Spotify Makes Podcast Ads Unskippable by Sticking Them in the App

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Those of us who are serial podcast listeners know how the ad drill goes. A short audio clip will pop up right before, during, or after your show to tell you about a revolutionary product, service, or sale. Some of you might skip through a particularly long ad, or just speed through all ads. However, it’s not going to be so easy to do that on Spotify anymore.

The streaming giant unveiled its new “call-to-action cards” for podcast ads on Thursday. The concept is pretty straightforward. When an ad starts playing in the podcast, a small card will pop up at the bottom with clickable buttons that allow users to see learn more about the brand, product, or service being talked about in the ad or directly make a purchase from the advertiser’s website. Both free and paid users will see the cards, which are available now.

Spotify told Gizmodo on Thursday that the call-to-action cards will be available across its desktop, mobile, and tablet apps but not within web browsers.

Gif: SpotifyGif: Spotify

Some of you might be wondering, “What happens to the cards if the app is running in the background while my phone is blocked or when I’m doing something else on my device?” Don’t worry, Spotify wouldn’t dream of leaving you out, especially since doing something while listening to a podcast, such as doing the dishes while listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour, in my case, is common.

In fact, that’s currently why remembering a promo code, product name, or link mentioned in a podcast ad can be complicated, Spotify maintains.

As explained by the company, the call-to-action cards pop up again for users who listened to them when they’re exploring the app to make it easier for them to remember and interact with the ad they heard. For instance, the cards will appear when you check out a specific podcast episode or visit show’s page in the app.

“With the launch of this new ad experience, we’re making podcast ads interactive for the first time, transforming the format from something that can only be heard, into an experience that you can also see — and, most importantly, click,” Spotify said in a news announcement.

According to Spotify, its call-to-action cards have shown positive results in recent tests, doubling site visits when compared to non-clickable podcast ads. Three companies — Ulta Beauty, Athletic Greens, and Squarespace — have already signed on as early adopters.

Spotify’s new clickable cards are just another example of the company’s quest to monetise podcasts and make its app more seller friendly. Over the past year and a half, the company has acquired podcasting giant Megaphone to better target real-time ads to listeners and launched a new wake word function (“Hey Spotify”) to possibly open the door for more voice-powered ads.

As a paid Spotify user and a power podcast listener, according to my 2021 Spotify Wrapped at least, I have mixed feelings about its new ad formats for shows. While I get that podcasts need ad sponsors, and would be aghast if some of my favourite podcasts disappeared due to a lack of funding, for years Spotify has been my go-to spot to get away from heavy and annoying advertising. (Instagram, for instance, serves me ads as if they were hot churros).

Yet, if Spotify is adamant about sticking ads on its platform, I’m OK with the cards. They’re small, don’t follow me everywhere, and support content I really enjoy. It could’ve been worse.




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