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T-Mobile Is A Podcast Ad Buyer. Here’s Why It Chose To Become A Podcast Creator.

The rollout of T-Mobile’s 5G network has in recent months brought the telecom company into the world of podcasting as it partnered with the iHeartPodcast Network to develop, produce and promote a pair of shows designed to help educate the business community on the impact of next generation wireless.

“It’s hard for me to deny the power of podcast creation,” said Catherine Captain, VP of Brand Strategy and Marketing at T-Mobile. “It gives you a way to tell stories that you can’t always do in a few seconds in an ad,” she explained to marketers Tuesday during the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) virtual “State of Audio Today” conference.

The two podcasts launched were The Restless Ones, which featured host Jonathan Strickland speaking with CIOs and CTOs, and This Time Tomorrow, which featured hosts Oz Woloshyn and Karah Preiss leading a conversation about how 5G innovations will revolutionize the way we work, socialize and interact with the world. “We really wanted to be able to go a little bit deeper in talking about 5G and the possibilities of 5G,” said Captain. “We recognized that a lot of what we will see in 5G will happen in business first.”

To promote the podcasts T-Mobile leveraged its social media accounts. So did iHeart, which was also able to promote the podcasts during podcasts like Tech Stuff, which it believed would have audiences most interested in 5G-related content. It also used the mass reach of 850 broadcast radio stations where it could hit listeners that may not even consume podcasts.

“The engagement was really hot, so we really tapped into something that was just waiting for conversation. That was important for us,” said Captain. She told advertisers that the podcasts even caught on with T-Mobile’s 50,000 employees. “That was an unexpected side effect of these podcasts was that as our own teams got interested in this, they were able to speak more intelligently to 5G,” said Captain.

Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodast Network, said he was not surprised the podcasts did so well with employees since he believed the two shows were some of the best work that iHeart has done with a marketer. “We used all the tools of a B-2-C or mass audience podcast with the big cool idea, but really tailored with very specific topics and it made for good show,” he said.

Going forward, it is a good bet T-Mobile will remain a traditional advertiser in podcast despite its success as a producer of branded content. “It’s hard for me to deny the power of podcast creation. It gives you a way to tell stories that you can’t always do in a few seconds in an ad. I totally believe there is a place for podcast advertising and we’re huge podcast advertisers as well because you can affiliate with so many different audiences and topics,” said Captain. “But for something like this where we really needed an explainer – the authenticity of that content was all in the coproduction of the podcasts.”

More Podcast Listeners Than Netflix Subscribers

For many corporate CMOs the push toward audio, and podcasting in particular, has come from their advertising agency. Rachel Lowenstein, Associate Director of Invention at Mindshare, thinks more clients will use podcasting as confusion about how big the medium has become is addressed. “There are more people in the U.S. who listen to podcasts than pay for a Netflix subscription,” she told the ANA event to demonstrate the scope of what is no longer a niche media.

Lowenstein said many of the direct-to-consumer or DTC advertisers that have been with podcasting for years continue to invest heavily in podcasting. “The DTC partners have been part of the huge growth in podcasting and although their ads sometimes are questionable, brands like Squatty Potty in many cases have a more robust audio strategy than a lot of really big brands,” she said.

Byrne told the conference that the consumption of podcasts has not declined during the pandemic, but rather listening patterns have “shifted” with fans consuming a lot more news and comedy podcasts than they did pre-quarantine, and people were initially listening to less true crime. “Psychologically, I think people are looking for different kinds of stuff and candidly that puts us in a good spot,” he said. “We have shows from Will Ferrell and we have great news shows.”

Bryne said the pandemic has also allowed for the emergence of a lot of new genres in recent months, including travel, fiction, and food podcasts. “Genres that maybe previously had thought that doesn’t work in audio or are visual genres,” he told marketers. “Well now they do work in audio because we all have time at home to look for new things. And I think that’s a good thing for podcasting.”

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