Podcasts – It’s What’s for Dinner

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Have you heard? 2020 is going to be the year of podcasts.

Never mind all those headlines from 2019. Or 2018. Or 2015 really.

For those already obsessed with audio content taking the world by storm, you’ve no doubt heard your millennial co-workers (and kids) telling you how it’s the next big thing – and now you’re trying to figure out how to use podcasts to sell more shampoo, yogurt, and/or ad tech software.

I have a pretty strong POV here. Probably because I spent most of my career selling shampoo, yogurt, and/or ad tech software.

Here’s my advice: Don’t.

Please, DON’T.

Still here? Well, I guess you didn’t get promoted to Assistant to the Director of Omnichannel Marketing for Disruptive Branding Innovation without being persistent and scrappy.

Podcasts – here’s all you need to know as you get 2020 started:


Stop what you’re doing. Quit reading articles by “thought leaders.” Start with the consumer. More importantly. BE the consumer.

Answer me this: What are your top five podcasts? If you have an answer, skip to the bottom, you already get it. Your Cannes Lion is in the mail.

Can’t name a top five? Read on.

Want to know my top 5 podcasts?

  1. Pivot
  2. Pod Save America / the World
  3. The Infinity Podcast
  4. Conan Needs a Friend
  5. AdExchanger Talks

In case you’ve never heard of any of these…

  1. Industry rants by the scolding mom + dad of the internet, Kara Swisher & Prof. Scott Galloway.
  2. Political punditry by these insanely smart (and surprisingly funny) ex-Obama staffers (“It’s not great Dan”).
  3. Tangential discussions on the impact of comics and sci-fi on the monoculture – by 3 beloved internet nerds.
  4. Long-form interviews by a scarlet-haired late-night host (and his non-Andy assistant Sona) – giving Terry Gross and Stern a run for their money.
  5. Ad Tech show going deep on digital trends with industry leaders.

Not your cup of tea? Maybe you’re a fan of topic deep dives (“How I Built This” or “Hardcore History”) or true crime (“Serial” or, increasingly “The News”). Maybe you are old school and prefer some “This American Life”, “RadioLab”, or “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.” These acclaimed shows are leaders of the pack for compelling audio content, having masterfully transitioned from radio to your phone.

Your clear great taste aside, what does everything in this no-longer nascent medium have in common? They’re personal, cater to your interest, and whisper sweet somethings in your ear(buds).

And most of them have great advertising. And this is where 2020 is going to go off the chains – ads you actually want to listen to.

The best advertising in all media isn’t a Super Bowl car ad or viral display/video campaign. Try listening to Jon Faverau and Dan Pfeiffer riff about ZipRecruiter or the Cash App (by Square).

You won’t fast forward through it because the improv-like experience is just as good as – and sometimes better than – the humor and commentary in the actual podcast. And I remember, like, and try almost all of these brands (sorry Tommy John). Hell, even AdExchanger has great 5-minute interviews with their sponsor CEOs during the ad breaks.

Authenticity? Dial it up to 11.

Ad Awareness/Recall? Through the roof.

Purchase Intent? Top Two Box.

Reason? Because it’s real. It’s entertaining. It’s personal. It’s in your ears.

Sex sells. But Audio allows brands into your heart.

Marketing in this medium is so effective because it’s native to the platform. Yes, it’s a great ad copy – but also marketing with meaning. Because while it interrupts, it doesn’t annoy and fits beautifully into each program. If that experience were jarring or disruptive, you’d have your thumb on that :15 skip button in a heartbeat.

So, what should you, the modern marketer, do about this in 2020?

LISTEN (and learn).

Stop what you’re doing, open your podcasting app of choice (Apple, Spotify, Stitcher), and subscribe/listen to one. Which one? I suggest any of the ones above to get started to hear how the masters do it.

Then, assuming your product doesn’t suck and your brand is willing to be authentic, call the guys @ Crooked Media (Pod Save America, Lovett or Leave It), Vox Media (Pivot, Recode/Decode), AdExchanger (The Big Story, AdExchanger Talks), and maybe even the Infinity Podcast (sorry Conan). Write some good, podcast-friendly ad copy, but let them take the reins. Your ad reader (podcast host) needs to be a believable advocate. If your brand can operate as a native podcasting brand, the audience will engage with their ears and vote with their wallet.

Also be sure to tell your boss some buzzwords about reach, impressions, influencers, ROI, and conversion – she loves it when you’re all over that stuff.

You probably won’t get that promotion by pouring all your marketing budget into podcasts (and please don’t try launching a “branded podcast”), but the millennial kids at home and work you’re trying to impress will think you’re the bee’s knees.

Hurry up and start listening. That’s what the rest of us are doing.

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