I Want to Hear Your Ads…Please

Each week, I listen to approximately four to ten individual podcasts per week. If you’re not familiar with the term, a podcast is a mash up of the words “iPods” and “broadcast.”

In a previous post, I blogged about Podcasting Your Brand Message. Check it out. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Basically, podcasts are highly specialized radio shows that people subscribe to on their computers. You can listen to podcasts on an iPod, burn it to a CD for the car, or just listen on the computer. Many podcasts are highly specialized, serving a niche audience. Check out the massive variety of shows at Podcast Alley.

And yet, I am amazed at how few podcasts include any advertising. Believe it or not, I want to hear ads for products that are relevant and important to me. I actually want to know more about…

New Technology Podcast
My favorite tech podcast is CNet’s Buzz Out Loud. Although the “podcast of indeterminate length” runs a little long, it is always interesting, always educational, and…always about new technology. The people who are listening to a one hour plus podcast about cutting-edge tech are probably receptive to…I dunno…an ad for a website that sells new technology at a great price.

Screenwriting Podcast
The absolute best podcast on screenwriting is called “On the Page.” Each week, Pilar Alessandra offers smart, actionable advice to aspiring screenwriters. As a writer, I am also an avid reader, so I would like to know if an interesting new writing book becomes available. Yes, it would be very smart to advertise a the right book on a targeted podcast, especially if the show discusses topics relevant to writers.

These are just two examples of podcasts perfect for highly targeted advertising. It’s a lot like speciality magazine advertising.

That is, when I subscribe to Popular Photography magazine, I expect to see ads for photo equipment, services, and other cool photo stuff. I spend as much time drooling at the ads as I do on the reviews. Sometimes more.

Podcasts offer you an opportunity to connect your product with people who are passionate about the category.

With tough times ahead, advertisers want unique opportunities to connect with their customers. Many niche podcasts have a small staff, but a large, dedicated following.

This means a podcaster probably doesn’t have a sales force to come and woo your ad dollars. The Internet is reversing that model, and now you are going to have to find them.

The payoff could be huge for your brand. Instead of an apathetic audience, you could be tapping into passionate, motivated audience eager to buy your product or service.

In the meantime, I’ll just be listening to ad-free podcasts…and hearing nothing about your brand.

Podcasting Your Brand Message

Looking for a new way to spread the word about your business or service? Look no further than your iPod.

If you have an iPod (isn’t that a requirement for living in the USA?), you have iTunes.

There’s a button for “Podcasts,” which are audio programs. Like radio shows without the radio.

I download podcasts every time I plug in my iPod. It’s a free and legal service provided by Apple.

One of my favorites is the screenwriting podcast “On The Page,” hosted by Pilar Alessandra. As an educational and motivational resource, On The Page is nearly as good as having your personal writing cheerleader. (Note: If actual cheerleaders would like to cheer for me, please send photos.)

On the podcast, Pilar would talk about her Los Angeles screenwriting classes. These sounded great, but could be a long drive for me, since I live in New Jersey.

Then…she announced a New York class. And with the speed of Mercury and the riches of Midas, I sent her $125.

I sent my money because the podcast actually proved that Pilar knew how to teach screenwriting. Think about it. I sent a total stranger $125 over the Internet. Because I listened to her podcast every week, Pilar was not really a stranger. Her podcast proved that she was what she claimed: A professional who taught the craft and business of screenwriting.

For Pilar Alessandra’s screenwriting classes, podcasting turned out to be an effective marketing tool.

Is something you’re doing worth talking about? Consider speaking about your brand message through a podcast.

Pilar ALESSANDRA & Buddy Scalera in NY

Pilar ALESSANDRA & Buddy Scalera in NY

Verticals within Verticals

We were at a team meeting with several people I hadn’t really worked with yet. It was a typical white-board brainstorm meeting about how we could provide digital tactics against traditional-media channels.

If you’re in digital, you know how these meetings can be. Sometimes it’s great, especially if the traditional team is new-media savvy. In this case, we were lucky, since most of the team was somehow personally involved in social or new media. We had a couple of bloggers, several people who listened to podcasts, and just about everyone was on Facebook or MySpace. In short, they all got it. Perfect.

We talked websites, mobile media, interactive video, downloadables, mashups, social media, user generated content. Good stuff.

That’s what made it especially strange when one of the account leaders said something to the effect of “we want a really big tactic, something that will hit a really big, broad audience.”

Huh? Weren’t we just all on the same whiteboard here with new media?

New media is all about narrow audience. The idea that you can get a big demographic on a brand message is sort of an old media concept. Essentially a hold over from traditional broadcast television and commercial spots.

Aside from major television events like the Superbowl, the Sopranos, or a major news event, even television is fragmented into much more narrower audiences. (Note: The one big exception…bad news travels fast on all mediums.)

Yes, there are still several broad-based communication platforms online, most notably portals and central news sites. Destinations. But those are hard to control and not typically easily or cheaply influenced by brand marketers. Then again, if you have a large marketing budget or a really cool brand, you can get prettymuch anywhere. For the rest of us, we have to find alternate channels.

Alternate channels basically mean verticals. And in most cases, verticals within verticals.

If you’re promoting a specific brand, you just want to talk to your target audience. (Except around the holidays, if the brand is something that can be gifted.)

Why talk to teenage boys if your product is for middle-age moms? It makes more sense to spend your dollars to hit the mom market. If you can narrow it to the income, race, regional, or other demographic, you can target your message to make it relevant to their personal experiences.

So you may be looking at women (v1), middle age (v2), moms (v3), high income (v4), living near a major city (v5)…and that’s just for one campaign. Your second campaign may change to target women of middle or low income, which will change the positioning of your value proposition.

The best part of the verticals within verticals is the way you can time and manipulate your out of pocket expenditures and messaging. There’s flexibility in all mediums from magazines to television to radio, but nothing that gives you the hypertargeting that you can get in new media.

Which brings me back to that brainstorm meeting.

After an hour of brainstorming, it was deflating to hear someone start talking about broad-based marketing on new media channels. We finally have the kind of communications structure that marketers dream about, and some of us are trying to get it to act like an old media channel.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen new media struggle in obscurity, stumble toward credibility, and now stagger to mass media acceptance. But for those of us who remember 1200 baud dial ups, this is an exciting time. The promise of new media communications has finally reached a level of maturity that allows us to truly share a brand message….one that gets people motivated to action.

The ability to create targeted, deep-vertical messages is the biggest, broadest appeal of new media marketing. Let’s use it to create messages that are relevant, motivating, and exciting to the deepest verticals that we can identify.

It’s a vertical world created by users…and perfect for marketers.