IAB Unveils the Lineup for Its First Virtual Podcast Upfront

Media buyers appreciate 'nimble' nature of podcast ad buys

Dozens of entertainment brands are expected to participate in the virtual event. IAB
Headshot of Rachel Winicov

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Similar to how the Interactive Advertising Bureau handled NewFronts this year, the sixth annual IAB Podcast Upfront event is also going virtual amid the pandemic.

Dozens of entertainment brands are expected to participate in the event scheduled for Sept. 9-11, with returning presenters including Authentic, ESPN, iHeartRadio, Meredith Corp., Midroll Media, NPR, Westwood One and Wondery.

Other presenters will include Acast featuring BBC, AdsWizz, American Public Media, ART19, Barstool Sports, Cadence13 and Pineapple Street Studios, of Entercom, Forever Dog Productions, PMM, Pushkin Industries, Sony Music Entertainment, Vox Media Podcast Network and WarnerMedia Podcast Network.

The IAB is anticipating brand integration strategies and analytical tools to dominate conversations, particularly as the means to measure podcast performance has only developed since it held the in-person iteration of the podcast upfronts last year.

“As we saw at last year’s upfront, podcast advertising is getting easier to track and more nimble when it comes to audience segmenting,” said Stephen Smyk, svp of podcast and influencer marketing at Veritone One.

Podcasting platforms have focused heavily on attracting ad dollars this year. Spotify and iHeartRadio each created their own ad marketplaces, allowing media buyers to more easily purchase ads from different brands.

Spotify’s Streaming Ad Insertion program, for example, gave advertisers shiny new features like in-app offers and targeted ad placements based on listeners’ playlists.

Spotify, which did not participate in the IAB’s podcast upfront last year, recently splurged on high-profile podcast acquisitions, including deals with Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian and Joe Rogan. It also secured a $20 million deal with Omnicom Media Group that will put OMG clients’ ads on Spotify podcasts through the rest of this year.

In another recent deal, SiriusXM acquired Stitcher for $325 million. Smyk said the breadth of presenters this year demonstrates “just how mainstream podcasting has become.”

The upfront comes after a marquee year for the podcast industry, despite setbacks brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this month, the IAB released its annual forecast for podcast ad revenue. While the pandemic slashed year-over-year growth predictions by almost half, the IAB remained bullish, with total U.S. podcast ad revenue to hit $1 billion in 2020. The IAB said 47% more brands incorporated podcasts into their annual buys this year than last.

“Covid-19 has done very little to slow down the market’s exponential growth,” said Zoe Soon, vp of the Consumer Experience Center of Excellence at the IAB, in a statement. “Podcasts have come of age and are now an independent line item on many media buyers’ budgets.”


Rachel Winicov is an intern with Adweek for the summer of 2020 focusing on digital media, ad tech and social media. She is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies classics. Rachel is from Philadelphia, Pa.
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