Yes, Podcast Ads Are Working for MeUndies

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It took MeUndies four years to sell its first million pairs of underwear.

For a startup that was early to the direct-to-consumer e-commerce craze, that’s not exactly wildfire. But the company’s fortunes changed in 2014 when it shifted some of its Facebook ad dollars to podcasts, the newest phenomenon in media-buying.

You’re probably familiar with the format—the podcast host takes a quick break to pitch a product with a wink of self-awareness balanced alongside a believable anecdote. The listener is led to assume that Conan O’Brien organizes his own email campaigns and everyone is in constant need of a mattress-in-a-box. It’s advertising theater in a very awkward, off-off Broadway kind of way, but it also kind of works. The price of admission is paid; everyone’s happy.

“For us, it resembled the same characteristics as a friend referral,” MeUndies founder and CEO Jonathan Shokrian says.

MeUndies was early to the game and got behind some of its budding stars: Tim Ferris, Marc Maron and Anna Faris, and ESPN refugee Bill Simmons. When the courtship goes just right, a pod celebrity starts gushing about the brand outside the studio, it’s a marketing multiplier.

In the four years since it first started buying podcast slots, MeUndies has sold almost 9 million pairs of skivvies and hasn’t had to raise any capital. It now has 144 employees and expects to post $75 million in sales this year. Podcasts remain one of its biggest expenses and comprise one-third of its marketing budget.

This isn’t to say every company should be snapping up pod slots. But executives should make sure their media of choice matches their brand and message. For MeUndies, a scrappy startup with a cheesy streak, podcasts (especially those fronted by comedians) are a good fit. In addition to socks and briefs, MeUndies will soon sell underwear sets for customers who want to match their pets. Is Conan a dog guy?

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