Wondery’s Jen Sargent on building consumer relationships with the power of podcast advertising

August 16, 2023 | By Jareen Imam, Sr. Content & Editorial Manager

Jen Sargent

Audio can be as engaging as video when it comes to connecting with audiences, said Jen Sargent, CEO of Wondery.

“I believe your ears are more powerful than your eyes when it comes to building relationships with consumers,” she said. “When a consumer listens to a podcast, they turn on their imagination.”

As audiences have grown more fragmented across channels, brands are looking for more efficient and effective ways to connect and engage with them. Sargent, who oversees Wondery, a premium and global podcast publisher and content studio that is a part of Amazon, has been a leader in the audio space for years and has seen how consumers’ habits have changed around digital media and the renaissance of audio content.

At the 2023 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, we sat down with Sargent to discuss how podcast and audio advertising can help brands build stronger relationships with customers. Learn more about Sargent’s career and how her audio expertise can help brands jump into the world of audio today.

Tell me about your career. How did you get into advertising? How about podcasting?

As an entertainment fan and engineering undergrad, I’ve always been drawn to the intersection of technology and media. One of my early jobs out of college was at an independent company, which was the leader in digital advertising software at the time, that enabled advertisers to reach online audiences and publishers to monetize their content on the web.

Since then, I have worked with both traditional publishers and digital brands to create and monetize content across web, mobile, and video. Personally, I became interested in podcasts around 2017, because they helped me pass the time on long work commutes in Los Angeles. From that point onward, I was hooked on the medium and joined Wondery in 2018.

Do you have a favorite memory of listening to something that inspired you or made you passionate about audio?

I have two favorite memories—first, listening to Masters of Scale. It was one of the early podcasts that I had discovered. Prior to Amazon’s acquisition of Wondery, I had spent 12 years working in start-ups, so the featured stories about company founders were inspiring and helped me learn something new.

My second-favorite memory was joining Wondery and having our chief content officer, Marshall Lewy, tell me about Wow in the World, one of the top kids’ podcasts. I went home that day and shared it with my kids. It was incredible to see them so engaged and excited; the show turned on their imagination, and they learned fun science facts along the way.

What excites you about Wondery advertising products today?

I’m most excited that Wondery keeps innovating. Now that we are part of Amazon, we have unique and unparalleled access to insights, retail signals, entertainment consumption insights, and new technical innovations that can help revolutionize podcasting advertising for our customers.

From an audio perspective, what’s the biggest challenge to brand growth today?

Brands may expect to buy podcast ads like you buy radio or digital video, but podcasting is a different medium and should be approached in a different way. I know the most challenging part of a marketer’s job is capturing consumer attention. The average consumer attention span is eight seconds.1 For most ad buys, you’ve got eight seconds to inspire them and drive them to act.2 That is a Herculean task for marketers.

Now, consider the attention span of podcast listeners. Thanks to the compelling nature of podcasts, and the wide breadth of interest areas and content available, we’re able to capture the attention of the most avid podcast consumers for up to 11 hours a week on average. That’s more than an hour a day of engaged listening.3

How can Wondery advertising products help brands build stronger relationships with audiences?

When consumers listen to podcasts, they turn on their imagination and ultimately form a stronger and more lasting memory toward the hosts and content. This connection can be harnessed by brands to establish trust, share a value proposition, and drive action. Podcasts are one of the most immersive forms of entertainment available. As the narrator speaks, you feel as if you are the only person experiencing this story. It’s profoundly intimate.

When you are walking and listening to a podcast, you are the investigator solving a crime. In a comedy, a joke is being told to you and only you. It is powerful and personal. At the same time, you become part of a community with shared experiences. When you discover a podcast, it’s like a secret world you’re allowed into … and you’ll soon discover legions of passionate fans and communities dedicated to each kind of podcast.

What are some must-watch trends that brands should know in podcast advertising in 2023 and beyond?

The must-watch trends in podcasting advertising include:

  • Video podcasts are one of the fastest-growing areas of podcasting.
  • Programmatic advertising can help marketers to easily transact and access quality inventory at scale while delivering relevant brand messaging in a safe environment.
  • Podcasts have the ability to build and expand upon original IP to create 360-degree brand opportunities. These opportunities can include working with sponsors and adaptations into TV, film, books, merch, and more.

The amount of new content continues to expand across genres. I’m most excited for upcoming seasons of Dr. Death, Over My Dead Body, and MrBallen’s Medical Mysteries, from the popular YouTube storyteller MrBallen. I’m looking forward to the launch of our upcoming slate of new sports shows featuring notable voices like Trey Wingo, Michelle Beadle, and Shea Serrano—these shows are a perfect blend of pop culture and sports. Podcasting has become the latest mass-reach medium, and it’s not slowing down.

What’s your advice for brands that are looking to get into audio advertising with Wondery but don’t know where to start?

Reach out to us at advertising.wondery.com to connect with us. Advertisers can share your goals, and we can tailor an audio campaign that is relevant to your campaigns. If you’re an advertiser and you’re not advertising in podcasts, you’re missing out on an entire portion of your customer’s day where your brand is not reaching them.

1-2 TIME, “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish,” Kevin McSpadden
3 Edison Research, “Super Listeners,” 2021. Weekly time spent listening to podcasts: Listens to podcasts for at least 5 hours per week.