(Direct Newsline) Marketers: Wary of associating with the uncertainties of blogs and unruly bloggers? Why not leapfrog directly to podcasting? At least that’s the advice offered by several advertisers at an Ad:Tech Chicago session on RSS and podcast advertising.
Robert Claypool, product director for Johnson & Johnson’s Acuvue vision care unit, said that when his company went looking for a way to strengthen its brand appeal to and cultural connection to teens last fall, initiating a podcast series was “a clear winner.” The company worked with an agency to set up a set of five weekly podcasts with Heather and Janelle, two Long Island high school girls who hosted the podcasts and talked about teen social items, including interviewing cute guys and fielding poll questions on the previous week’s content.
Claypool said J&J laid out some guidelines for the content of the podcasts but was careful to keep a low-key presence in the editorial content, often confined to a “shout out” to Acuvue from the hosts for providing the air time. “The teen audience is very savvy, and we didn’t want to overbrand,” he said. But by the end of the series, visitors to the download site were being offered downloads of free trial certificates for Acuvue products and being asked their opinion of the company.
The branding impact of the Heather & Janelle podcasts was substantial enough, Claypool said, that the series has now been extended to a five-month run. And while he admitted that the direct-response effect has been weaker, producing relatively few conversions, he attributed that in part to the fact that the podcasts were not well integrated into Acuvue’s seasonal marketing campaigns centered on summer and back-to-school.
Claypool said Johnson & Johnson opted to campaign through a podcast rather than producing or advertising in a blog because the channel offered better control of content. “Contact lenses are a medical device, and when you get into user-generated content, there’s a lot of sensitivity about what can be put out there,” he said. “Podcasting allowed us to be out there with teens but to still have copy clearance before anything went live.”
Michael Moore, director of interactive marketing for Nestle Purina Petcare, said his company now offers a range of podcasts that users can subscribe to from the Purina Web site. Most of these re-purpose content from other Purina marketing media, including the “Incredible Dog Challenge” TV presentation shown on broadcast TV in 2005 and a veterinary advice call-in show sponsored by Purina on St. Louis radio.
“Pet owners are a very information-seeking group,” Moore said, so Purina operates some 15 different Web sites with tips on how to raise those pets properly. But with consumers becoming more mobile, the company was interested in transferring that educational and entertainment content to MP3 devices. About a year ago, the company began offering dog-bark ring tones and animal wallpapers for mobile devices. And when it relaunched the Purina.com Web site earlier this year, the company also aggregated RSS subscriptions to seven podcasts using its repackaged content.
The podcasts use audio “bumper” ads at the beginning and end of the content, but “Essentially we are re-purposing existing assets, not going out and creating new content,” Moore said. The company did enter the consumer-generated content arena with RSS feeds of pet pictures and stories. “A lot of pet owners like to look at pictures of other people’s animals,” Moore said, so the company set up two podcasts for pet-owner stories and photos, one for cats and another for dogs.
Working with the Arc worldwide agency, Purina has also managed to get subscriptions to its RSS podcast feeds onto the iTunes store.
Tracking downloads, Moore said that ring tones and wallpapers have been the most widely accessed channels, along with SMS messaging containing pet-care tips. Audio podcast downloads are currently outpacing video by four to one, which he attributed to the relative newness of video MP3 devices. The campaigns are also sensitive to online promotions, as evidenced by increased download activity following a Yahoo! Marketplace display ad campaign.
Heather Sefcik, advertising and public relations manager for Henkel Consumer Adhesives, gave an example of how podcasting can be applied to highlight the attributes and brand identity of a small but quirky consumer product. Her Avon, OH-based company makes duct tape in some 20 different colors, including two camouflage patterns, and the company has for some time been targeting the do-it-yourself and home handicraft audiences for its product.
Duct tape is a commodity product in the hardware store, she said, and the company wanted to give its product — one of three or four competing brands of duct tape — a personality, and to associate it with values like fun, resourcefulness and imagination. For a few years, Henkel has sponsored events like a Father’s Day duct tape expo, the world’s largest duct-tape flag on Flag Day, and a “Stuck at Prom” duct-tape prom dress event for high schoolers.
Last year, the company added a series of four “Duck Tape Club” podcasts to its Web site before its annual Avon Heritage Duct Tape Festival, highlighting handicrafts and projects that users had completed with duct tape, the product’s attributes and the prom-dress competition. The podcasts were somewhat tongue in cheek and helped foster the almost “cult-like reputation” that Henkel’s product has among some crafters, said Brian Bloom, vice president of Liggett Stashower, Henkel’s ad and PR agency.
The podcasts also helped Henkel’s Web site earn the top organic ranking on both Google and Yahoo! search results for the term “duck tape”, and elevated its rankings for the more competitive “duct tape” too, Bloom said.
The company plans to continue offering podcasts that feature its marketing events and is considering getting its vidcasting, assuming it can find the budget. “With 20 colors of duct tape, our product is very visual and would lend itself well to videocasting,” Sefcik said.