Ad Infinitum

Scary Ads

May 29, 2024 Stew Redwine Season 2 Episode 4
Scary Ads
Ad Infinitum
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Ad Infinitum
Scary Ads
May 29, 2024 Season 2 Episode 4
Stew Redwine

In this episode, host Stew Redwine discusses the creative approach to scripting fiction podcasts, the role of sponsors and ads in spoken word audio, and analyzes four ads from the Ambie Award-winning podcast Ad Lucem.

Stew is joined by two guests:

Key points from the discussion:

  • How knowing upfront that ads will be included affects the creative process when scripting a fiction podcast. Nathalie notes that while it can be challenging for listeners to shift from the story into a commercial break, it forces the creators to think strategically about building engaging cliffhangers to retain the audience through the ads.

  • Ray shares insights on selling ads for fiction podcasts and the importance of matching the tone and style of the ads to the show's content.

  • The rise of fiction podcasts and audio storytelling as an alternative to screen-based media. Stew believes there will be increasing growth in this space.

The second half of the episode focuses on analyzing four ads from the podcast Ad Lucem:

  1. Sonos Era 300 Speaker - rated highly for relevance to an immersive audio experience, but critiqued for not demonstrating the product's capabilities.
  2. Twizzlers - seen as a weaker ad without a clear connection to the story themes.
  3. Dave Banking App - praised for capturing the financial struggles of the show's young characters, but felt longer than necessary.
  4. BetterHelp - the favorite of the four for cleverly integrating the show's AI assistant character into the ad copy.

The overall takeaway was that while 60-second ads provide room for storytelling, the additional time must be earned through engaging, relevant content. Shorter ads may be preferable for fiction podcasts unless the extra length enhances the listening experience.

Special thanks to Benztown Studio for providing the space to record this episode at their recording studio in Glendale, CA.

Support the Show.

Ad Infinitum is Presented by Oxford Road, Produced by Caitlyn Spring & Ezra Fox, mixed & sound designed by Zach Hahn, and written & hosted by Stew Redwine.

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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, host Stew Redwine discusses the creative approach to scripting fiction podcasts, the role of sponsors and ads in spoken word audio, and analyzes four ads from the Ambie Award-winning podcast Ad Lucem.

Stew is joined by two guests:

Key points from the discussion:

  • How knowing upfront that ads will be included affects the creative process when scripting a fiction podcast. Nathalie notes that while it can be challenging for listeners to shift from the story into a commercial break, it forces the creators to think strategically about building engaging cliffhangers to retain the audience through the ads.

  • Ray shares insights on selling ads for fiction podcasts and the importance of matching the tone and style of the ads to the show's content.

  • The rise of fiction podcasts and audio storytelling as an alternative to screen-based media. Stew believes there will be increasing growth in this space.

The second half of the episode focuses on analyzing four ads from the podcast Ad Lucem:

  1. Sonos Era 300 Speaker - rated highly for relevance to an immersive audio experience, but critiqued for not demonstrating the product's capabilities.
  2. Twizzlers - seen as a weaker ad without a clear connection to the story themes.
  3. Dave Banking App - praised for capturing the financial struggles of the show's young characters, but felt longer than necessary.
  4. BetterHelp - the favorite of the four for cleverly integrating the show's AI assistant character into the ad copy.

The overall takeaway was that while 60-second ads provide room for storytelling, the additional time must be earned through engaging, relevant content. Shorter ads may be preferable for fiction podcasts unless the extra length enhances the listening experience.

Special thanks to Benztown Studio for providing the space to record this episode at their recording studio in Glendale, CA.

Support the Show.

Ad Infinitum is Presented by Oxford Road, Produced by Caitlyn Spring & Ezra Fox, mixed & sound designed by Zach Hahn, and written & hosted by Stew Redwine.

Stew Redwine (00:00):
Hit it. Ad Infinitum is the only podcast solely focused on audio ads, advertising the creative who make them and are the latest thinking that informs them how the space is evolving. And my favorite part, a roundup of recent audio ads and analysis by yours truly, Stew Redwine, VP Creative at Oxford Road, and each episode's guest.

This is season Two, episode four of Ad Infinitum, and this episode's title is Scary Ads, discussing the creative Approach to Scripting Fiction podcast, the role of sponsors and ads in spoken word audio, and then ranking four ads from a recent award-winning podcast. And that is why our guest is two people. Ray Harkins, senior of Ad Sales at Wondery. What's

Stew Redwine (00:42):

Stew Redwine (00:43):
Welcome to the show. Thank

Stew Redwine (00:44):
You Sue. And

Stew Redwine (00:45):
Natalie Chicha, producer of the 2023 Ambi Award-winning podcast. I hear fear. Thank

Stew Redwine (00:51):
You. Thank you. Very excited to

Stew Redwine (00:53):
Be here. I'm excited to have you guys. So I recently watched Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon, and that ending really got me thinking about the power and pitfalls of audio sponsorship. The film closes with a 1920 style radio play dramatizing the tragic Osage murders complete with an upbeat announcer and a plug for Lucky Strike cigarettes. It's a jarring tonal shift that to me epitomizes how audio storytelling can go wrong when the pursuit of ad dollars takes precedence over emotional truth. But here's the thing, it doesn't have to be this way. I've long believed that audio when crafted with intention and integrity, has an unparalleled ability to move hearts and minds. Sound is inherently intimate. It is tapping directly into the same neural pathways as our emotions. The right message delivered with authenticity and enhanced with artful sound design can leave an indelible impression.

Sadly, as the killers of the Flower Moon Radio play demonstrates the potential is often squandered generic copy, cliche effects, and a disregard for the cultural weight of the subject matter. These are the hallmarks of carelessly slapping a sponsor on a story without any deeper consideration for the power and responsibility that entails. Looking back, this kind of haphazard approach has deep roots. In the early days of radio brand sponsored serials and variety hours were the norm. You had the Palm, all of our craft music hall shows named after their sponsors with ads woven right into the entertainment. It was novel for the time, but the lack of thoughtful integration and reliance on forgettable inauthentic announcer copy set a troubling precedent that persists in much of today's audio advertising. So what's the solution? I believe it starts with a fundamental shift in mindset. We need to stop treating audio sponsorship as an afterthought and start recognizing it as a craft one that demands the same level of care, nuance and artistry as the continent supports. When the sponsor respects the story and the story respects its subjects, that's when the true emotional power of audio can shine through and take the ending of killers of the flower Moon. Spoiler alert,

After the glib radio play, the film cuts to Martin Scorsese himself stepping up to the mic to voice the tragic postscript of burkhart's life. It's a haunting reminder of the heights that can be achieved when a master storyteller wields the power of audio with purpose. If more brands and creators brought that level of thoughtfulness and intentionality to their audio campaigns, focusing on authentic, emotionally attuned storytelling above all else, I believe we'd see a tremendous positive impact, not just on the bottom line, but on hearts and minds, because that's the true potential of this medium. Not just to sell, but to transform. Okay. So that's kind of some high-minded stuff, but I also believe it's true. You know, I mean we've gotta make ads that sell, but we do want to connect and have a larger impact. I think we all do, but like the rubber hits the road, right? So how does this break down when scripting fiction podcasts, I'd like to start with you, Natalie. Does it kill creativity knowing that there's gonna have to be ads in the story that you're telling?

Nathalie Chicha (03:49):
Yes and no. I think that knowing that an ad break is going to be inserted at a point in the story means you have to think really, really strategically about how you're gonna get the audience to stay through that ad break. And so you need to build like a master act out or a cliffhanger or a turn. Like it really encourages thinking about plot and encourages thinking about audience. So in a way, it's kind of a gift to storytelling that we have to think about, like what's the thing that's gonna keep listeners listening? But it can be hard for listeners, I think. And I think this is probably like what you're getting at to shift from like the dream space of the story into like a commercial space where suddenly something is being sold to you and then to switch back. And so I think that it probably, there's some friction probably for the listener, but for us as creators, it's kind of a net benefit to like be forced to think that strategically, if that makes sense.

Stew Redwine (04:40):
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, 'cause it gives you some sort of boundaries or lane lines to create within and it was, yeah, it always helps. Yeah, completely. Just on the drive over here, actually, I was listening to Batman Underground, which the producers of that I'm gonna mention later on, but there was a scene and then it went to somebody who was like listening to the radio in Gotham City and it was switching through radio channels. You could tell it was Gotham City. And I was like, oh my God, are they gonna go into an adver? Like that would be amazing. They did not. I love that idea. But yes, it's a cool idea. I think Ray, for you when it's like, okay, so director of ad sales, you've got all these shows matching the sponsors to the style of the story or you know, let's just throw another ad in there. Like how do you deal with that dynamic?

Ray Harkins (05:22):
To your point, it's always been a tough bridge, especially when you look at the podcast landscape hosts like you know, that is the premium that is placed on everybody developing this parasocial relationship with the person who is this host that they love over time. They trust, obviously they do an ad for a thing, you're like, my best friend is telling me to buy this pair of underwear, of course I'm going to do it. And then also on top of it, the fact that usually fiction podcasts, there's a limited run, it's 6, 8, 10 episodes at the most, maybe more. But I think it's one of those things like those two ideas have always kind of been from what has existed in the podcast landscape. For me, I think it's the point of, I mean I got into the podcast Medium from radio, but then also like the Shadow Arch OBLs lights out everybody, like these really old radio shows and they were integrating within the context of their ad breaks.

I mean, there's only so many people that were advertising on those shows, so you would hear the lucky strikes and whatever. But I think within the context of the creative ways that people are selling their products and the wide swath of people selling products now where it's like, I mean obviously we work for Wondery, so me mentioning Audible feels like, you know, money going from one side to the other side. But I think the way that Audible approaches when they're doing advertisements, like they really want to make sure they're focused on places where it's like, what's good storytelling? Whether it's a hosted podcast where this person has relationship or whether this is just a very compelling story. And so I think that brands that look at the space and be like, Hey, we want to be ultimately where people are like really real, and I hate to use this stupid marketing term leaned in, but it's like when you are immersed in that and then you are being hit with an ad, yes it is incongruent in certain aspects, but then it's also like, well I'm here, the reason this show exists is literally because of these ads.

And that's okay. And that's always been okay in the podcast space as opposed to square peg round hauling it where it's like you're putting the Geico gecko in a fiction podcast like yelling at you, it's like buy insurance. And you're like, Jesus Lord Almighty, this was a quiet show. Like I think to me that's always the idea of, all right, marrying the content with the appropriate advertiser and that goes up and down for host reads or non hosts reads, whatever the case may be. You don't want to just be able to fit something in just because like, oh, we gotta make a dollar from it.

Stew Redwine (07:39):
Yeah. And matching the tone. And I was thinking about, well, when it comes to this, I actually have an example of a shift out of an ad break into some ads that I wanted to talk about. But I've had the thought that like I wonder sometimes subconsciously, especially as like we're on the other end of the streaming wars, like all on demand content that when you hear ads, you know you're not paying for that. And so is there actually like a positive subconscious payoff of like, yeah, that's right, I'll listen to this and I'm saving $7. It's like, I will gladly listen to this ad so I don't have to pay. You know,

Ray Harkins (08:11):
Honestly like, I mean as funny as that sounds, we're obviously very close to the space, right? So it's difficult for us to kind of separate from that. But I often think about why it makes podcasting so interesting is the fact that not only are people used to hearing ads in the space, but the straight line that is drawn from being like, Hey, if I'm listening to this ad, I am literally supporting the creator or a company that brought this to me. No one thinks that when they're watching like the NFL or whatever, I mean that's obviously you're talking about 17,000 different steps before you're like, oh wow, this football player's probably seeing a little bit as much like they're not obviously, but just that fact that that is hard boiled into the podcast space makes it that much cooler where you're like, okay, cool. Like the reason that I get this for free is because of this. Like it's a trade off and on top of it, hopefully the ads aren't annoying and they're actually educating me.

Nathalie Chicha (08:57):
Yeah, and I mean sometimes I'll listen, like I have Wondery Plus, which is our app where you can listen ad free. And as people who work there, we obviously have unlimited access to it, but I will sometimes choose to listen to the versions with ads just because one, I enjoy hearing ads, I enjoy hearing how people are trying to pitch products to me and like what story they're using to sell things. And I also just like hearing like what's happening in the world. Like I think of ads mm-Hmm <affirmative> as almost like little trend bleeps or updates, you know?

Ray Harkins (09:24):
Absolutely. If they're done appropriately and no one likes their content to be described as content in the form of advertising versus like quote unquote actual content. But you're right, like it is one of those things where it gives you the signal of like, okay, what is the audience of this show? Like I see why this advertiser's appearing on this. I see the way that the host is approaching this read or whatever. And it's like, I've worked at companies where we've had a service that strips the ads and people can remove those. But then there are shows where the ad reads are so engaging and fun that people are like, oh, there's no way I'm ever gonna subscribe for the premium thing <laugh>. I want them to, you know, do this four minute ad read or whatever <laugh> because it's funny as hell.

Stew Redwine (10:02):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a little snapshot. I feel like you can go back to any decade in time and you look at the ads and it's like if you want to understand where the zeitgeist, it's like just look at the ads and you can kind of see what that culture was working through. So this example of a transition I've got is actually from, I hear fear coming out of the show into the break. So let's listen to this

Ad 1 (10:24):
Rains when it's supposed to be Sunny. Usually the film comes out and no one knows any different, but this movie didn't work out like that. It's never seen the light of day and in the end, I barely made it out alive.

Stew Redwine (10:44):
Had you had this prescription, it would've been guaranteed that you'd make it out alive. <laugh> thought I'd just start with that.

Nathalie Chicha (10:49):
That was amazing. Obviously it's not a visual mediums listeners can't see, but like my shoulders were going that

Stew Redwine (10:54):

Ad 1 (10:55):

Stew Redwine (10:55):

Ray Harkins (10:56):
And I think that like that goes to show where it's like, because the particular show that you were working on, we weren't leaning in from a sales perspective, we weren't leaning into Host Red Odds. Like there's so many things that we obviously wouldn't do in regards to the show. I mean, there are times where I have sold fiction shows where the host is an important part of it, like the narrator's an important part of that and their personality in and of itself. So like they would feel comfortable doing the ad rates, but I think that was obviously just a, you know, dynamically inserted non hosts Red. Like we're interested in hitting this particular audience of this show, whether it's just like, Hey, we want adults 25 to 44 that are looking for prescriptions or <laugh>.

Stew Redwine (11:35):
Well, and I have a thought though that it's like that show is so intense. Like I listen to all of, I hear fear that there is a natural, like I feel like I've been trained with broadcast media that like the ad break sometimes is like a nice, huh?

Nathalie Chicha (11:47):
Yeah, yeah, an adrenaline

Stew Redwine (11:48):
Relief. I can, and they didn't try too hard. Like the thing I wanted to talk about was, I've got another example that I wanna play to kind of make this point, but a show like I hear Fear, which very much is about like people harming each other, whatever, like that doesn't mean every ad needs to start with something. Like there are lots of dangerous killers out there. Are you in the mood for some killer deals, right? Like it's almost like if you go too on the nose. So that's where I'm trying to hold these two things in my mind, I'm not using that example to go bad and this is good. It's like, you know, there's a case to be made for even. Yeah, we're going on an ad break now. It's like my oldest daughter's in show choir. It's like you have intermission, you know, you don't go out and the person that's selling you the candy bar is singing to you. It's like, would you like a candy bar? It's a complete break from the content. You know, we were doing that, now we're doing this. And that's okay. So it's not bad. So here's another example. And this would've been in either Clean Beauty or Under the Skin. So for anybody listening, absolutely recommend listening all the way through. But so you know, Natalie, this would've been in either Clean Beauty or Under The Skin. I'm not a hundred percent certain, but I think the point could be made for either one of them here. So here's another ad.

Ad 2 (12:53):
How would you like to look five years younger in a clinical study? People that had volume added with Juvederm Voluma, XE in the Cheeks perceive themselves as looking five years younger at six months after treatment, look younger, feel like you.

Stew Redwine (13:07):
What do you think, this is

Nathalie Chicha (13:08):
Something I wonder about. Like when the content has a very ambiguous attitude towards something like beauty products, how dangerous is it for people in the beauty space to advertise on the show?

Ray Harkins (13:20):
I think, I mean, most of the time it's just identifying an audience. I've worked with this client before through a particular agency and they're looking to hit females between the ages of whatever, 30 and 45. So that's really the play there. So they're like across your entire network, we want to identify these people and like not run in these specific shows, but just find these listeners whatever content they're listening to. And so you absolutely will run into the case where it's like, hmm, this feels weird. And usually it shows there are call outs that you can do to be like, Hey, I wanna block these certain categories or whatever. And you know, a lot of the times it's the hosts that are pulling that trigger to be like, I don't want whatever alcohol brands or these things that, you know, they don't feel personally attached to. Like even if it's not voiced by them, they're like, I do not want this in my show.

Nathalie Chicha (14:09):
Yeah, for context. Yep. That episode, if it is clean beauty, it's about a young woman who gets a really prestigious job at a fancy wellness spa that has a dark secret at its core, as you probably expect,

Stew Redwine (14:22):
Don't they all? <laugh>. <laugh>.

Ray Harkins (14:24):
How do you think Erwan got so popular?

Stew Redwine (14:25):
I loved that. I loved the episode by the way, as a father of two daughters.

Nathalie Chicha (14:28):
Oh gosh. But the thing is, it is the same audience. Like that makes perfect sense. The people who would be interested in beauty standards, the harm they do to us, the reasons why we pursue them, the reasons why we do get value out of them are probably the same people who do consider skin creams. Juvederm Botox. Totally,

Ray Harkins (14:45):
Yeah. It's like, I think especially from a marketer's or advertiser's perspective, they looking to find the audience, whatever they're consuming, whatever they're listening to. I always joke around where it's just like we as humans are like absolute freaks. We're so weird. Like, you know, we can be listening to a horror podcast and then the next minute we could be listening to a kid's podcast about brushing your teeth or whatever 'cause your kids. And so because of that it's like so difficult to be able to identify where am I gonna find this person? And then sometimes you are gonna run into like, this doesn't seem contextually relevant, but it's just like, well, I mean it's not, but it's also, it's audience relevant.

Stew Redwine (15:23):
Yes. The reason I bring up these examples is that I think the bigger sin is when you try to do it and you don't do it well. I think that ads existing in the shows to reach a certain audience, like I think that if it just cuts in, it actually isn't the worst thing. Because like what I was saying before, we've all been trained for that. I think the bigger challenge is if you try to go there and make it cute or tie in or something, I don't know. With this one I was thinking about it, I was like, if it was under the skin or clean beauty, you could do a small thing to kind of, you know, tie it together. But do you need to do that? I'm not sure I'm open on that.

Ray Harkins (15:58):
Yeah, this is something that, again, because we sit so close to the environment, it's sometimes difficult to you know, see the forest from the trees. But like I always feel pandered to when it's like, I think it's a Capital One A no shots against Capital One, but shots also, well

Stew Redwine (16:11):
This show's about breaking down ads, so it's okay.

Ray Harkins (16:13):
Right. I think literally there's a tagline in some of their creative that they do across non hosts Red. They're just trying to capture an audience. They're being like, Hey, this is the easiest decision that you can make working with Capital One than listening to another episode of your favorite podcast. And I'm like, don't tell me how easy it is to listen to a podcast. I'm already listening to a podcast. You idiot stop. And so again, I'm too close to it. Anytime I get mad in an advertisement, I'm like, let's calm down Ray. But it's just that idea of what you're talking about where it's like if you get too cute, too kitchy with it, that could be, you know, turning people off in the wrong way where they actively dislike the brand because you're trying to play too much to the crowd or the audience. Yeah,

Stew Redwine (16:49):
They can smell the BS a little bit, right? It's like, wait, you're doing this to me to try to get a result as a creative, like how do you think of it? Would you want to see more ads tailored specifically to the show or would you want to see 'em like hey, let's just go to the break and let the break be what it is. I

Nathalie Chicha (17:03):
Would be very intrigued by ads that like tried to lean into the story that tried to make themselves part of the story world in creative ways that didn't feel like pandering. My question for you guys though is like, do people have the budget for that that requires that they have their own creatives, they have their own writers, there are people who are thinking about how they're selling their product as carefully as we're thinking about how to tell our story and that has to be individualized for every show. Like is that a realistic expectation for advertising?

Ray Harkins (17:29):
I mean, for the most part, no, but there are ways, especially if you get enough of a heads up. I mean obviously we see product placement all the time and television and movies and stuff like that to where we either have become desensitized to it, where it's just obviously in like every Apple TV show there's only Apple products. There's certain things where just like, oh, I didn't notice that. But then when you actually think about it, you're like, I get it say like a car brand where to be like, hey we want BMW mentioned in like two episodes or whatever. You probably could figure a way out if you have enough lead time and you feel like it's enough to be able to do that. But to get the creative team on, you know, the brand side, to be able to think about that appropriately and not just be like, well we need to be mentioned 17 times 'cause that's what our research says in order for people to remember the, you know, three 50 or what like sometimes then you could just edit that to death and then you hate your show because you have to mention BM BMW 17 times, whatever, <laugh>.

And so it's, it's tough.

Stew Redwine (18:21):
Yeah, I think it is. It's difficult proposition and when I think about it, it's like what we have found makes audio work really well even perform and make work that we're all proud of is inefficiencies, is taking the time to really craft it. Yeah. And that transcends fiction to even like working with hosts where it's like getting on the phone, having conversations, crafting something. The end result of that is something that's more powerful, that's more thoughtful. Trying to do that in a land of spots and dots and efficiencies and then when you've got AI that can customize the stuff, you know, it's a difficult proposition, but I'd be all for it if somebody wanted to take that on and it can happen. I think there's actually an example ad that we're gonna grade here in just a minute that I think they do a pretty nice job. We'll see what you guys think. Don't lead the witness. Okay. Yeah, exactly. What am I doing? What am I doing? He's like, I think

Ray Harkins (19:07):
This is really good. You guys should probably give it 10 outta 10. So

Stew Redwine (19:09):
Here we go. Yeah, please give it an honest five star review <laugh>. That's why I ask everybody about this podcast. Oh, that's so good. Yeah, and I picked it up from another guy, it was this podcast called The Best Thing Ever and they say, please leave an honest five star review. So I'm always doing that. So yeah, when something is crafted and thoughtful, I do believe you can feel it. Does that always translate to performance? No, because something that's not crafted or thoughtful necessarily, especially for us creatives can perform really well in what's rewarded is repeated. And that's kind of a tough dynamic, but I think there is a downside to a lot of stuff as well. And so if you guys just go with me here on this, that I think makes the case for the upside of audio and I think we're gonna see increased entrance in audio and particularly in fiction audio and for kids specifically.

So the most nominated podcast for the Ays this year was a fiction podcast that was called The Very Worst Thing That Could Possibly Happen, which Natalie, anybody that's familiar with storytelling, I feel like that's sort of a shorthand from writer's rooms of like any scene you get into, they're like, okay now for that character, what's the very worst thing that could possibly happen? We need to raise the stakes. So these guys just came out and named their show that, which I'm like, my hat is off to you. So it's by husband and wife duo, Alex and Winnie Kemp, founders of Wolf at the Door, who also produce podcasts for larger studios like Batman Un Buried, which I'd mentioned earlier. That's for Warner Brothers Discovery and Spotify. And earlier this year I made a prediction on Oxford Road's Media Roundtable podcast that this space fiction podcasts, audio books, let's call it audio fiction, is going to expand, right?

So like for instance, it was a fiction podcast that was the most nominated podcast for the Amies. And for me that's tied to what I believe is a greater collective unconscious reaction to screens. It's the whiplash of all the negative consequences of screens that are being felt and experienced and continually validated by research. It's like when a virus has run its course, right? The worst viruses, so to speak, like worst for their hosts are the ones that kill their hosts and then they die out, they completely decimate the population and then the virus goes away, right? Like the crack epidemic would be like kind of another idea of that. Like why aren't people not like still done because it killed all the most susceptible and then there's nobody left, right? And that's what I think is going on with screen time. I think that that is what is happening and I think that that means an opportunity for audio, that you're gonna have a whole generation of the ones that are younger now, that even they're gonna go to raising their kids.

Like I think of my folks generation where everybody was smoking everywhere in the cars, everywhere. They had to clean ashtrays, a whole lot of them actually don't smoke, right? The ones that were raised around it was so disgusting. And I've seen little kids' reaction sometimes to a phone, a parent on a phone that's like violent. It's like, put that down, look at me, da da da. And I'm like, I have hope in humanity that they're gonna go, yeah, I'm good. I don't want that. That stuff's toxic, that's nasty. But audio is something that you can partake in. There's intimacy tied to it, you can interact with it in the world. And so I think there's gonna be an increasing surge. So Natalie, I think your job is incredibly secure. I

Nathalie Chicha (22:06):
Love the optimism here. I think that audio does feel like this intermediate step between reading and watching and so it gives you the pleasure of being fully immersed in a story and hearing production, you know, you're still having somebody who's created this world for you, but it doesn't have like you're not quite as overstimulated as you would be watching something on a screen. It lets your brain go into a different mode. And I do think that we're in desperate need of breaks from screen time. I love this. Let's take advantage of this <laugh> like as a campaign audio as, yeah, an alternative to screens.

Stew Redwine (22:37):
I think people are subconsciously doing that. I think that's part of the explanation of the growth in audio is they go put this away, but I could still listen to this stuff. Ray, do you have a point of view? Yeah,

Ray Harkins (22:47):
Well I mean audio persists regardless of how people are consuming it, whether it's radio, there's so many different iterations of it or obviously music like the proliferation of the fact that most people would never even think to be like, oh dude, I'm never gonna listen to like an audiobook. But the fact that it's like included in your Spotify premium or whatever, it's, it's just like the ease of use for people to back into podcasts, audiobooks or whatever is so there of everybody of every stage in life, all ages. And I think regardless of happening from screens or the fact that, you know, we're gonna have ships implanted in our head, just the future iterations. You didn't

Stew Redwine (23:21):
Get yours implanted yet? Yeah, not

Ray Harkins (23:22):
Yet. Okay. Yeah, yeah. I'm on the waiting list. Yeah. Okay. Okay. Once I get my cyber truck, no, I'm not getting a cyber truck. But just that idea of being able where it's like audio is static as far as like, I mean yes of course we can have really interesting things with 3D audio and other ways that we can tell stories and be immersive, but the way that it's delivered is going to be relatively static. And I think that that's something that's going to be consistent and especially to your points too, when you expose a good story to a younger person and they're just like, oh this is great. Tell me more. I want to know more. Whether it's like you're literally reading a book to them or whether you are exposing them to a very interesting kid's podcast. And just the fact that it's like you can do that for people at any stage in their life is really, really compelling and it will just persist. It'll just be like different formats take different holds and ultimately it's going to lead us to a space where audio will always be there. It will just be a matter of how we put it in our ears.

Stew Redwine (24:19):
Yes. And I think it's so powerful because it gets the imagination going. A friend of mine, a commercial director, Jordan Brady recently said, it shows us more than we can see. It engages the imagination. Screens don't screens, slow it down, you become passive, right? Audio is active, like you have to think of whatever it is that they're describing in the scene. And that's why we see more dollars going into the space. Such a fantastic place to tell a story and top talent is going there, right? So the show that we're gonna be talking about is Ad Luum Now, ad Luum won the same award, Natalie, that you guys won in 2023 with I Hear Fear, which is the best script writing fiction. So Ad Luum won that for 2024, that's the ambi winner for the best script writing fiction and it's produced by Q Code, Barry Linen motion pictures and Salt with executive producers, Chris Pine, Olivia Wild, Ian Goler, Troy, Ann Berio, and Joshua Close.

Some of those names at least I think are absolutely household names. I mean, you know Chris Pine, Olivia Wild, Tre, Berio, people know who these people are and here they are of all the things that they could be doing and all the things they could be investing in, they're investing in this space and telling a story this way, which is pretty cool. So Ad Luso is set in the year 2032. It's about this company ad Luum OI that has created a augmented reality assistant where it's like it's beyond just voice, it's like it's vr, but there's actually people that are like connected to them. So it's like you're talking to an AI, but there's a human there. So it's augmented and much like in the Clean Beauty episode of I Hear Fear this well-intentioned incredible company, turns out there's some stuff going on, there's some dark dealings and that's really what the show is about. And mankinds struggle with trying to create these incredible tools. And then how do we still do that in a way that is good for everybody and doesn't allow bad actors to just run roughshod and use it as a way to harm.

Nathalie Chicha (26:15):
Yeah, exactly. That it's being presented as a tool for connection that you can have like a projected 3D virtual assistant with you at all times to talk to, to experience things with, to share jokes with. But does that actually give you a sense of connection or does that just like reinforce the lonely lifestyle that all these people in the show, what year was it? Said again?

Stew Redwine (26:34):

Nathalie Chicha (26:35):
2032. Not now. Not, we're not lonely now, but 2032.

Ray Harkins (26:40):
So close, so close. We're right there. Yeah.

Stew Redwine (26:41):
Excellent point. It is about connection and like the definition of what is true connection and then how do we use technology to enhance legitimate connection versus coming in between us as people. It's a very good show as well. So the four advertisers, I pick four different ads from the show, Sonos era, Twizzlerss, the Dave app and Better Help. And so this is where we get into the heart of ad infinitum. We're going listen to each of these ads. I have our grade from Oxford Road, which is the system that we use to rate ads for persuasiveness is called Audio lytics. So it's a score. It's helpful in this context just to kind of give us relativity to each other. But I'm really interested in what you guys think from your own professional opinions of like how you think these ads did and in light of this conversation that we're having of matching the content versus hey, it's okay, we're in an ad break now so just go for it. So with no further ado, let's get started with the first ad from Sonos era 300 and here we go.

Ad 3 (27:37):
Hey Ad Lu Luum listeners. I'm Alexa Ramirez, one of the producers of Ad Luum and I'm thrilled to tell you about our sponsor Sonos. Their new Sonos era 300 allows us to experience spatial audio like you've never heard before while listening to totally immersive podcasts like Ad Luum. Imagine having a sound system that helps build that environment around you. If you haven't dove into your Sonos journey yet, now is a great time to start. The era 300 is an all-in-one speaker with both plugin and smart capabilities that is designed specifically for immersive and spatial audio listening out loud, a full 360 experience. What I love most about it in my home is how sleek it looks. Its modern design definitely fits with what I already have in my own home and I get compliments on it all the time. If you already have a few Sonos items and are ready to level up to the next best thing, you can add the ERA 300 into the mix when paired with the Sonos arc, the era 300 unlocks the ultimate and most immersive Sonos theater setup. Soon you'll be one step closer to the best listening experience out there. So go get your Sonos era 300 now and learn

Stew Redwine (28:46):
All right, the game is afoot. Natalie, I'll start with you. What do you think of that ad?

Nathalie Chicha (28:49):
I mean, bravo to the placement. Jesus, you can't do better than that can you? Like you know the audience wants immersive fiction and you have a product that's going to give them a better experience of immersive fiction. Like hats off to whoever was able to like put that deal together. I did lose focus about three quarters of the way through the ad. It did start to feel a little repetitive and I do wish that if it's an ad for sound, I would've loved to hear more of a variety of sounds. So like give it a little bit more vibrancy, a little bit more like just encourage more engagement. I started tuning out.

Stew Redwine (29:20):
I mean it's a age old question, sixties verse thirties and then of course there's even shorter links. But like this is an example where you're saying is like, did this 60 really get us a whole lot more? Plus it's a produced ad so maybe shorter would be better. I love your idea of product demonstration, like this is what it sounds like. It's built on the premise of like you're experiencing, you know, immersive audio in the actual show. But I think you bring up a great point and it did have kind of that like meditation music in the background and it was a very pleasant voice, which I think all of that works. I also would say, you know, her identifying Alexa Ramirez, that she's one of the producers of the show brings some weight with it. So just adding on there to what your experience of it, Natalie, but Ray, what about you? What do you think of this ad? Yeah,

Ray Harkins (29:59):
I mean again, because I'm very close to it, I see exactly what they were doing and I'm familiar with what Sonos has done in the podcast space. Like they love these sort of shows, but they also love comedy. Those are their two verticals. They're like, can we do something that showcases the fact that our technology will help enhance your listening experience, a controlled environment. I love your idea of obviously showing an example, but people are listening to podcasts in non-immersive environment where it's like, you know, doing dishes on their AirPods or whatever. Of course it would be great if they were listening to it on Sonos and being like, oh wow, I can hear this panty from the left to the right and like, oh man, this is crazy. Anyways, but then like including the producer, that's great because that's a sort of substitute host read and obviously she's including impersonal experience.

They clearly shipped out the Sonos bar to them like, yo, check this out. So that felt good and it didn't feel forced. But I do think that especially in the context of fiction shows, shorter is better in my opinion. I think when you're doing thirties to 40 fives, that feels much more appropriate because you don't have to go on like what you're talking about where it's just like, all right, we gotta hit 60 so of course we're gonna you know, include all of these other things. Make sure to mention the brand's name at least five times, et cetera, et cetera. So overall I liked it and I liked the inclusion of the personal experience 'cause that's every ad I sell, I try to have that as a part of the ads that I do. So yeah, I thought it was really well done.

Stew Redwine (31:18):
We're feeling good about this one. From an audio lytics standpoint, it got an 82% and our target for all in market audio at Oxford Road with audio lytics is a 90% achieving a hundred percent. While theoretically is possible, it's kinda like traveling at the speed of light. So there's 71 sub components and nine key components that are all either present or not present and are individually weighted based on performance. And so coming in at 82 is really, really good. Most ads out there in the world are, I think of it as like school, they're C students or even D students. It's like 65, 70 5%. There's just a few things that you can do to make it better. In this case, our audio lytics analysis brought up the same stuff that we're all talking about, which is enhanced demonstration, especially if we're gonna go long, earn it, like earn the 60. So like let's put some demonstration of this in there and then even, you know, I suppose you would go well, but they're obviously not listening on their Sonos 'cause they don't have one. It's like, yeah, but you could still, that wouldn't stop me from being like trying

Ray Harkins (32:16):
Something, right?

Nathalie Chicha (32:17):
It could make it more audio rich. Totally. It doesn't have to be panning or something 3D. But yeah, you can do

Stew Redwine (32:22):
More. Yeah, and you could even say like, and if you were listening to this on your Sonos, you would hear all of the detail of it moving around you and all that. And this show is cool. I mean they do do the spatial stuff. Another call out would be perhaps Clarity on the Path. You know, at the very end they throw on there, they do say Sonos a lot, but it's just like, learn You could potentially reiterate that or make that more clear about where to go. And you can even kind of hear the hesitation in my voice. It's always kind of a funny one. But you know, we also will grade all of the ads in the Super Bowl and it's just amazing to me that sometimes with advertisers we don't just come out and make it like incredibly clear and reiterate exactly what I need you to do and exactly where I need you to go. So technically they did that. They did it with one statement at the end of 60 seconds. You know, we're kind of all flagging. Somebody might not even get to the end of that 60 seconds. So there could be an opportunity for improvement there. But all things being equal, we're starting out strong. So let's see how Twizzlerss did

Ray Harkins (33:17):
I already, I can tell you I

Stew Redwine (33:19):
Do you wanna predict that? Do you wanna gimme the Twizzler spot before we listen to the Twizzler spot?

Ray Harkins (33:22):
I vehemently, I hate Twizzlers. No questions asked.

Stew Redwine (33:27):
Wait, hang on. As an advertiser or is it Or the candy. I was Are

Ray Harkins (33:30):
You Red Vines? I am absolutely. Team Red Vines. Okay. All

Stew Redwine (33:33):

Nathalie Chicha (33:33):
I am Team Twizzlers. So I, I'm predisposed. Are

Ray Harkins (33:35):
You from the east coast originally?

Nathalie Chicha (33:36):
No, I'm from la. Jesus. What's wrong with you <laugh>? Did I get everything wrong?

Ray Harkins (33:40):
You did get everything wrong. You Twiz. Yeah, Twizzlers is an inferior product to Red Vines. So I'm looking forward to seeing them. Try to convince me to look at that red candy.

Stew Redwine (33:48):
Well as Stew Red Wine. I uh, too like Red Vines. Okay, <laugh>. All right, here we go. Twizzlers,

Ad 4 (33:58):
This episode is brought to you by Twizzlers. Long day, late night feeling a little bored. Twizzlers is the ultimate sidekick for any moment of the day, no matter what kind of day you're having. The perfect level of sweet and a fun excuse to sit back and relax, unwind with Twizzlerss to buy now, visit hershey

Stew Redwine (34:20):
All right Ray, as an admitted critic of Twizzlerss, what do you think of that ad?

Ray Harkins (34:25):
For one, it's funny because to be abundantly clear, I did not listen to the actual podcast

Stew Redwine (34:29):
That is ao. Okay. 'cause part of the beauty of what I like about Ad Infinitum is like just listening to the ads in the wild. We do all this audience targeting stuff, right? Finding the perfect person, the perfect moment. Well there's also the kid that gets in the car as the dad's listening to Ad Loose and picking her up from high school and she catches just the Twizzlers ad, right? We hear ads and it's not always that it's this perfectly contained thing. They are heard in the wild and we can't control every element. So I actually like that. It's like great, perfect because that type of listener exists devoid of context, devoid of context. So with that said,

Ray Harkins (35:00):
The fact that I was given just a snippet of context, it's hilarious that they're talking about like the perfect companion. I was just like, oh my gosh, that's funny because if you think about it, well this show is talking about a very dark companion. So I mean obviously since I hate them already, they're a dark passenger for me. But I mean I think it's difficult for a company like that to be able to spell out the proposition of why you should be hanging out with Twizzlerss. That's hard to do. I think they were effective in regards to like the voice of it. It's casual. It's like yeah, we're just trying to hang out with Twizzlerss man. Like that's all we're doing here, right? I mean the call to action is clear, but like also who's going to buy Twizzlers on the internet? I guess you can. I mean if I were to do that you would obviously be a monster like you and that's fine. But then <laugh>,

Nathalie Chicha (35:42):
Anyways I'm gonna order Twizzlerss on

Ray Harkins (35:44):
The internet. You go to her. See I remember the website hershey because that was unexpected. I was like, oh I thought you might have been, you know, go to name of the show or whatever if you wanted to get some nerdy tracking stuff going on. Which of course I love, but yeah, I did not care for it. But I understand the difficult task that this brand has to be able to like create a compelling piece of audio to get you to buy Toler.

Stew Redwine (36:08):
What about you Natalie? Well

Nathalie Chicha (36:09):
It's interesting that you think that it was leaning into the premise of the show that it was going for like the companion angle. 'cause when I was listening to it, I was like what it's saying about Twizzlers could be said about any product in the world you want to unwind with something that could be wine, that that could be gummy bears, that could be Red Vines. There's nothing specific about Twizzlerss that makes it like a better candidate than any other product for hanging out on the couch.

Ray Harkins (36:31):
I would never think of like unwinding with candy.

Nathalie Chicha (36:34):
Yeah. Unless it's like a spool of candy or like, you know those bubble tapes. Do you remember those? Of course, yeah. If it had some shape that like you were stretching it out, you were unwinding like maybe that connection with

Ray Harkins (36:44):
The plant. Oh like an actual physical

Nathalie Chicha (36:46):
Unwinding. Yeah, but it just, it needed something that actually connected to the candy. I wasn't getting any sense of how distinct and awesome Twizzlers are.

Stew Redwine (36:54):
Well it's like if they had a new version of Twizzlers that you unwind to eat them or I was thinking it's like Twizzlers is all wound up so you don't have to be right 'cause it's twisted. But still to your point, it seemed like somewhat of a forced proposition that maybe there is a customer behavior, a human behavior that people want to unwind. Maybe they had a piece of research that people passively chew on Twizzlers, like a horse chewing uncut. How would you guys rate it against Sonos? So Natalie, one outta 10 for Sonos. I

Nathalie Chicha (37:24):
Would say I'd give Sonos like an eight. Okay. And I would give Twizzlerss a three or four.

Ray Harkins (37:30):
Sonos, we'll call it eight as well. I'll agree with you. And then Twizzlerss, I would say probably four. I really have enjoyed both the background music. Normally I cannot stand background music and advertisements like full stop. Both the Sonos and the Twizzlers were appropriate. It just felt okay. Yeah. As opposed to like it was distracting.

Nathalie Chicha (37:50):
Neither were annoying and actually like that's accomplishment.

Stew Redwine (37:53):
Okay, four on Twizzler audio. Lytics gave that one a 65%. There's some more work that could be done there, but I don't wanna park on these right now. Let's keep moving forward with the Dave app.

Nathalie Chicha (38:07):

Ad 5 (38:07):
Ed Lu, some listeners. I can bet that we've all probably needed a little financial help at one point in our lives. I know that when I was working my first job out of college, I definitely could have used some extra cash for gas money, groceries or just to pay the bills on time. If you're in a pinch right now, you should try Dave. Dave is the banking app that's leveling the financial playing field. When you download Dave, you can get up to $500 in five minutes or less. No credit check and no late fees. It's part of Dave's extra cash account and you can advance the money you need with no interest and then settle up later. That means you have more money for groceries, car repairs, whatever you need without having to wait for your next paycheck. Millions of people have already downloaded the Dave app to make their finances easier. And now you can too. Download Dave today at luum. That's luum. You can get up to $500 in five minutes or less. No credit check, no late fees. Download the Dave app now or go to luum. For terms and conditions, go to eligibility criteria and instant transfer fee supply banking services provided by Evolve member DIC.

Stew Redwine (39:14):
Okay, it's starting to make me wonder, did they like have a requirement that you had to have easy listening music for

Ray Harkins (39:19):
Me that reads as a Q Code mandate. That's part of the production house. And honestly I notice the same thing with most uh, Fox Media podcasts. They also always include music that's just, there's certain production houses that always

Stew Redwine (39:32):
Do that. Okay, so it had the easy going music. What'd you think of the ad?

Ray Harkins (39:36):
One? I didn't care for the music obviously. I mean no shots against Kenny G. 'cause Kenny G's great. If you did not watch the documentary on HBO, you should definitely watch that. And maybe it's just because I didn't care for the service. I obviously have a problem with Twizzlers, but I don't have a hard opinion of Dave or Payday Advance loans. I thought the ad was effective. I mean hit the call to action more than once. I'm familiar with this clients, they're definitely big in the performance advertiser space. It seems like they use their learnings of making sure that the mission statement is clear of what it is the product is because trying to explain something like this is difficult to do in a short period of time. And so using the full 60 I think was appropriate because there's so many things you can use it for all this stuff. So I liked it better than Twizzlerss, but it didn't resonate in the same way as the Sonos did.

Stew Redwine (40:20):
Natalie, what about you? What

Nathalie Chicha (40:21):
I liked about it was that it felt like they cast it correctly. The show that it's on Troy and Rio, she plays somebody who has some young desperate energy. She's somebody who's scrappy and she's trying to make money on the side and that's one of the things that like gets her into hot water and propels the story into darker places. So it felt like it was talking to a world that that character would live in. The voice actor also sounded like she was probably about Troy's age or probably in her thirties or forties. But yeah, I thought it was well done. There was some overlap there that I think that they were probably doing on purpose.

Stew Redwine (40:56):
You thought it matched the tone well, yeah. What would you guys rate these? We've got a eight for Sonos. Sonos is the champ. Twizzlerss down at the bottom, three, four. What do you guys give Dave?

Nathalie Chicha (41:08):
I give it a six. I'm gonna go right in the middle there.

Ray Harkins (41:11):
It's a five for me. It feels adequate but it doesn't blow my hair back.

Stew Redwine (41:14):
Yeah, and I think that's right. So it came in at a 77% in audio lytics and it's like you could boost up the substantiation with some data, give some specific facts and figures that doesn't hurt. You know they're leaning really hard on the 500 thing. But what are some outcomes or maybe some customer testimonials that you could include as well? It started out a little bit light with, I can bet that we've all probably needed a little financial help at one point in our lives. Like it's kind of soft. What's a way that we can hit harder with pain or gain and immediately tie into it. But I struggle with that 'cause to your point Natalie like matching the tone of the show and all of that. But I think across the board it could just be tightened from an execution standpoint to make every word work harder. And I'm seeing a trend here too. This is now two 62nd fiction podcast ads and I feel like this group in this moment today right now is going like, you know, it's feeling like thirties are the way to go unless you're gonna earn it. And so I guess I would ask you guys like same kind of observation from Sonos. Do you feel like the Dave ad earned its 60 seconds?

Nathalie Chicha (42:15):
Absolutely not. I was gonna say the same thing. I felt like you could easily cut 15 to 30 seconds off of that and I would've gotten exactly the information that I

Ray Harkins (42:21):
Need. From a pure advertising perspective, it's always been this real distinct binary of like thirties and sixties and then usually the sixties that are mids. Like especially from a host read perspective, it can be a minute and a half. Like that's totally fine, it can be seven minute whatever. Like it was obviously very loosey goosey. I mean now it's tightened up a little bit more. But I think there is that sweet spot, especially when you're talking about like if a host isn't including the personal experience aspect, you can cut some of that time off. Did the person need to identify? Especially because she was not being like, I am the producer of the show. It was basically just we've all been there, we all need money. It's like, wow, you speak to me. The core of it, we don't need that. So the 40 fives good.

Stew Redwine (42:57):
Yeah. So if we're gonna go longer, earn it and otherwise let's go shorter. So this next one on our final ad is from Better Help and it's also a 60. So let's see how they worked with the time

Ad 6 (43:10):
This show is sponsored by Better Help.

Ad 7 (43:15):
Hey Cara, thanks for helping me organize my calendar for this week. I really have had so much trouble doing it on my own.

Ad 3 (43:21):
Of course, that's what I'm here for. Life can be hard to manage sometimes between your career relationships and really anything else. It's important to stay connected to what you really want to prioritize.

Ad 7 (43:31):
So true. Cara, on that note, could you set up a therapy appointment for me?

Ad 3 (43:35):
Happy to. Okay. It looks like the earliest available appointment is in a few weeks. Is that

Ad 7 (43:41):
Okay? I was really hoping to get in as soon as possible. There's a lot on my plate right now and I could use some help in navigating my stress.

Ad 3 (43:47):
We could also schedule you with better Help. It's very easy to get set up with a licensed therapist. All you have to do is fill out this brief questionnaire and you'll be matched right away. You can even switch therapists at any time for no additional cost if you want to.

Ad 7 (44:00):
That sounds great. Where will I have to go to meet them?

Ad 3 (44:02):
That's the great thing. Anywhere Better Help is completely online and specifically designed to be convenient, flexible, and suited to your schedule, which by the looks of it is pretty packed at the moment.

Ad 6 (44:14):
If you're thinking of starting therapy, give Better Help a try. Let Therapy be your map. Visit better luum today to get 10% off your first month. That's better. HE Luum.

Stew Redwine (44:31):
So these guys have done their homework is my point of view. What do you guys think? That

Nathalie Chicha (44:36):
One's a winner. And it's interesting because you don't need a host read in a fiction show with these fiction shows. You often have people like Chris Pine or Olivia Wilde that you probably aren't gonna get to do an ad for you, but you can get a character or a device from the story to be part of the ad world. And so you can tie it in that way and get some of that similar value. I liked how they were thinking, I didn't love the casting of the human who sounded a little more robotic than the robot <laugh>. But putting that aside, I thought this was a really clever way to advertise in a fiction space.

Stew Redwine (45:08):
And I think that was Troy Ann Berio. 'cause she voices Kara.

Nathalie Chicha (45:12):
I wasn't sure. I couldn't tell if it was her or if it was. Maybe there's different models of Kara's and

Stew Redwine (45:17):
Know. Oh, interesting.

Nathalie Chicha (45:19):
There are different generations like in this show.

Stew Redwine (45:21):
Ray, how about you? I

Ray Harkins (45:22):
Really enjoyed it as well, especially because the pervasive nature of Better Health. I mean they advertise on literally every podcast to ever exist. I do host reads on my podcast for them, but it's one of those things where it's like when you hear something so much, you obviously just block it out. You're like, I know what better help is. And so this one I felt captivated 'cause I was like, how are they going to back into what I know better? Help to already be. And so creative execution was top shelf obviously the music was cool, no easy jazz or anything like that. I think that the conceit of including the characters in the show, that's super fun. Each one of these ads was tailor made for the show and I think that that is what should be done in regards to fiction podcasts. I mean you don't have to, but it's like when you have the ability to sell into something like this and be specific, that's only gonna make the ads more compelling overall. I think this one was as good as the Sonos one.

Stew Redwine (46:15):
So you gave a Sonos an eight,

Nathalie Chicha (46:16):
I'm gonna give this a nine, actually use those 60 seconds and I wasn't bored.

Ray Harkins (46:21):
Yeah, I agree. This is for sure a nine.

Stew Redwine (46:23):
Alright. And from an audio alytics standpoint, as far as transfer of information for persuasiveness, this one came out at an 83% squeezing just over Sonos as well, which is often the case on the show is that the professional's opinions line up with the model, which is a good thing to see that consistency. I think what's funny about it is that we can all work on certain campaigns and make concessions and put something out that maybe isn't up to that level, but when we're objectively grading something else, we're able to rank it all. But it's like it's hard in the day in, day out of it. So a couple things I noticed about it, where I said they've done their homework is they had two characters talking and consistently that shows improvement in engagements. When you have two people talking, they have the two characters talking. They also brought in a different voice at the end to do the announcer and there's a different gender at the end as well. They hit both genders that way, right? So there's a lot about this, like you're saying Ray, it's better help. So I sort of like watching them in this space. Obviously we're dealing with professionals, they know what they're doing and I thought they matched it to the show without it feeling like pandering, right? Would you guys agree? Yeah,

Ray Harkins (47:34):
Totally. 100%. Not only does it feel authentic to the characters, it feels authentic to most likely the copy slash talking points that were presented, like it felt hand in hand as opposed to like Hamfisted where it was like, all right, we gotta figure back into this whole online therapy thing. You know, how are we gonna do this? It felt easy, but there was effort that was put into it because sometimes it feels easy where it's like the lowest hanging fruit. I remember when HelloFresh started to first enter the podcast space and to be clear, I'm not saying I reinvented their marketing strategy, but they knocked on the door of the company I worked for and was like, you know, we would love to run on food podcasts that just makes so much sense. Like HelloFresh Food podcasts. And I was like, people that like food don't necessarily wanna cook food out of a box. It's not saying that your product is inferior, but it's like you want to hit dumb dumb guys that don't know how to cook at all that walk them through the experience and it's like, yeah, you should target this. And why I'm tying it back to this better help ad is the fact that it's like they are tailor making this to this audience in this specific show because they know that we're everywhere. So we need to be specific about when we are everywhere, how this is addressed appropriately.

Stew Redwine (48:42):
Yeah, like contextualize it when you can if you can. Totally. When I think about, you know, our audience for this show is the chief audio officer, which is any individual at a company or a brand who is responsible for deploying dollars in audio and being held accountable for that. And so it's like we try to leave them with practical advice when it comes to each episode. And I think with this one with fiction podcasts, like the things that I am taking away would be one tone. Like if nothing else, if you know you're gonna be in storytelling audio, do what you can to match the tone or find out from them. Like maybe the network can help you in a way. Like a lot of times it can still be collaborative but go, can I match the tone of the show? I think we're all in agreement that it's like if you're gonna go 60, particularly like we're feeling this in fiction, earn it, earn the 60, otherwise might as well go with the shorter length and maybe there's a great ab test that you could do there as well.

Something that I thought that they did well in this last one too from Better Help was they had the melody from the show, which is a big part of the show, you know the, and it was like a pallet cleanser for me into the break, even if they wouldn't have like stuck with the Cara thing. And so I just wrote that down as well. Look at using music for the show. Like that's something I want to explore too, just coming out of this conversation is like, 'cause that's a way the network and the brand or agency could partner together. Like that doesn't seem like that big of a lift, but you could transition into your ad and your ad could kind of go anywhere and then consider using a producer. I thought that was nice with Sonos that they were using the producer to voice the ad. So it is kind of like a host red. So match the tone, earn the time, consider using music from the show as a pallet cleanser to get you into the ad and also look at working with the producers of the show to voice the ad. Is there anything I left out guys? Any other advice you would give Chief Audio Officers wanting to advertise in fiction podcasts?

Ray Harkins (50:29):
The only other thing that I would add to that would be the idea of making sure that your product or service actually fits. Because there's a lot of people that are very, especially when you are working at a company and the brand is obviously that's the only thing you pay attention to. Sometimes you lose the concept and context of what it is. Be like, maybe this isn't the best place for us. Like maybe fiction isn't where we need to be. You really need to make sure that you are understanding how that message is delivered in different contexts. And even also looking at where you are. Not say, you know, whatever you're a client, we'll use better help. As an example, maybe there's some third rail that you've never touched in regards to content or you see all your competitors you know that are doing all this stuff and everybody's doing the same thing.

Pay attention to stuff that's outside of what it is that you're doing because you get so locked into what it is that you are working on, it's sometimes really difficult. So those are the only two pieces of advice I would say. Make sure that this is the right fit for you from a fiction podcast perspective. And then two, look at what your competitors are doing to be able to see like, oh, where are the soft spots? Maybe we haven't, you know, if we're a fantasy sports app and like, oh my gosh, we don't care about the female audience, that's just like females don't like sports or gamble, that's not true. Just figure out how to approach that audience in an authentic way as opposed to just completely ignoring it.

Nathalie Chicha (51:47):
I do wanna go back to context. That first ad for Juvederm that we assume was in clean beauty, it does make the company look a little clueless. And I don't know when the ad for Better Health appeared in the series, if it was only in like the first half or it was also in the second half. But I think it's worth thinking about whether your ad might come across as unintentionally ironic or flatfooted as that show progresses, the darker implications of that technology start coming out. And so I feel like that A would be so much more successful in the first half of the series and in the second. And so paying attention to context, actually like listening to the story and seeing how your product fits in and if it fits in in a way that helps the product or hurts the product.

Stew Redwine (52:29):
I'm glad you said that 'cause I was thinking the same thing. Is that like, especially at the end, it's like how would that feel later in the series where you're kind of like, I don't know if I want Cara telling and who's on the other end of this Cara, right? That 'cause that's, well

Nathalie Chicha (52:42):
Spoiler, there's a massive data breach and records of people's intimate conversations are released, which is the last thing you want associated with a company like Better Health. So you probably wouldn't wanna advertise in that episode.

Stew Redwine (52:53):
So these are treacherous waters navigating how to advertise in fiction audio. But if we can do it well and really craft it well, we all agree there's a ton of power that can be unlocked there. I want to end with you Natalie, it's so cool what you get to do for a living. For anybody that's listening, how do you even begin to get into telling stories and audio? Just

Nathalie Chicha (53:16):
Tell stories. I think most of the people I work with don't come from audio, they come from journalism, they come from fiction, they come from documentaries. So once you learn how to tell a story that skill is applicable. Every medium is different, but it's still applicable across mediums and audio is really easy to start with. Buy a mic, tape yourself going through a day, do a follow doc on yourself on something you're living through. I would say that there's a few programs that really do give people a leg up like Transom and Salt that help you professionalize pretty quickly and learn the lingo and start thinking about audio storytelling and then like everything is just networking, putting yourself out there. Yeah, I don't think there's like one secret to getting into making audio except that you really have to love story.

Stew Redwine (54:01):
Yeah, I think that's great advice. Just do it and

Ray Harkins (54:03):
Know you'll suck for a long time. When I say a long time, that can be different things to different people, but like there's always that fear of doing something because it's like, oh, I'm gonna fail at it, I'm gonna be terrible at it or whatever. Yes, of course you will. Yeah, you'll be terrible at it until you're not because you've done it enough and you've learned enough to where it's like, oh yeah, I feel somewhat okay about this Now once you've arrived there, then you're like, okay, you are much farther along than when you first started and that's all that anybody can hope

Nathalie Chicha (54:27):
For. Yeah, no, there's an incredible learning process to making audio fiction in particular. Like you think that if you're a short story writer or a novelist or you have a background in long form fiction, that you can transfer that same skillset, but audio requires so much more clarity and so much more momentum to keep people interested. You can't do the same kind of tangents or sides that you can get away with in printed work. It is a different mode. It does require learning it not even the best writer is gonna come to audio and nail audio on the first try. There's a learning curve, but it's a fun learning curve.

Stew Redwine (55:02):
That's right. We gotta have fun doing it otherwise, what's the point? And you've done very well. So congrats again, thank you on the award from last year and it is a fantastic show. So I suggest everybody listen to, I Hear Fear and thank you Natalie and Ray for joining Ad Infinitum. This was an awesome conversation. Thanks you guys so much for joining. It

Nathalie Chicha (55:21):
Was so much fun. Thank

Ray Harkins (55:22):
You. Thank you for caring about advertising, Stu.

Stew Redwine (55:24):
You're welcome. Even when the ads are scary, we just want the ads to work. And I also wanna say a special thank you to Ben's town where we were recording live altogether today, which was very cool. And to Darren, our engineer, give it up for Darren. Finally, if you like what you were hearing today, show us some love with an honest five star review and if there's an ad that you can't get out of your head and want us to break down or have some other aspect of how to make the ads work better in audio, let me know at That's STE And until our next show, remember to have fun making the ads work.

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