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Stew Redwine

Stew Redwine

· Time to read: ~8 min

This interview was first in the Podcast Business Journal newsletter, with the latest podcast news and data. Subscribe free today.

Stew Redwine is VP Creative Services at Oxford Road — this interview has been lightly edited for style and readability

Stew Redwine: Oxford Road is the leading privately owned audio agency here in the United States, where we work with companies like Shopify, Oracle, Indeed and Babble to achieve their goals in audio and beyond.

JC: So I was looking at you on LinkedIn, and it says “We just want the ads to work.” What does that mean?

SR: It means what it says. The question is: Well, what does it mean for an ad to work? And that’s like I was saying: achieve our advertisers’ goals. We come alongside them to test and then scale within audio. They’ve got certain goals that they want to achieve, and a lot of times it’s about getting clarity on exactly what that is. What’s their entire comms strategy? How do we fit into that? How do we take the biggest picture possible? And the ads work when they achieve those goals, and those may be long-term goals, they may be short-term goals, but that’s what we want.

The thing that we do is help our advertisers bring their message, primarily in audio, to millions and millions of people every day, and however they’re looking at that to measure. Did this work? Was this investment in advertising worth it? That’s how we’re going to measure ourselves. Did these ads work?

JC: It sounds as if one of the most important parts of writing podcast ads is actually getting a good, clear brief. What does your brief look like?

SR: I think that’s critical.

What is advertising? That’s a question that I like to bandy about, and look at different sources, and Sir Martin Sorrell’s answer to it is it’s a solution. The best brief is clarify: what is the problem that we’re trying to solve, or the opportunity that we’re trying to seize, and getting really clear about that. I find that more succinct briefs are better.

The podcast that I host, Ad Infinitum, is focused on audio ads and critiquing audio ads and discussing them. The most recent guest is Mark Pollard, a strategist, an advertising strategist, and he talks about this a lot, this idea that you can have so much information and so much data and get a nine page brief. But - so what? How can I most succinctly answer: What (what is the problem, or the opportunity); So what (why is that important? What do we know about our audience? What are the different market forces that are at work?); and What now? (How then are we going to achieve that strategic objective?)

JC: So there’s lots of data out there about podcast ads and their effectiveness, and data about pre-rolls and post-rolls and all of that kind of stuff. I don’t see that much data about the actual creative. How important is the creative in this whole process?

SR: It’s massive. There’s been several different studies just about the importance of creative overall and how much impact that has on an advertising campaign. Cumulus put out different studies of perception versus reality of what impact marketers think the creative has on an advertising campaign success and what impact it actually has. The perception was much lower than the reality. Perception was that creative is responsible for about 17%. The reality that they discovered is the impact of the creative was actually 47%. So it has a massive impact.

I think it’s just intimidating for folks on how to even approach that question. How are we going to measure that? And then, particularly in podcast, you’re relying so heavily on the hosts customizing and putting their own spin on it - so are we looking at a case by case basis of how individual hosts delivered the creative or can we actually look at the copy points that we handed over to them? But in general, the impact of the creative on the campaign is massive.

JC: Does a good podcast ad need to be funny?

SR: It definitely helps for podcast ads to be funny. “Humor” is the same root word as “humility”, the same root word as “humanity”. It breaks down the wall. It makes a person feel something - and then, once I’m emotionally invested, once the heart decides, the head will follow.

I guess I would back up one level: the takeaway from using humor to connect is really that you’re connecting emotionally. So if we can connect emotionally, then we’re able to get in the door and start also connecting to the rational mind as well.

JC: Is there a difference between an ad that you’d make for the radio and an ad that you’d make for podcasting? I mean, it’s just audio, right?

SR: Yes, it is just audio… there’s both audio. But - you know, the big screen is a screen, the little screen is a screen. There’s vertical, there’s horizontal. I think it’s really important to know “which type of audio are we doing here?” Are we doing a smart speaker? Are we doing radio? Where we’re going to be? Is this a produced spot and we’re going to be in breaks against a lot of other produce spots in podcasts; are we going to be primarily doing host read?

I’m experiencing - I’m sure you are too - that the ad load is increasing, the number of breaks is increasing and more brand dollars are coming into podcasts, so you’re hearing more spots that are like what’s on the radio. I think it would be very easy to just port over what you’re doing on the radio right over to podcasts, but it’s a different animal and I think that to do it well, to do it the best, requires a different approach.

JC: Yeah, I think it was Paul Riismandel from Signal Hill Insights who was pointing out that for radio ads, one of their primary focuses is to get you to listen, because radio is typically on in the background - whereas for podcasts you’re already listening. So actually that part of the ads job has already been done. What do you think?

SR: Love that. I think it’s fantastic. I remember when he pointed that out and I agree. Am I on a music station or SiriusXM, where it’s in the background and I need to cut through, or am I in something like Pivot? I like to listen to Pivot - alongside with your show of course - like almost every morning. It’s very intentional, I am stacking up what I listen to in the mornings intentionally, so I’m invested and I’m leaned in, and that’s very similar to a lot of podcast listeners and so, like Paul was pointing out, I need to keep their attention. So if I’m using interruptive tactics, like I do in radio, to try to garner their attention, I might be working against myself.

I’d also like to say that some stuff does apply across both, like there was a recent study with Veritonic and Audacy that found a double digit improvement in ad recall and improvement in purchase intent as well, when sonic branding is used in radio and in podcast. So there’s things that are similar. But to your point, it’s like podcast is and has been so much more lean in, where radio perhaps is something that’s more in the background, unless you’re listening to talk radio, a specific host or your drivetime people that you listen to in the morning, where I think the same kind of lean in stuff is at work.

JC: And how long should the perfect ad be?

SR: As long as it needs to be.

JC: I’m glad you answered the question with that!

SR: How long should a person’s legs be? Long enough to reach the ground!

You know, I would say in podcast, and you know there was just a study that came out last week with Podscribe that found that longer ads work better. I think that’s for a couple of different reasons. There’s some cognitive biases at work - the longer we’re exposed to any stimulus, what’s amazing is not only do you get acclimated towards it, we also begin to favor the thing. So the longer a person can keep your attention and talk to you, instinctually down deep you are going to begin to develop affinity. There’s also a narrative bias. Humans favor stories over disjointed facts or even just a list of items. You tend to get more storytelling and a longer ad because there’s more opportunity for someone to weave a tale, and so those are longer than they work. It seems to hold out that the old advertising adage is the more you tell, the more you sell.

JC: You mentioned Ad Infinitum is back for a new season. What’s that podcast all about?

SR: So Ad Infinitum is Oxford Road’s audio creative podcast, where we listen to and break down current top spenders in audio and on SiriusXM, on radio, on podcast, and we have different advertising experts on with me where we’ll drill into in the first season the nine key components of audiolytics, which is our methodology that we use to both audit and construct a persuasive message in audio.

And then in season two we’re going to be digging into different aspects of advertising. Like I said, the first episode of season two comes out this week and the guest is Mark Pollard, where we’re talking about strategy and how does that apply. And then we’ve had on folks like Dallas Taylor, the host of 20,000 Hertz, a fantastic podcast about the world’s most interesting sounds, Richard Shotton, who’s massive in the behavioral science space, author of the Choice Factory, and then like Amanda DiMarco from Veritonic, where we’re able to talk about their platform and when we’re analyzing the ads against Veritonic’s testing platform and the methodology that they use.

JC: It’s been great to talk. I learn so much every time I talk to you. Thank you so much.

SR: You’re very welcome, Thank you.

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