General Electric is producing a science-fiction podcast series to woo a younger, digital-savvy audience. The Message is a fictional eight-episode podcast that follows the decoding of a 70-year-old message from outer space by protagonist Nicky Tomalin, who works at an encryption think-tank called Cypher.
The podcast debuted October 4 and is told from Nicky’s interviews and reports as the cryptologists use real ultrasound technology developed by GE to decode the messages.
“It’s science fiction meets real science,” said Andy Goldberg, GE’s global creative director, in a press release. Following last year’s success of NPR’s Serial chronicling a murder investigation, GE saw an opening. “It flipped a switch for us that podcasting was no longer going to be informational pieces but could be entertainment,” said Goldberg.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) held its first podcast upfronts in September. “Podcasts are an intimate listening experience. Someone is talking directly into your ear, which makes it a different medium from video or blogs,” IAB VP Carl Kalapesi told brandchannel. “Many listeners are focused on just that content, maybe wearing headphones. With other media, there’s not an exclusive focus. There’s also the opportunity to reach consumers in multiple environments and to engage consumers on the go—unlike videos or blogs.”
“Due to the episodic nature of podcasts, consumers stay from beginning to end,” said Kalapesi. “You can build relationships and messaging over time. Those who are listening to your second podcast were listening to your first.”
The Message was conceived by BBDO New York and is produced by GE in partnership with The Slate Group’s podcast network Panoply. Credit also goes to Giant Spoon as a partner.
The Message will be available in weekly installments every Sunday through the end of November on TheMessagePodcast.com and all major podcast platforms, including iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, Soundcloud, Overcast and TuneIn.
“Coming up with a fictional narrative around the idea of listening, something that’s inherent in a lot of our devices, especially in healthcare and ultrasound, felt natural because we could bridge that gap into what’s happening,” said Goldberg, as reported by Tech Times.
Back at Cypher, a key challenge for Nicky and her team is decoding the power of sound waves—a skillset GE is pursuing through its ExAblate technology enabling noninvasive acoustic surgery.
GE is ahead of the pack as advertisers transition from running ads in podcasts to creating and branding the content itself. It’s a win-win when done right—consumers get hooked on the entertainment and marketers find loyal audiences.