When most production companies take on a branded company podcast, the sound and feel of the show is going to adapt to the needs of the client. A brand might come in and say they want a show that sounds like This American Life or Radiolab, but there’s not a signature way that all shows from a particular production company will gravitate towards.
That’s why it’s so interesting what Pushkin Industries did with their limited run show with Lexus:
It’s a 6 episode show where each episode takes a theme about how Lexus cars are made and perform, with plenty of interviews, sound recorded in the cars, and a very famous host and narrator. That of course, is Malcolm Gladwell - co-founder of Pushkin and host of their flagship show Revisionist History.
I’m speculating wildly that the pitch conversation went something like this:
Lexus: “We know Malcolm Gladwell is a car fanatic, so we’d like you to produce a show where he talks about how much he loves Lexus cars”
Pushkin: “Well, we’re not just going to blindly do a promotional piece, he’d need to be in the cars and doing live drive tests with your experts”
Lexus: “Of course”
Pushkin: “And our shows go into intricate detail over minute topics we find fascinating, not just the obvious major themes about performance and luxury you have in your other ads”
Lexus: “Yeah, we like that style”
Pushkin: “Are you sure? We might end up doing multiple episodes that are centered around the musical tones of the perfect engine noise”
Lexus: “Hmm, well we trust your expertise here”
Pushkin: “Okay and last thing, we won’t pull our punches calling out where the car isn’t perfect. You’ve heard Revisionist History, right? It gets pretty sarcastic”
Lexus: [Gulp] “Let’s do it”
Or at least I hope so, since that adds to the charm of this show that feels natively like a Revisionist History episode and in doing so highlights the level of care and craftsmanship that goes into Lexus cars.
Pushkin is continuing to try out different integrated models for branded content. In between episodes of their current season on gun violence, they have a standalone episode “Five Burning Travel Questions with Malcolm Gladwell”. It’s sponsored by Airbnb with customized host-read ads, and the episode consists of Gladwell talking to his friends about funny travel challenges and conundrums.