Product Placement Could Start Infiltrating Podcasts. Here’s How One Network is Experimenting With It

Hank the Cowdog Podcast

Scripted-fiction network QCode has run “in-universe” ads with the likes of Bud Light, Johnnie Walker, and HEB.

As product placement overtakes your favorite TV shows and movies, the marketing tactic could also infiltrate a seemingly unlikely medium: podcasting.

Product placement often involves characters on screen sipping from cans of Coke, sporting Nike kicks, or scarfing down KFC. But podcasting lacks visual cues, making it tricky to naturally insert brands into content without naming them outright.

QCode, a podcast network known for its scripted-fiction podcasts led by actors like Rami Malek, Gina Rodriguez, and Demi Moore, is working on figuring out how.

“We think about QCode as an entertainment company,” Steve Wilson, QCode’s chief strategy officer, told Marketing Brew. Since product placement is so entrenched in film and TV, “it would only be natural that this would become part of the podcast landscape as the world of podcasts continues to grow.”

While QCode is still in the early days of experimenting with product placement—known at the network as “in-universe brand creative” in its current form, according to head of sales and brand partnerships Rich Eiseman—brands including Bud Light, Johnnie Walker, and HEB have already permeated a few of its shows.

Crack open a cold one

Alcohol brands are perhaps a natural fit for audio product placement, since drinking is a fairly auditory experience. The cracking open of a can or bottle. Liquid being poured into a glass. The lip smacking or satisfied “ah” that accompanies the first sip.

Hank the Cowdog, a QCode children’s pod starring and executive produced by Matthew McConaughey that features a campaign for Texas-based grocery chain HEB, performed well on the conversation front, according to Eiseman.

It was one of the first projects that got the QCode team thinking about the potential for product placement, Wilson added, since the network put special thought into how to best interrupt the story with an ad, considering mostly children would be listening.

The campaign consists of a branded jingle about Hank reacting to his mom coming home with HEB grocery bags, and apparently became an earworm for some young listeners.

“We actually started to see it showing up on social, in reviews,” Eiseman said. “There’s one review we love, they’re like, ‘We’re from Ohio, my kids have no idea what HEB is, but they will not stop singing the song.’ So I think it really caught on.”

Not only brands, but other marketing agencies are eyeing the strategy. Sonic branding agency Made Music Studio is “talking to all of our existing clients about QCode integration opportunities,” John Taite, Made Music’s EVP of global brand partnerships and development, said in an email, although no deals have yet been finalized.

“There’s this really cool opportunity, as brands focus on what they sound like and their sonic identity, to natively integrate them into the [podcast] worlds in a different way,” Eiseman said. “We’re talking to a number of really prominent brands that have some of those beloved sonic logos that we want to build into our worlds with deeper integration.”

Originally published by Marketing Brew, written by Alyssa Meyers

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