April 13, 2010

Podvertising. Say That Five Times, Fast!


A Study In the Rapid Evolution and Intrusion Of 21st Century Language

By Richard Fusco

I have a friend who entered law school last year. After 6 weeks, I found her perspective on life and her verbal and written communication changed to a surprising degree. Had a specific law school-related product or service ad reached her with some message or invitation, 2 years before, she might have discounted or ignored it.

Never before has the success of an ad campaign, PR campaign or any other communications effort been so dependent on its specificity to its audience. Many years ago audience of course meant the group of people in a theater and not much more. Today, it means a much larger group.

Well, the evolving meaning of contemporary vocabulary must now make room for another wealth of new words and expressions. Just as VCR, DVD and VHS were once-obscure terms term and acronyms, add the word podvertising to your vocabulary because it is coming. In fact it is here.

I invite you to create a term yourself to define the new group of users, largely characterized by their usage of podcasting. Then, help Madison Avenue with defining a new term, or use an existing one that describes those audiences open to both podcasting AND Podvertising. For the moment I am pondering it over myself.


In the last 12-18 months, podcasting has grown as a daily source of news and entertainment for many iPod users. As a result, podcasting and podvertising have all the signs of being "the next big thing" and like any other new tech element, Madison Avenue will need to adapt.

For those who are still in the dark podcasting is a new medium distributed through the iPod. Its growth will be like any medium before it; through subscriptions or by advertising. For those who still are trying to program their iPod for casting, it’s basically audio content (video is coming.) that online users can subscribe to, download and then access it, normally while traveling. When new content is available for the programs the pod user selected, it is automatically downloaded into the pod user’s computer and then, if they want, to a portable listening device. As with all new media, we have an opportunity at this early stage to create new advertising models. Simple, right?

The challenge with emerging new media as it specifically relates to here has always been to bring new kinds of information and entertainment to consumers, which has in effect changed the consumer’s concept of advertising itself.


William Safire might take on the etymological history of the term advertising, though I bet “verse” had a roll in its evolution. Podcasting and Podvertising are primarily verse-based media, so one could say; we are back where we started. Of course, with a simple “ad-dition” of “ad” …”versus” A.D.D, suddenly the string of terms produces, ad-verse. Is it then a surprise that “advertising” is always viewed as an intrusion and interruption of the content?

I believe that Podvertising offers to change all that. To become that source which is perceived as a valuable element for various information about goods and services people may be interested in buying. Why? Specificity, of course.

Let’s face it traditional media advertising has problems. The effectiveness of TV advertising is in question. Just because Nielsen says millions of people watch a show, doesn’t mean they watch the commercials. Dare to dream, I certainly do, but not from :30 spots.

radio old6.jpg

When I was a kid, I watched TV commercials. There were only three real channels with most of the best shows on two and no remote so we rarely changed channels. Well actually I was the remote and would change the channel at my Dad’s direction. “It’s time for Gunsmoke, switch to channel 2 (CBS)”, he would say and I would jump up and turn the dial to 2. It seems that the commercials back then were as watch-able as the programs.

Now there are hundreds of channels. With the remote a large percentage of viewers either mute, channel surf or switch to another program they are watching. The world’s biggest advertiser P&G drastically cut its network buys this year. A P&G spokesperson said the reason was, “to target their advertising dollars toward an audience that can generate more business”. That’s a nice way of saying they think there’s a better way to spend their money especially with media that can target their ad messages more effectively.

Last year Clear Channel Radio, the largest U.S. radio station chain, significantly reduced commercial time sold on its stations to stem what Clear Channel said were pricing weakness and to convince marketers of the value of radio advertising. John Hogan, chief executive of Clear Channel Radio, cited one of the reasons for the move as, "Clutter is a major issue in our industry”. Put all of this together and it sounds like advertisers are having their doubts about the ROI for advertising dollars spent on TV and radio.


Just in time along comes a fresh, new, exciting content-delivery method that has everything on the advertisers’ wish list …multi-media (audio and video), totally individual user selected, on-demand, interactivity, geo/demo/psychographic target-ability, accountability/measurability…all delivered automatically to the user’s computer.

So how are we all going to use this new medium and create podvertising that builds positive marketing credibility? Here are a few initial thoughts:

Program Sponsorship – At the moment most podcasts are created by people on their home computers with some “produced” content and more on the way from a variety of sources. Both of these types of podcasts are necessary for overall podcasting to make it long-term.


The produced podcasts will be more expensive to create and need advertising and/or subscription support. Amateur podcasts will require less support because for the most part they are a labor of love. Under any circumstances, pod users will appreciate advertisers footing the bill for content that are using. Sponsorships can be very effective and podcasts are the perfect place to use them. Check out an excellent study on sponsorship effectiveness by Bill Harvey at www.nextcenturymedia.com/library/sponsorship-effectiveness-report.htm

Sponsorships can include a “brought to by” or “XYZ Company presents” program intro and outro and a single ad per show with call-to-action and click-through option.

Ad Network Buys – Ads placed across content-consistent podcast networks with ads that make use of interactivity and create an exciting listening experience. Remember many podcast listeners will be using earphones. The overall ambient sound of the ad can make or break the ad’s effectiveness.


If pod users can select the content they want, then they can also select the ads they want to sponsor that content. Suppose a pod user wants to buy an SUV, needs information on financial planning for his children’s education and likes ads with great rock music. He/she can choose these ads rather than pay a subscription fee. Under these circumstances the ads are selected, expected and listened to with information the pod user wants for products and services he/she is looking to buy. Add a click-to-buy or click-for-more-info option and we have as close to the perfect ad environment as there can be except for Product/Service Information Podcasts.


Product/Service Information Podcasts - On-demand long-form product/service information that pod user can select and view to receive credits for content. Product/service information is presented in a straightforward way with minimal hype maximum interactivity. Pod user can select categories such as pick-up trucks and either view all of the pick-up truck podcasts at once or opt to get one a day. Once again this is user selected information that will be watched. Ad network buys can drive pod users to these information podcasts.

We are swinging from a passive media world to an active media world. The Internet started the swing but in a way just translated TV, radio and print content to websites. Podcasting uses the Internet to create a truly new medium where the media giant and the home podcaster are on equal ground. It’s a new medium that offers more for the marketer than has ever been available in a single medium before.


Soon, let's hope it becomes the standard, or "the law" of communication on Madison Avenue. It all sounds promising.


Richard Fusco is a new media consultant based in Woodstock, New York. His background includes radio programming, the music industry, the Internet, streaming media, iTV, targeted streaming ad insertion, content production/distribution, marketing/advertising strategies and creative for the emerging new media environment. Please send your interesting PODVERTISING ideas to rfwoodstock@ulster.net, call him at (845)679-4473, or visit him off of Rock City Road, in town.

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