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Your Audio Advertising Needs to be More Human


Alex Blumberg is the creator of the popular podcast Startup and founder of the new podcasting network, Gimlet Media.

Given his deep background in public media, it’s fair to ask what anyone in the commercial audio space might learn from Alex about audio advertising. What the heck does he know, anyway?

Well, Gimlet Media is powered in no small part by advertisers, and Alex brings his knowledge of storytelling to bear when he crafts ads for his clients.

His goal is to extract what he describes as “honest and authentic feelings” from the people at the heart of the brands sponsoring his content in order to tell a human story that consumers can relate to. While this is certainly not the best recipe for every audio spot (especially, perhaps, those that are promotion-based), it’s an extra mile that most radio spot-makers don’t walk. And why not?

There’s a tendency in audio advertising for too many spots to sound alike. And if the spots sound the same then there can be no difference in the brands being advertised, right?

Listen to Alex’s spots for his Startup podcast, and you’ll hear a conversation with one of the people behind email provider Mailchimp – Alex questions if he’d have the courage to call the service “Mailchimp” if he were to do it again today. His goal was to get what he describes as “one honest moment” where “a person sounds like a person.”

We all form human connections with human beings who have human moments. And the people behind brands – your clients – can have those, too. In fact, the people behind brands must have those, too. Because the brands that are most compelling are always those that are the most human.

Mailchimp also sponsored This American Life’s popular Serial podcast, and there the production team employed a different approach, but also one built to stand out from the norm, particularly one “person on the street” who mispronounced the sponsor’s name – “mailkeemp” – in such a way as it exploded as its own Internet meme and trending topic.

What both approaches have in common is this: Ads that sound distinctive reflect brands that are distinctive. Ads that sound human portray brands that are human.

And that, my friends, is what consumers want.

We work so hard to sell spots to our advertisers. What if it was the spots they wanted to buy, and not simply the airtime and the audiences?

After all, in a world where audiences are available everywhere, one of your competitive advantages should be that you know better than anybody else how to connect with them and move them by audio.

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