrow and this week?’ and focus more on getting your work done. As Sarah Hart-Unger puts it, “it’s back to school season. A time when we’re juggling multiple activities and homework. PrepDish is a tool that means one less thing to worry about - it makes meal planning so much easier…I get to put a big check beside meal planning in my planner for the week.” This ad-read perfectly aligned with the audience of Best Laid Plans, touching on their main pain points while promoting the brand itself.

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Tom WebsterTom Webster is a Partner at Sounds Profitable, dedicated to setting the course for the future of the audio business. He is a 25-year veteran audio researcher and trusted advisor to the biggest companies in podcasting, and has dedicated his career to the advancement of podcasting for networks and individuals alike. He has been the co-author and driver behind some of audio’s most influential studies, from the Infinite Dial® series to Share of Ear® and the Podcast Consumer Tracker. Webster has led hundreds of audience research projects on six continents, for some of the most listened-to podcasts and syndicated radio shows in the world. He’s done a card trick for Paula Abdul, shared a martini with Tom Jones, and sold vinyl to Christopher Walken.

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