Hulu’s Pen15 Takes Pandora Listeners Back to the 2000s With New Audio Campaign

The ads will run on the streaming service's popular aughts nostalgia stations

Anna Konkle and Maya Erskine star in Hulu's Pen15. Hulu
Headshot of Patrick Kulp

Listeners tuning into any of Pandora’s 2000s nostalgia stations will be treated to flashes of teenage awkwardness from the stars of Hulu’s Pen15 as part of a new campaign designed to promote the cringe comedy hit’s second season.

The 15- to 30-second ads were each produced exclusively for the streaming service through a collaboration with Pandora’s brand creative team, an in-house consultancy that uses listener data to shape brand messages for the platform. The team tried to distill the quirky, period-specific nature of the series into short bits of dialogue from its characters.

“My name is Anna—what’s up?” says the show’s star and co-creator Anna Konkle as the 13-year-old character she plays in one of the ads. “Um, this next song goes out to, like, my best friend in the world Maya—oh my god, and, like, your mom’s cooking is to-die-for. You’re so lucky.”

Roger Sho Gehrmann, group creative director at Pandora, said the ads were designed to have the feel of a segment on a 2000s-era terrestrial radio station.

“It’s very much in that cultural context of what you expect from from traditional radio,” said Gehrmann. “We know that audiences have pretty good bullshit meters these days—we know that when your music goes from your favorite song to a 15- to 30-second sponsored message that listeners try to actively tune that out … usually, providing value in terms of entertainment is the best way to keep listener attention.”

The campaign is part of a larger push on Pandora’s part to encourage brands to create ads specifically for streaming audio formats, rather than repurposing soundtracks from other content. While the digital audio ad space continues to grow—driven by the enduring popularity of podcasts and steady smart speaker adoption—the medium still remains somewhat of an afterthought for some brand campaigns, especially in the entertainment category, according to Gehrmann.

“The typical thing with a lot of entertainment ads is to just take the trailer or whatever is running on here, strip out the audio and literally just run the audio on its own as an audio ad,” Gehrmann said. “Now, as you can imagine, this doesn’t work particularly well, since, the audio wasn’t necessarily designed purely for audio consumption and you need a visual to understand what’s going on.”

The 10 ads, which each feature Konkle and co-star and co-creator Maya Erskine in character, will run on each of Pandora’s nostalgia stations for the 2000s decade: Summer Hits of the 2000s, 2000s, 2000s Pop, 2000s Love Songs and 2000s R&B.

@patrickkulp Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.