New guidance on making ads clear in podcasts

Today, the ASA and CAP are publishing new research and guidance on how brands and publishers can make sure that ads read by podcast hosts and content creators are identifiable as ads to their audiences. 

Read our research on ad labelling in podcasts.

Podcasting is a growing medium that has accelerated in popularity over the past few years. The hugely diverse range of topics and niche interests covered by podcasts allow advertisers the opportunity to address keenly targeted groups of consumers. Listeners often have a high level of engagement compared to other media, and the intimacy of the format and perceived authenticity of trusted hosts are also appealing to marketers. Naturally, for regulators this can raise concerns around ensuring that advertising in this medium is sufficiently identifiable. Following a ruling in 2022, the ASA and CAP determined that although the ASA did not receive a large number of complaints about ads for podcasts, further research was needed to understand consumers’ perceptions of advertising in this medium. This was because of its (largely) audio-only nature and parallels with radio, which differentiate it from other forms of non-broadcast media.

Consumer research found that podcast listeners valued a clear, up-front label at the start of ads. The most well-recognised terms were ‘paid-for advertisement’, and ‘sponsored’, and the guidance strongly advises advertisers to use a variation of one of these labels. In addition, consumers found it easier to recognise ads when labels were coupled with use of music or sound effects to mark out the ad from the surrounding content, and were not overly long.

The research also reveals some other interesting findings on listeners’ relationships with and perceptions of podcasts and advertising. The guidance reminds marketers that their ads are subject to the rest of the non-broadcast advertising rules, which cover subjects from health products to promotional marketing, and should not contain anything to mislead consumers or cause harm or serious or widespread offence.

The guidance will take effect following a three-month grace period, on 16 August 2024.

Read our guidance on the disclosure of host-read ads in podcasts.

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