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Ever wonder how your favorite podcaster thought of that hilarious ad — or why that branded episode was so darn good?
It’s your lucky day. Acast is rolling out How I Work With Brands, a new series that features conversations with podcasters from Acast about how they collaborate with advertisers to craft creative, compelling campaigns that listeners love.
Our first edition of the series turns the spotlight to the minds behind one of the most popular podcasts in the world: Marc Maron, host of WTF, and Brendan McDonald, the show’s producer. In the more than 13 years that they’ve been making the podcast, they’ve partnered with a host of sponsors and well-known brands, including Amazon, Showtime, and Comedy Central.
Read on to learn how Marc and Brendan work closely with brands to make their ad campaigns shine — and the opportunities available for other brands looking to partner with one of the world’s most beloved podcasts.
Team Acast: WTF has a huge following. Describe your audience. Who are the typical WTF listeners, and why are they an important audience for advertisers to reach?
Marc: My audience is a lot of mid-life, intelligent, sensitive, mostly progressive people, some relatively enlightened younger people, and people who just like long-form interviews.
Brendan: Because we’ve been doing this for a long time and the audience is extremely loyal, dedicated, and engaged, they are responsive to Marc’s endorsements and show a willingness to support the products that are linked to the show.
Acast: Walk us through how you approach partnerships with advertisers. Once you get a brief from the brand, what’s your creative process like?
Brendan: The first thing is making sure the product is the right fit for Marc. Once we know that he can put his whole self behind the product, we make sure recognizable elements of Marc’s personality can shine through in the ad reads. Marc is going to talk about the product the way he would talk about it in real life, so we just make sure the ad reads all have his personal style. Sometimes it’s me pitching Marc some lines that sound close to something he would say himself, but usually it’s just providing him with the proper copy points so that he can inject his own feelings and mindset into the read.
Acast: Tell us about one of your favorite advertiser partnerships on your podcast. What made it enjoyable?
Brendan: The best advertisers are the ones who trust our process and know that we’ll take good care of representing them on our show. When the water brand Liquid Death came on board, they submitted some very general bullet points about the product and told us, “Have fun with it. We just want you to be you.” We don’t take that lightly and we will never take that trust for granted. When a client gives us that much leeway, we’re going to make sure we deliver the best possible final product for them.
By the way, Marc has a lifetime supply of Liquid Death, that’s how happy they were with the spots. And I’m not kidding about that. He has enough Liquid Death that he’ll be drinking it until actual death.
Acast: What makes for a good partnership between a brand and a podcaster? What makes podcast advertising so influential and impactful for advertisers?
Marc: We generally only advertise stuff that makes sense to me, or stuff I believe in, or I feel is useful. The listeners trust our choice of advertisers and are willing to engage with them because of how we vet those advertisers in relation to what I’m comfortable with.
People know advertising is advertising, but our track record is good. I guess people see me as an authentic person, but they still know I’m doing ads. Over the years, we have kept dubious advertisers at bay and our audience trusts us.
"The best thing we hear is someone saying, 'I had no idea an ad read even started.'" -Brendan McDonald, producer of WTF with Marc Maron
Acast: In your own words, why do you believe brands should work with you?
Brendan: We’ve been at it for more than 13 years, we’ve worked with many brands, and we’ve had great client relations throughout. After all that time, the show still ranks in the Top 25 US podcasts every quarter since Edison Research began measuring podcast listenership. That kind of audience consistency is hard to come by.
Acast: What kind of impact has your show had for brands that have sponsored you? Are there any results you can share from campaigns you’ve done?
Marc: From the beginning of the show when we had only a couple of advertisers and the show started to get popular, we had a coffee advertiser, Just Coffee, up in Madison, Wisconsin. I really believe we were the foundation of their business becoming successful. They were primarily a local mail-order coffee roaster and because of the podcast they built their business on our support.
In those early days, it was only Audible, Just Coffee, and Adam & Eve. I believe we helped a lot of lonely people.
Brendan: Back in 2012, Stamps.com was trying to convince us to let them do an annual buy for 2013. Yes, they were trying to convince us, not the other way around. They had data that the six months of testing they did with us showed we had a much better churn rate than Rush Limbaugh. That was a real eye-opener for us and let us know we could build on that success with many partners.
Acast: At their best, advertising partnerships can help foster meaningful connections with podcast listeners. Can you share any feedback from your listeners on partnerships they loved or that really resonated with them?
Brendan: The thing we hear all the time from listeners is that they notice how seamlessly the ads are integrated into the show. It’s a point of pride for Marc when he’s able to transition from a conversation topic right into an ad read without ever changing gears. The best thing we hear is someone saying, “I had no idea an ad read even started.”
Acast: Are there any brands (or types of brands) you’d be really excited to partner with?
Marc: Music brands, especially guitar brands, would be interesting. And I wouldn’t mind getting behind specific recording artists.
I miss Bombas. If we could get Bombas back, it would be nice.
Acast: What’s the one thing that you’d love advertisers to know about your show?
Marc: The secret is finding hooks within the ad reads so they land when I deliver them. I think the way I do the ad reads, putting some spin on them, or some emotion, or a certain tone, is successful. I don’t sleep through ad reads or mock them.
Acast: What’s one piece of advice you have for brands who are looking to succeed with podcast advertising?
Brendan: Commit. We’re good at what we do, but we’re not miracle workers. Even the best ad read isn’t going to yield much response if it’s only one-and-done. My advice is to find some strategic timing on your calendar and book a multi-week campaign with any podcast you like and trust. The audience needs repetition. And once it sinks in, it really sinks in. I remember a well-known television personality telling me he was speaking with his wife about home security products, something they never purchased before. He said, “What about that one Maron is always talking about?” referring to our advertiser SimpliSafe. He paused for a second and realized, “Oh! That’s how it works!” Yes, indeed. That’s how it works.
Acast: What’s your personal elevator pitch for your show in 10 words or fewer?
Marc: I talk honestly and humorously about myself and to others.
Brendan: An audio journal of one man’s life, with famous guests.
If you’re interested in exploring sponsorship opportunities or branded content integrations with WTF with Marc Maron, get in touch with the Acast team at email@example.com.
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