Today Spotify introduces a new ad format aimed at podcast creators called Call-to-Action Cards – or CTAs, for short. The feature, which is powered by Spotify’s streaming ad insert technology, will display a visual ad in the Spotify app when the audio ad starts playing. Advertisers can customize the cards with their own images, text, and other clickable buttons that direct listeners to “shop now” or take another action the advertiser hopes to encourage.
While ads are able to grab users’ attention while streaming, Spotify understands that listening to podcasts is often an activity where the app is running in the background while the user is doing something else — like walking, working out at the gym, doing housework, driving, and more. That’s why Spotify is also making new CTAs available on both podcast and episode show pages. The company explains that this allows target listeners to interact with the ad at a later time when they are browsing the Spotify app. These cards will remain available for up to seven days after the listener hears the announcement, or less if the campaign concludes before then.
Spotify believes that the format will evolve in the future to do more than just direct users to a landing page of some sort.
Presenting the format during a press conference as part of the company’s virtual participation at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, said Jay Richman, head of Spotify’s advertising platform and program.
Advertisers who adopt this format will also be able to access reports and metrics based on the number of confirmed ad impressions made possible through the ad insert broadcast.
Spotify has invested heavily in streaming ad insert technology, which has brought real-time targeting and reporting to podcasts. Before that, when podcasts were delivered through the more open RSS format, they were also hampered by the technical limitations that came with it being downloadable content only. Ads are included in offers and are not dynamically inserted. And the audio players couldn’t differentiate which part of the program was the content of the show and which part was the advertisement – it was all one file. With streaming audio insertion, the content itself is paused, the ad inserted and then content resumed after the ad is completed.
All of this happens in real time – but it doesn’t stop the listener from skipping the ads as before, if they don’t enjoy hearing the message.
In 2020, Spotify acquired podcast hosting and advertising company Megaphone for $235 million to help expand streaming ad listings beyond its own offerings to reach publishing partners through the Spotify Audience Network — a network that now includes offerings from independent content creators using a platform Spotify’s Anchor. And just last month, Spotify acquired audio streaming technology company Whooshkaa to bring the technology to broadcasters who want to release their audio content as audio files after it’s first aired on radio.
Since the inclusion of streaming ads already knows when the ad appears in the program, Spotify can then pop up the accompanying CTA as well to view the advertiser’s creative. For listeners, the experience may be better to search for products and services that they heard the host promote during the program, since they no longer have to try to remember the URL or coupon code the creator spoke.
However, the extension also makes using Spotify to stream podcasts feel like an ad-supported experience more than before, as even premium subscribers (who pay) will be subject to new, potentially distracting ads and see them appear on both the podcast view and episode pages even after they’re done from listening.
Spotify has tested the new CTA cards with select advertisers, including Ulta Beauty, before launching them today. According to Ulta’s head of content, social and integrated marketing, Kristen White, the company reached about 250,000 unique listeners on Spotify through one of its campaigns and nearly half of those viewed at least one CTA after hearing the audio message, including those who viewed the card. later while browsing the app.
Spotify sees CTAs as another step toward making podcast content more interactive. The company is already experimenting in this area with features like voice commands, podcast audience polls, and Q&A, which engage listeners in real time — increasing the likelihood that they’ll come back to the app while the podcast is playing, too. Recently, access to video podcasts has been expanded, via Spotify’s Anchor platform. Podcaster creators can add a video to their podcast to show themselves while the show is being recorded or they can use the functionality to add a graphic, chart, or crossover slide. The feature is now rolling out to more creators and listeners, Anchor co-founder and head of Talk at Spotify, Mike Minano, said during the same briefing.
Spotify notes that no additional work will be required from creators to enable the new CTAs, which will initially be available across a selection of original and exclusive Spotify podcasts in the US, starting today.