EarthLink Enlists Podcast Listeners for Ad Ideas

Listeners were not impressed when they heard EarthLink’s traditional radio ads on their favorite podcasts, so they began submitting their own ideas. Now the ISP is embracing their efforts by launching a promotion on the PodShow network challenging consumers to create a better ad campaign.

“It’s a false law that says a brand has to have a single voice. A brand needs to communicate to its various audiences with multiple voices,” PodShow’s co-founder and CEO Ron Bloom told ClickZ. “You can’t reach an audience with a flamethrower anymore. You have to light a fire under each listener.”

The “Make Advertising Better Challenge” invites the audience to submit advertising jingles, more traditional-sounding :15 or :30 spots, or endorsements by “on-air” talent. A panel of experts from PodShow, EarthLink, and EarthLink’s media agency MediaVest will narrow the field to a group of finalists; then listeners will vote for their favorites. Selected finalists will receive awards and be considered for an upcoming EarthLink advertising campaign.

Mohan Renganathan, VP and group director at MediaVest, EarthLink’s media agency of record, said the radio ads that ran on the PodShow network late last year drew a lot of feedback. “Some was positive, with people glad to see a corporate sponsor supporting the medium. Others said they liked the idea, but said the specific ad content was unrelated to their daily lives,” he said. “Since the PodShow audience is so involved and ready to share their opinions, we decided to enlist their help”

The ISP is trying to convey the message that it has next-generation solutions, Renganathan said, including high-speed DSL, VoIP, and a new “MindSpring” voice product similar to Skype.

“EarthLink is focusing on connecting with tech savvy audiences in ways that are meaningful to them,” Scott Thomas, EarthLink’s director of media, said in a statement. “We have heard from consumers that they want new and interesting ads that fit with the podcasting format. Knowing this, we worked with PodShow to develop a unique way to create interesting and impactful ads for these listeners on their terms.”

Using several voices to communicate a brand’s message is more effective than trying to reach everyone with the same message, Bloom insists. “Something’s happened in the last 20 years to separate advertising from content. For us, advertising is content,” Bloom said.

EarthLink is one of several large brands that are “leaning forward,” eager to get into this emerging medium, Bloom said. Diverse brands like Johnson & Johnson, Dixie Cups, Georgia Pacific and GoDaddy have all advertised on PodShow’s network.

“In every vertical, we’ve got one or two leaders aggressively contacting us. They all have the idea that they can’t afford to miss this,” he said.

EarthLink has often run campaigns targeting early adopters, such as podcast listeners. In December, it began sponsoring video podcasts on Washingtonpost.com, where it ran :15 video ads ahead of news content. It also ran a campaign on the TiVo service late last year.

“EarthLink’s foray into emerging media has been a growing part of their plan since the middle of last year, when they began expanding their product offering,” Renganathan said.

Podcast sponsorships are gaining attention from marketers, who are redirecting online ad dollars to the channel. The audience is still miniscule, according to a recent Forrester report.

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