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Serial and "MailKimp": Marketing Tips for Podcast Ads

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Serial and "MailKimp": Marketing Tips for Podcast Ads


The MailChimp ad.

Do you know the one I’m talking about?

The one from Serial?

For those of you who don't know, in the fall of 2014, Serial took the podcasting world by storm in a way no one could have predicted given the largely niche appeal of the genre at that time. With admirable compassion, it told a tragic, compelling, and immensely complicated story which captured the attention of millions and, in the process, made Serial the first podcast to break into mainstream popular culture.

Taking, along with it, the MailChimp ad.

If you’re a fan of Serial, you know the one. It’s such an ingrained part of the show that it’s almost a second theme song—impressive, given how iconic the actual Serial opening is. The audience connected with it to such a degree that, among the lists of crazy “who did it” conspiracy theories, the “Mail …Kimp?” girl made it on the list. Somehow, Serial wouldn’t be the same without it.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the MailChimp ad became almost as much of a phenomenon as the show itself. People care about this ad. They’re fond of it. They miss it when it’s not there. And as achieving that level of cultural identification is every marketer’s dream, we thought we’d take some time to look at the ad and share some of our insights into why it is so beloved.

1. It sounds like Serial.

Over the course of the show, Serial interviewed a wide range of speakers in a variety of settings. So hearing the successive voices saying “MailChimp” at the beginning of the ad didn’t feel like an interruption. This makes sense, since apparently Serial produced the ad themselves (with copy provided by MailChimp). 

2. “Mail… Kimp?”

The mispronunciation is endearing, but the long pause that precedes it is what really grabs your attention. You know what she’s supposed to say, and you’re hanging in suspense for the word to finish. “Kimp” hits you like an elusive punch line at the end of a rambling joke. And those two things, operating in conjunction, are what make the ad memorable.

3. The imperative tagline.

I love imperatives. I try to use them as much as possible, because it cuts down on the number of synapses that have to fire in the brain in order to transmit ad copy into actionable information. There’s nothing to decode or interpret, just a command to follow: “Send better email.” Why yes, I will, thank you. 

4. Social Proof.

“I use MailChimp.” “You do!” “Yes!” The little line at the end seals the deal. It’s that tiny bit of serendipitous dialogue caught, almost by chance, after the ad seems to have actually ended. No one wrote that line—it wasn’t part of the script—but it’s the part that convinces more thoroughly than any other that MailChimp is a product you want to use, because other people use it, and love it so much that they volunteer that information with no ulterior motives.


So, if you’re feeling inspired to try an ad in the Podcasting world, here are a few lessons you can draw from MailChimp:

  • Know your audience. Podcasts are a much more intimate medium than other forms of entertainment, so sponsor a show you have a good relationship with, and see if there’s a way you can work together to create your spot.
  • Be memorable. You probably won’t have to find someone to mispronounce your name, but you will want to make sure something stands out.
  • Be concise. The MailChimp ad is only about twenty seconds and thirty words long, but nothing’s missing.
  • Get someone else to back your product. You’re not cool if you say you’re cool. If someone else says you’re cool, you’re cool.

You want to create an ad your audience is willing to invest in, emotionally. There’s no magic formula, but starting here will put you well on your way. 

And, for the record… 

I use MailChimp.

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Laura is the senior writer at MOVE Communications. She specializes in blogging, content marketing, and brand research. She graduated with degrees in History and Russian Studies from the University of Edinburgh, is an avid reader, and takes every opportunity she can to explore the world.


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