Why Carmakers Are Getting Into Podcasts and Audio Marketing

Hyundai, Ford and Cadillac have all created audio-centric campaigns this year

Courtesy of Hyundai

The first song ever to be described as rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t about geopolitical strife or peace and love. It was about an Oldsmobile.

With lyrics like “V8 motor and this modern design / Black convertible top and the gals don’t mind / Sportin’ with me, ridin’ all around town for joy,” Rocket 88, which was penned by Ike Turner in 1951, cemented the ties between pop music, radio and the automobile industry.

While marketing gimmicks come and go, that particular bond is tighter than ever—and entering a new phase. Automotive brands such as Hyundai, Cadillac and Ford are making a bid for audience ears, investing in audio advertising with streaming services and podcasts.

To announce the 2021 Hyundai Elantra in November, the brand turned to Spotify for what it called a “first of its kind,” full-fledged campaign centered on three up-and-coming artists, providing a virtual tour of their hometown cities. The “My City Unlocked” campaign leaned heavily on the audio streaming platform for a microsite of podcasts, custom playlists and personalized videos of the artists touring their hometowns.

To Hyundai, it was simply about Spotify’s audience, which has grown to nearly 320 million monthly users with more than 72% of ad-supported listeners under the age of 35.

“It really taps into a millennial audience, which we want to lean into more especially with a new vehicle,” said Angela Zepeda, Hyundai’s chief marketing officer. Although the brand declined to share campaign metics, Zepeda said they expect to hit 35 million impressions with 20 million views on a video featuring the artist Lauren Jauregui driving the Elantra through her hometown of Miami (currently, it’s at 2.46 million views on YouTube).

“If we have a lot of people see it and engage with the content, that’s a whole new audience that maybe have a good idea of who Hyundai is today,” she said.

The work with Hyundai is just Spotify’s latest with the auto industry. Previously, the platform worked with Volkswagen to create an immersive “3D” audio experience for the Italian market to promote its new lane assistance feature, as well as creating an audio training playlist for the New York City Marathon with Volvo.

“It’s unlike CPG or retail,” said Craig Weingarten, who heads Spotify’s auto marketing category. “There’s a real long lead time [for auto-marketers]—you’re not going to go buy a car twice in one day.” Weingarten declined to share how important the auto category was to Spotify’s bottom line, but that it was a “bellwether” for the platform.

Spotify has even been in talks with brands to embed the platform within the dashboard screens of vehicles, akin to GMC’s inclusion of Amazon’s Alexa technology. Hyundai said this was considered but ultimately not used for its most recent campaign.

“If you’re selling a $35,000 vehicle, that’s a big moment for Spotify,” Weingarten said. “It’s a very savvy marketing group that has to really stretch their dollars across a long amount of time.”

To support the campaign, Hyundai is running four 30-second ads on the audio platform, as well as ad reads on the Spotify Original podcast Jemele Hill Is Unbothered and several podcasts on The Ringer.

Podcasts have also been central to the launches of two new models by other carmakers in 2020.

Cadillac diversified its media approach for the launch of its new Escalade, investing in custom podcasting inserts called “The Roadblock,” spotlighting the vehicle in over 1,000 podcasts over the course of two weeks. While Cadillac declined to share podcasting figures, the campaign has already notched more than 4.1 billion impressions.

@RyanBarwick ryan.barwick@adweek.com Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.