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After nearly half a decade at Acast, I have witnessed the company and the wider podcasting industry evolve in countless ways. One of the most significant and exciting evolutions, though, has been to brand storytelling on podcasts.
It was around this time last year that I made an internal move from our Account Management team to join the growing Acast Creative team. At the time, Acast Creative had recently launched in our US market after building successful models for creative brand storytelling and branded content on podcasts with the European and Australian teams. Fast forward to today and in my day-to-day as Creative Development Manager, my role is to connect brands of all kinds with podcasters from Acast’s network of more than 100,000 shows to help tell their brand story in a creative and compelling way to their target audience.
If it sounds like a mammoth feat that’s because it was, and still is. But it’s the kind of daily challenge that my career experiences, which span from public relations to digital strategy to a stint as what I affectionately call a “celebrity social media ghostwriter”, prepared me to tackle head on. Each role has allowed me to tap into different parts of my strengths and passions that previous ones have not. My ability to go from a client pitch meeting to perfectly framing an Instagram story post is unmatched. And this shapeshifting and rebuilding is what ultimately drew me to podcasts.
And my listening habits are as wide-ranging as my resume. I often find myself listening to multiple genres of podcasts at a time, from tried and true pop culture recaps to dating and relationship advice to the latest bone-chilling true crime story I am locked in.
And I’m not alone in this.
In fact, according to GWI data, podcast audiences listen to 2.8 different podcast genres at a given time. This proves that podcast audiences are hungry for diversified content and storytelling.
Much like me, and all of their listeners for that matter, podcasters are extremely multifaceted. While they are known for their expertise in specific areas, many possess a breadth of knowledge and interests beyond their niche. Take Giggly Squad’s Hannah Berner, for example, who is much more than just a former Bravo star, but is a passionate stand up comedian, former NCAA Division I college tennis player, and – maybe most of all – a dog lover.
It’s all of the commas on their credit lines that draw audiences to podcasters and branded content offers those creators a space to share personal stories that they may not be able to explore on their own podcasts. These partnerships offer an avenue for podcasters to create beyond the mold of their usual format and collaborate with brands that align with their personal passions.
Let’s consider newlyweds Naomi Ekperigin and Andy Beckerman: two multi-hyphenate comedians, writers, actors – and of course – podcasters. They nearly do it all. On their podcast Couples Therapy, they are joined by their favorite actors and comedians to gab about their romantic pasts, presents, and futures and answer fan relationship questions. This year, I worked with Andy and Naomi to feature them across two different, award-winning Acast Creative original podcast productions – Roundabout and Self.
On Roundabout, a Brand Entertainment Award winning podcast about road trips presented by State Farm, they recounted their hectic and hilarious journey through California from LA to Solvang. As a series of firsts, this marked their first road trip since moving to the state, their first trip with their sweet rescue dog Mable, and their first time getting pulled over. A perfect storm of events to test any relationship and entertain every listener.
Meanwhile On Self., which took home the Hermes Creative Award, Naomi and Andy get a bit more serious to talk about their relationship with money as individuals and in their relationship. They share the different relationships they each had with money while growing up as well as how they’ve navigated financial baselines, job insecurity, and other experiences that new and long-term couples alike can relate to as they’re building their lives together.
In both of these podcasts, Naomi and Andy were able to humanize these brands and deepen the bonds they already have with listeners by sharing their personal stories, emotions, and vulnerabilities. And for Naomi and Andy, both of these podcasts gave them the opportunity to tell these stories that may not have been told on Couples Therapy.
Despite just how vastly different Roundabout and Self are, these are stories and topics that Naomi and Andy’s audiences were excited to hear. This was proven by the podcasts garnering a 4.8 and 4.9 Apple Podcast rating respectively and an 81% average listen-through rate.
In addition to these fully branded podcasts, Acast Creative also imagines and produces short-form branded content within podcasters' existing feeds. This type of content also breeds new opportunities for podcasters to unlock different parts of their personal lives to share with their audience.
For example, in a series of Sponsored Stories – two to four minute-long dynamically-inserted segments – produced in partnership with Amazon, podcasters from across the Acast Creator Network shared traditions and stories from holidays past. Among them was Sharon McMahon, host of Here’s Where It Gets Interesting, who excitedly tells listeners about her favorite tradition of planning her holiday yard display – and how surprised her minimalist husband was the year he came home to an 11-foot tall inflatable Olaf character from Frozen in their yard.
While stories of marital pranks with yard inflatables may not be contextually relevant in a regular episode of her political podcast, Acast’s partnership with Amazon enabled Sharon to share this fun, behind-the-curtain look into her life while aligning the Amazon brand with building holiday traditions and memories.
We each grow and evolve throughout time. It’s what makes us multi-dimensional. It’s what gives us experience, knowledge, and story. It’s what makes us human. And it's those stories of growth and evolution that audiences want to hear most.
Through authentic storytelling, and exploring new topics, Acast Creative gives advertisers an opportunity to humanize their brands by allowing podcasters to connect with listeners in new ways. As the podcasting landscape continues to evolve, branded content will play an increasingly important role in building equitable and authentic relationships between creators and brands in service of the communities that we all aspire to serve: the listeners.
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