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How to create effective podcast ads: case study

How to Create Effective Podcast Ads: Top Strategies

Today, we’re continuing our exploration of podcasts who are doing it right. We covered intros in our previous edition. (And no one does those better than Steven Bartlett! Check out our post on that here!) And today, we’re focusing on another element of the podcasting process that so many podcasts feature, but only a few shows really get it right! Today, we’re covering podcast ads. Specifically, we’re breaking down the elements used to create effective podcast ads.

And as always, we’re going to be using case studies of shows we think are hitting podcast ads out of the park. This time, we’re using Smartless and Was I In A Cult? to really showcase what it takes to make effective podcast ads…so you can, too!

But Why Are We Focusing On Podcast Ads?

Well, it’s mainly because this is one of the first ways podcasters get into monetizing their podcast. The push for podcast ads has been pretty explosive over the past couple of years. If you’re an avid podcast listener, you’ve no doubt experienced the uptake in ads on your favorite shows. And this is mainly because more and more, brands and advertisers are recognizing podcasts as prime real estate for effective ad campaigns. 

Podcast ads are a great investment for advertisers because they tap into a highly engaged and loyal audience.

Additionally, podcasts offer targeted advertising opportunities, allowing brands to reach specific demographics and interest groups. This targeted approach, combined with the intimate and trusted nature of the medium, results in higher conversion rates and a stronger return on investment for advertisers.

The Rise of Podcast Ads

It’s no wonder then that we’ve seen an overall 9.5% increase in global ad spend when it comes to podcast advertising. What’s more, podcast advertising is expected to snag 2.5B of the budget in the U.S. alone, representing an uptick of 19% year over year.

And that’s great news for podcasting! Of course it is! But! Before all you can see are dollar signs flashing before your eyes, it’s important to know how to use ads on your show. You’re not guaranteed this amazing payout. You have to engage your audience.

And to do that, you need to know how to create effective podcast ads.

So, what makes a podcast ad truly effective? Today, we’re using two top podcasts that we think are acing the podcast ad game and examining just how they do it.

But first! If you’ve never listened to an episode of SmartLess or Was I In A Cult? (You’re missing out! But that’s beside the point…) Here’s a little synopsis of each podcast…


SmartLess Podcast

SmartLess” with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, & Will Arnett is a podcast that connects and unites people from all walks of life to learn about shared experiences through thoughtful dialogue and organic hilarity. In each episode of SmartLess, one of the hosts reveals his mystery guest to the other two. What ensues is a genuinely improvised and authentic conversation filled with laughter and newfound knowledge to feed the SmartLess mind.

Fun fact! A recent episode of the show featured three former US Presidents!

Was I In A Cult?

Was I in a Cult?

Hosted by Tyler Measom and Liz Iacuzzi, Was I In A Cult? is a documentary-style podcast showcasing individuals who have been in, and most importantly, successfully left a cult. Told first-hand by the experiencer themself, these are raw, riveting and inspirational tales of what it means to be a survivor. Using levity and info-tainment, the show humanizes the cultic experience and may leave some of our listeners asking themselves…“Wait…Was I In A Cult?”

Best place to start? I recommend the MLM LULAROE: “WHAT’S YOUR WHY?” episode!

Now, without any further ado, let’s break down why these two shows have such effective podcast ads, so that you can use these strategies to create effective podcast ads on your show, too!

How to Create Effective Podcast Ads

how to create effective podcast ads

1. Authenticity is Key

When it comes to effective podcast ads, nothing beats authenticity. Both SmartLess and Was I In a Cult? are masterclasses in authenticity when it comes to their ads. 

NOTE: It should be stated here that both of these shows use host-read ads. Host-read ads have proven to be the most effective when it comes to podcast ads. And this is mainly due to that really special relationship that develops between host and listener. And when it comes to advertising, you can leverage this relationship to convert to good responses to your ad campaigns. So that’s always something to bear in mind when you’re looking to create amazing, engaging, and effective podcast ads!

Back to these podcasts…

Both of these shows thrive fundamentally because of the genuine chemistry and spontaneous humor of their hosts. 

And when it comes to their podcast ads, the same authenticity shines through. The hosts don’t just read scripts; they share personal anecdotes and experiences with the products. This creates a seamless blend between content and advertisement, making the ads feel like an organic part of the show rather than an interruption. Although, of course, they do make it clear that what they’re sharing is ad or sponsor-related. This also helps spark the required action when the CTA’s are given, as the listeners already trust what the host is sharing.


If you’re creating an ad campaign for a sponsor for your podcast, aim to weave in your own stories and experiences with the product. Your listeners already trust you. So they will also trust you about products you love. Remember: Authenticity fosters trust and makes the ad more relatable and engaging.

2. Great Audience Knowledge

This next element of effective podcast ads is vital…great audience knowledge! Remember how we spoke about the trust podcast listeners have for their favorite podcast hosts? Well, podcast hosts need to honor and respect that trust by only partnering with brands or businesses that align with their show’s values. This is so vital for getting favorable outcomes for your podcast ads!

You have to pick brands that align with what you stand for on your show, your values, and even your audience’s interests. If you’re just picking brands based on what you’re getting out of the deal in a monetary sense, your audience will know. And you’ll soon lose them! The worst possible outcome!

SmartLess and Was I In a Cult? clearly only partner with brands that they already love, and crucially, who they know their audience will love too. And this, at the end of the day, helps make the conversions they’re after in terms of sales that much easier to make.


Understand the interests and needs of your audience. Pick brands or ad partners that resonate with your listener’s values and interests, and ensure that the products advertised are relevant and beneficial to them. This is a vital part of effect podcast ad campaigns!

3. Seamless Integration

One of the standout features of both “SmartLess” and “Was I In A Cult?” is the seamless integration of ads into the episodes. Instead of jarring transitions, the ads flow naturally from the content, maintaining the listener’s engagement and minimizing disruption. Again, it’s always clear that it’s an ad, but the ads on these shows work so well because they’re given the same effort as the rest of the content. 

In other words, they don’t just “tack on” the ads. Ads are given the same kind of consideration as the rest of the content. And that’s why they deliver what the hosts are hoping for. That effort and care is another key element of effective podcast ads.


Work on integrating ads smoothly into your episodes. Whether through clever transitions, relevant content, or even humorous asides, keep the flow consistent to maintain listener engagement. 

Remember: Podcast ads matter in terms of what you want to get out of them. So you should put the care and effort into making them great so that they give you the outcome you’re looking for!

4. Entertainment Value

Now, this next element will need to be tweaked and tailored specifically for each podcast, and be relevant to whatever “entertainment” means within the context of your show. But for both SmartLess and Was I In A Cult? humor is an integral part of their podcasts. 

And so one of the key reasons their ads work so well is because they both leverage the comedic talents of their hosts to make ads entertaining. The humor and wit that permeate the show are carried into the ads, making them not only bearable but enjoyable. This keeps listeners from skipping through the ads and increases the likelihood of them remembering the advertised products, and taking the required action. (More on that in a bit!)


Incorporate elements of your show’s unique style into your ads. Whether it’s humor, suspense, or emotion, align the ad’s tone with your podcast’s overall vibe to keep listeners engaged.

5. Clear and Compelling Calls-to-Action

Now, it doesn’t matter how clever or funny your podcast ads are, if they don’t do what you want them to do, they really mean nothing. So, another key element of effective podcast ads is that they include a clear and compelling call-to-action (CTA).

Both SmartLess and Was I In A Cult? excel at this by providing listeners with simple, actionable steps, like visiting a website or using a specific promo code that they share in the ad, making it easy for listeners to follow through.

Bonus points if you add your links to your promos in your show notes!


Ensure that your ads include a straightforward and appealing CTA. Make it easy for listeners to take the next step, whether it’s visiting a website, signing up for a service, or using a promo code. Use your links!

6. Consistency And Considered Repetition

And finally, Key Number 6 for effective podcast ads: Consistency and considered repetition. Both “SmartLess” and “Was I In A Cult?” have found the right balance between consistency and repetition, or frequency, when it comes to how they place their ads.

Neither show repeats an ad too many times in one episode. (This is a pet peeve of mine, btw!) But they do repeat the ads over different episodes as a way to build familiarity with the brands in question. This is what I’m calling “considered repetition.” Because while frequent exposure to the same ads helps reinforce the message and keeps the product top-of-mind for listeners, you have to find the balance between beneficial and annoying. And repeating the same ad in the same episode multiple times may sound like a good plan on paper, but I promise, in reality, it most certainly is not!


Run your ads consistently over a series of episodes to build familiarity and trust. Considered repetition helps reinforce the message and increases the likelihood of listeners taking action, but without causing annoyance or driving away your audience.

Go Make Those Effective Podcast Ads!

Podcast ads are a great way to monetize your podcast. But, they have to be done right to be effective! And creating effective podcast ads is both an art and a science. But they are far easier to replicate when you know the formula.

By applying these strategies to your ad campaigns, you can create podcast ads that not only capture attention but also drive action. Shows like “SmartLess” and “Was I In A Cult?” set the standard for how to do podcast advertising right, turning what could be a disruptive experience into an engaging and even enjoyable part of the show. Take a page from their playbook and elevate your podcast advertising game!

What podcasts do you think get podcast ads right? Let us know and we’ll dive into them next!

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