As a voracious consumer of podcasts from multiple corners of the globe, it’s always encouraging to hear sponsors are forthcoming on this precious yet not wholly mainstream medium, though amusing they weirdly tend to fall into pretty much the same groups no matter the subscriber’s nor producer’s territory. I’m not talking about the terrifying algorithm to which many shows pledge that somehow slots local adverts, irrespective of content, into popular international programmes; although this too makes me smile. The juxtaposition of witnessing one of British chef Jamie Oliver’s numerous rants about the ills of processed meals in UK schools cut short by messages from a regional fast food company is, you have to agree, deliciously ironic. No, I’m saying multinationals have obviously profiled the typical pod fans’ demographics and decided whether their products will gain traction if money is spent down this avenue. Thus, from the portfolio of typical commercials we can deduce which type of person is listening, right? Personally, it makes for sobering analysis.
Basically there are five ads which appear to prop up the entire business: those for mattresses, building your own trading website, sequencing your DNA, a well-known burger chain and most prominent – male grooming. So if you’re tired, sick of your job, wish you were someone else, hungry and hairy chances are you ‘follow’ a number of channels. I jest, of course. You only mock the ones you love. However it is the final category – lads keeping everything trim – I wish to discuss because I find it rather droll a completely new communication industry, crucially with no visual aspect, had to be invented for more sensitive hygienic issues to be openly bandied about.
Besides a razor claiming to be “the best a man can get” (I’d argue this tagline is in fact wasted on shaving and should be gender neutrally affixed to carrot cake), there’s never been much emphasis on de-gruffing dudes in traditional media. Okay, deodorants and shampoos have done their best to make a mark, but the sprucing rituals most commonly promoted on podcast breaks involve – for want of a better phrase – more delicate particulars. Countless episodes are now interspersed with presenters giggling through marketing copy involving items for sale as varied as The Lawn Mower, The Weed Whacker and The Crop Preserver. I’ll leave what these labels represent to your imagination. The underlying conversation point is: why is it felt the audio realm is this enterprise’s only safe space? Are we so fragile that a big-screen announcement before watching James Bond would send us cascading out of the multiplex? Are we so indentured by societal norms that the sole mode of delivery for these messages is through earphones on our private devices? Probably. But it’s at least a start.
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