As NPR has expanded beyond broadcast radio to embrace a plethora of platforms, so too has the menu of products it offers sponsors. While you’ll still hear unadorned reads like, “This message comes from NPR sponsor Comcast,” the marketing and creative avenues have widened considerably to coincide with a growing slate of content developed for podcasting, smart speakers and smartphone apps.
“It really depends on your campaign needs,” Erica Osher, VP of Sponsorship Products at National Public Media, the underwriting and advertising rep firm for NPR, told MediaVillage. “When we talk to clients, the first thing we ask is, 'What are you trying to achieve in your campaign, who are you trying to reach and how are you measuring success?' You have to understand that before you can come up with a media plan and suggest creative options."
If that sounds like it’s coming from a commercial radio sales exec, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. No matter where they’re located on the radio dial, broadcasters are working to bring holistic, integrated marketing campaigns to clients. Just like its peers in commercial radio, NPR aims to first understand the sponsor’s pain points and develop solutions that address them. For a direct response advertiser, the solution may be purely digital, while a marketer seeking scale may lean into over-the-air radio.
“What we have tried to do is to create that range,” Osher continues. “And to make products that work no matter what the brand is looking to achieve for their campaign and then, because of the breadth of our platform and the diversity of our audience, it puts us into a really good position to be able to craft the plan and to target that audience to create the right assets to go with that brand."
That range includes everything from custom audio sponsorships to storytelling and branding to research, analytics and data tools. National Public Media also makes an effort to "craft the way we deliver and create those sponsorship messages so that they are resonant on whatever platform they are on and with whatever audience is engaging on it,” Osher tells MediaVillage.
While NPR remains beholden to strict sponsorship rules for public broadcasters, it is less encumbered in podcasting and streaming-only content. Yet it still strives to remains true to the NPR aesthetic, which means you won’t hear any screaming car dealer ads on its popular “NPR News Now” podcast. And it has resisted the temptation to boost revenue by jacking up the number of sponsorships. “We've always had a very low sponsorship load which benefits the user experience, it sticks with the aesthetic and mission of NPR and it also offers sponsors more value because there is less distraction," explained Osher.
That sensibility also applies when it comes to crafting the right creative. “I think the one common denominator across all of our platforms for our audiences is that they want it to be authentic,” Osher tells MediaVillage. “They're curious minded so they want to be informed and they don't want it to be overly promotional. They want to hear messages based in fact rather than a list of huge claims.”