Tuning In: Nielsen Podcasting Study Shows Promise for Automotive Advertisers

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

When I was a young lad, I had a box set of the goofball quiz show You Bet Your Life. Hosted by deceased comedy legend Groucho Marx, the program aired on both television and radio just as they were beginning to swap roles in terms of market dominance in the mid-20th century.

After ribbing guests, Marx would pause to acknowledge the sponsor. More often than not, they were Chrysler products — especially the now defunct DeSoto brand. While I had no idea if Groucho actually cared about the cars beyond the paycheck they offered, something about the format of having someone you actually liked pushing the product stuck with me. I’ve been a fan of DeSoto for years, despite having been born decades after it stopped existing as a brand.

It seems things might be coming full circle. With television now losing prominence to the internet, advertisers, in search of new avenues for income, and have stopped at podcasts. A recent Nielsen study estimated that roughly half of would-be vehicle shoppers visited a website for more information if they heard about it via an audio-focused medium with a strong personality behind it.

While the reasons for this are somewhat difficult to pin down, Nielsen suggests the format itself may play a significant factor — as many of the ads read on podcasts are read by the hosts themselves and offer a level of trust that isn’t found elsewhere. Listeners are also fiercely loyal to the podcasts they enjoy and have subscriptions that ensure they’re notified of every new episode.

“It’s not just about the message or the offer or the availability or timing. It really is how it’s woven into the podcast show that can have a great impact on the results of the campaign,” Tony Hereau, Nielsen’s vice president of cross- platform insights, told Automotive News in a recent interview.

“Even just the nuance around one word that a host can say could sway the results. So it really comes down to some hosts are better at delivering that content advertising and weaving it into the show so that it’s not as obtrusive.”

Chrysler began a relationship with Dax Shepard’s Armchair Expert in 2018, noticing that he seemed knowledgeable about cars and could reach the demographics it desired. While Shepard has only made your author laugh in 2006’s Idiocracy, his podcast pulls a whopping 1.4 million downloads per show. That’s a lot of active listeners ready to get blasted with copy from a source they’ve already decided to trust. In Shepard’s case, it worked well enough for Chrysler to sponsor the show’s live tour last summer. The automaker has also tapped other high-profile audio outlets, taking a targeted approach that allowed them to keep listeners abridged of vehicle updates.

AN noted that over 55 percent of podcast listeners have a household income of more than $75,000 a year, meaning they possess more spending cash than the national average. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Looking at Nielsen’s Total Audience report from February of this year, it’s clear that a large portion of the market is shifting toward more thoughtful, long-form content. U.S. consumers (18 and older) currently spend almost 12 hours each day engaging with media — up almost one-and-a-half hours from a year ago. A lot of that growth went directly to podcasts.

From Nielsen:

In fact, the second release of Nielsen’s Podcast Listener Buying Power database found that light podcast listeners listen to 10 hours and 13 minutes of radio each week. That’s 43 minutes more than the average American; heavy podcast listeners tune in to radio 22 minutes more. Findings from the database attribute much of the increased podcast engagement to existing listeners who are migrating from light use to heavy use — a strong testament to the content being offered to listeners.

The latest release notes that the number of heavy podcast listeners — those listening every day — grew by more than 3.6 million. Concurrently, the average number of episodes heard per week increased by 10 [percent]. But podcast engagement isn’t just growing among heavy users. The total podcast audience is growing at a compound average growth rate of 20 [percent].

Anybody who is an avid listener or podcaster will undoubtedly notice that advertisers have shifted from burgeoning companies hawking razors and underwear to established brands with deeper pockets and pricey wares. Plenty of automakers are getting involved — not just Chrysler — but these are still early days.

“It’s still somewhat of a new media, and there’s still a lot of questions about, is it really going to move the needle — if I spend money in podcast advertising, is that gonna move cars?” Hereau said. “We’re still in the early stages of figuring that out because it’s kind of a ‘chicken or the egg.’ It takes a couple people to make the leap and start testing it out.”

Additional benefits for automakers include the overwhelming likelihood that someone will be listening to a podcast while commuting.

Customers puttering about in an aging conveyance can be issued an ad encouraging them to make a swap to a new vehicle. Hereau also said podcast listeners could be more receptive to service ads because they tend to have a bit more free cash and fewer DIY skills. Compared with the average U.S. consumer, the Nielsen study suggested podcast listeners were roughly 11 percent more likely to pay someone else to do an oil change or similar maintenance work.

[Image: DavisSound/Shutterstock]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Jul 20, 2020

    One would think that advertisers target carefully to get the most out of their ad buys. I am rather surprised that Rock Auto advertises quite a bit on cable news opinion programming. Going for the center/left on CNN and the left on MSNBC...is that really a target of those who work on their cars? Don't know about Fox opinion - I only view Fox during news programming...does Rock Auto advertise there, too? Again, are those viewers likely DIY types? Frankly, I think few in any of these groups are really likely to work on their cars. I'm one I guess, but as a car guy I see the ads in plenty of auto-centric outlets. WeatherTech, sure. That I get. But auto parts? Don't see it.

    • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Jul 20, 2020

      What are CNN and MSNBC? Never heard about them. Why cable is associated with news? It just carries IP packets. Are there also WiFi news and optical fiber news? I also surprised that foxes have news service.

  • ToolGuy ToolGuy on Jul 21, 2020

    Recommendation: On a road trip with your kids, listen *together* (it's possible) to the "How LEGOs Work" episode [from 2010] of the "Stuff You Should Know" podcast. There is one joke that will make it all worthwhile.

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