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Podcasts: The generalist’s secret weapon

As podcasts continue to evolve, as brands even get in on the act by creating their own, & as the format can help you become a better account person, Jamie Elliot, CEO of the Gate London introduces us to five of his favourites.

Jamie Elliott, The Gate London



Being a generalist is my specialism. It’s why, I’m sure, I gravitated towards this industry and into account management as a trade. Agency life is a life of wonderful variety in terms of the subject matter we’re dealing with on a weekly basis. And, in account management, there’s a need to know a little about every aspect of what we do and to be able to find common ground quickly with a diverse range of people. 

Last week, for example, was a mixture of, champion cures for piles; find the best way to launch an energy company, increase the rate of sale of organic snacks for toddlers, position a wealth management brand and encourage more people to visit London. All interspersed with conversations with both FTSE Chairmen on the future of retail and inner city sixth formers on why they should choose advertising as a career.

So, knowing a little about a lot and keeping that knowledge base up to date is important. And, that’s why from the moment they became a thing, I have loved podcasts.

The format beats others like reading (too slow), social media (bad for your mental health), and video (demands total focus) because it’s additive to stuff you’re already doing. You can be running, walking, sitting, cooking and there’s always place for a podcast.

Better still, the content is there to back it up. I mean, it’s only just all of the most interesting people in the world talking about everything in the world. Whether that’s Louis Theroux on why he loves singing Baccara’s ‘Yes Sir, I can boogie’ in falsetto, Isaiah Berlin choosing his favourite records, or Jia Tolentino on the rise and fall of the internet. There’s no better place to go to for nickable ideas, language, jokes, references and research that you can weave immediately into a conversation.

The best podcasts are underproduced and conversational versus normal radio, but the beauty of most podcast platforms is that you can access the best of both from all around the world. 

And, for brands who get the uniquely personal nature of the medium and who have the confidence to let the hosts loose on their ads, then there is the opportunity to shift perceptions of a brand quickly, to loosen up a bit and to create a sense of scale for a brand.

This can particularly useful at start-up stage, for example. MailChimp benefited from its ties to This American Life when Serial exploded into the consciousness. And even if you’ve listened to just a handful of podcasts in your life, chances are one of them has been brought to you by either SquareSpace or Audible.

So as podcasts continue to evolve, as brands even get in on the act by creating their own, and as the format can help you become a better account man, here are five of my favourite to make sure you’re kept fully up to date:

Talking Politics.jpg

Talking Politics with David Runciman 

Don’t be put off by the title, these chats with scientists, novelists, philosophers and historians are about much more than politics.

Listen Now:
Talking Politics

The Adam Buxton Podcast

Buxton does brilliant jingles for the brands that sponsor the show and he chats with all sorts of interesting folk in popular culture. Those with his old school friends Louis Theroux and Attack the Block writer/director Joe Cornish make me giggle a lot.

Listen Now:
The Adam Buxton Podcast
The Adam Buxton Podcast.jpg

Women of the Hour with Lena Dunham.jpg

Women of the Hour with Lena Dunham

Dunham followed Girls with this brutally honest mini-series on ‘the women who blow my mind’. A fresh, distinct and challenging voice on modern friendships, identity, sexuality and feminism.

Listen Now:
Women of the Hour with Lena Dunham

Against the rules with Michael Lewis

The writer of Moneyball has a beautiful voice that I could listen to all day long. Here he looks at what’s happened to fairness in the modern world, in financial markets, newsrooms, basketball games, courts of law and much more. Like his books, it’s essential.

Listen Now:
Against the Rules with Michael Lewis
Against the Rules with Michael Lewis.jpg

Sweathead with Mark Pollard.jpg

Sweathead with Mark Pollard

Generally, business leaders, marketing and ad folk make for dull podcasts. Pollard is a humble exception because he asks simple, intelligent questions that get the best from his strategy-related interviewees. Loads of nickable stuff in these.

Listen Now:
Sweathead with Mark Pollard
Guest Author

Jamie Elliott, The Gate London



Jamie has led The Gate London since January 2017, helping the agency be named ‘Small Agency of the Year’ by Oystercatchers within 18 months of his arrival. He has a strong track record in delivering highly effective campaigns for clients, including the IPA Effectiveness winning ‘ACT FAST’ Stroke Awareness and Trainline campaigns. Jamie has an MBA and is an elected member of the IPA Council. He’s a keen cricketer, Nottingham Forest fan and can always recommend you a new podcast or two.

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