Podcast Advertising

Advertisers Guide to Podcast Ad Formats

It’s no secret that podcast advertising continues to grow in 2023 and beyond. More and more brands are delving into the world of podcast advertising either by dipping a small toe or plunging in head first. But it can be overwhelming when starting your journey into podcast advertising. So, we’ve created this quick guide to help you understand the different ways you can advertise on a podcast.

This article fits nicely with our other blog posts dedicated to helping advertisers get the most out of their campaigns, including:

Types of Podcast Ad Formats

There are two main types of Ad Formats in podcasting: Programmatic Ads and Host-Read Ads. These two formats differ quite drastically in multiple aspects and are often used for different purposes. In addition to Programmatic and Host-Read Ads, there’s also Branded Content which often integrates the brand into the entire podcast episode experience. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these formats entails.

Programmatic Ads

Programmatic Ads are typically professionally pre-recorded advertisements. Similar to old-school radio ads, these ads range from a large variety of categories including entertainment, education, real estate, technology, and more. 

These ads are usually pretty short (about 30 seconds max) and are provided by an agency or advertiser. On RedCircle, these ads are dynamically inserted across hundreds of different podcasts in Pre-Roll, Mid-Roll, and Post-Roll positions (we’ll get to what these positions mean in the next section.) 

Host-Read Ads

Host-Read Ads are essentially what they sound like – advertisements read in the voice of the podcast host. Advertisers commonly provide podcasters with pre-written ad copy, resources on and about their brand/products, and any additional information they think will help create the best possible read! (For more advice, check out our blog post on setting up podcasters for success!)

These ads are longer in length and have a more conversational feel to them. Podcasters often have tried out the product, or are loyal customers already, and share their true experiences with your brand and/or product with their audience. The key to making this type of ad work for all parties involved is to treat it like a partnership. Work with the podcaster to make it a memorable and trustworthy ad!

These types of ads are mostly placed in the Pre and Mid-Roll positions as those tend to have the highest impressions.

Branded Content

This is a much newer form of podcast advertising but still worth mentioning! Branded content can mean an advertiser sponsoring an episode, a series of episodes, or even an entire dedicated podcast. 

For branded episodes, take a look at this excellent example from the podcast “My Brother, My Brother, & Me”. Totino’s worked with these hosts to create an episode all about their pizza products. But what made this branded episode a success wasn’t just the sponsorship, but the fundamental understanding Totino’s had about this podcast. They understood the hosts’ audience, their content, and allowed them to create an episode around their product and brand. This led to successful brand recognition and engagement.

What’s key about branded content is the alignment between brand, podcast, and audience. Brands that align well with the podcast and their audience can create a non-intrusive and overall entertaining experience, all while building awareness and engagement!

Where to Place the Ad

There are three places in a podcast where ads can be played: the beginning, middle, and end. These positions are known as “Pre-Roll”, “Mid-Roll”, and “Post-Roll”.

Pre-Roll is the very beginning of the episode. Ads in the Pre-Roll position can be played before the show’s introduction or after the show’s introduction depending on the podcaster’s preference. Ads assigned to the Pre-Roll position are played within the beginning 25% of the episode.

Mid-Roll is the middle of the episode. Many podcasters create a special break specifically for ads in the middle of their podcast. They lead in with something like, “and now let’s hear from our sponsors this week…” Ads assigned to the Mid-Roll position play 25% to 75% of the way through the episode. On RedCircle, podcasters can manipulate where in the episode they want Mid-Rolls to be.

This position generally has the highest impressions due to listeners often being engaged in another activity while listening. This reduces the chance that listeners skip over the ad. Host-Read ads do well in this position!

Post-Roll is at the very end of the episode. Ads assigned to the Post-Roll position play during the last 25% of the episode. While many may believe this position isn’t ideal, it’s still valuable especially when ads are placed before podcasters sign off. These ads are also effective when listeners “binge-listen” to their favorite podcast. Rather than skipping to the next episode, they just allow the Post-Roll ads to finish and wait for the next episode to automatically start playing. Similar to Mid-Roll, many listeners are engaged in another activity so they may not want to fool around with their device just to skip.

Where you decide to place your ad is up to you! Keep your budget and goals in mind to help you select the most optimal spot.

How to Choose the Right Ad Format

This might feel like an impossible task but evaluating what’s most important for your ad campaign can help you make this an easy decision. There are several factors to consider when choosing the right ad format for your campaign. It’s up to you, though, to weigh them out and decide which are the most pressing.

Advertising Goals

What are your goals for the campaign? Do you simply want to reach as many ears as possible, or do you want to build trust and authenticity with a specific set of people?


How much are you willing to invest in podcast advertising? The budget for your campaign can help determine which ad format to move forward with. Host-Read Ads tend to have higher CPMs when compared to Programmatic Ads, but they have the benefit of authenticity and higher listener engagement. On the other hand, Programmatic Ads allow for more testing and are a more cost-effective way to reach a larger audience.

Target Audience

Who are you looking to reach? If you just want to spread awareness of your brand and reach as many folks as possible, then Programmatic Ads would be the more appropriate option. But if you want to reach a more niche audience, one with high engagement, then pursuing Host-Read Ads would be ideal. For Host-Read Ads, choose shows that align with your product and your target audience’s interests. If you’re a sporting brand, then select shows that dive deeply into specific sports and teams.

Brand Alignment

One difference between Host-Read Ads and Programmatic is the ability to select the exact shows you want your ad campaign to run on. Selecting specific podcasts that align with your brand may get you better in touch with your ideal audience.

Ad Performance Metrics

Providing podcasts with a specific promo code or vanity URL can help you easily track the effectiveness of your campaign. You can view which customers visited your website after hearing your podcast advertisement campaign in comparison to your other methods. 

Reviewing your goals and figuring out what’s most important to you will help you select the perfect format for your campaign.

But why stop at one or the other? Both Host-Read Ads and Programmatic Ads have their advantages, and a combined strategy can help boost your brand awareness and bring in customers. You don’t need to commit forever to only one format; you can experiment with them, figure out what works best for your brand, and spend some time understanding the landscape of podcast advertising.

Ready to begin your adventure into podcast advertising? Let us be your trusty guide!