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From the 10th Annual Shorty Awards

Hackable? An Original Podcast by McAfee

Winner in Branded Podcast


We, Response, have been working with McAfee for nearly a decade. In all these years, the one constant has been the challenge of engaging consumers in a conversation about cyber-security. They just don't want to think about it. And, for most, it doesn't enter their mind until there's a problem (e.g. they get a virus, their identity is stolen, etc.). Yet we all know that the best line of defense in preventing digital security issues is education.

While noodling over this persistent challenge, and listening to highly rated podcasts like "Serial," we thought doing a consumer podcast was our chance to really connect McAfee to their audience by entertaining and educating them using a relatively new medium.

Our goals from the start were:

1. Heighten McAfee's leadership position in cyber-security

2. Enhance positive feelings about the McAfee brand

3. Make complex cyber-security issues accessible and entertaining, while providing clear information and education

4. Leave the audience smarter than when they arrived

Strategy and Execution

Show Strategy

We set out to create audio storytelling that would be entertaining, educational and brand building. We partnered with Pacific Content on the production side, given their experience and expertise in painting the most vivid stories in audio. Together, we developed the show format: Pop culture (take a scene from tv, movies or the news about a security hack or breach and recreate it in a dramatic audio format) + MythBusters (put that same hack in pop culture and test it with real hackers to separate fact from fiction and ultimately figure out how nervous we should really be) + consumer security advocacy (supply tips to keep people educated and safe). We named the show, "Hackable?". The "?" at the end is intentional, as we are posing the question as to whether something is hackable or not.

Launch/Audience Development Strategy

We knew that it would be a massive uphill battle to try and get non-podcast listeners to become podcast listeners with Hackable? So, we focused our efforts on "fishing where the fish are." We built a 360 marketing plan with a heavy emphasis on in-podcast "advertising" and social media. In-podcast advertising was critical to our success. It's less like advertising and more like authentic endorsements from the host. We poured over and listened to hundreds of podcasts to find just the right ones for Hackable?. We partnered with Reply All, Sincerely X, Science Magazine, Found, StoryWorthy, Something You Should Know and SpyCast. On social, we specifically targeted people who identified an interest in podcasting in general or in specific podcasts. We A/B tested our social ads, in all formats weekly, and optimized to the best performing creative. All of our efforts drove to Apple Podcasts, knowing that a piece of Apple's algorithm considers traffic.

Website Strategy

Our efforts were focused on getting people to listen to Hackable? where they listen to podcasts most--for us that's on Apple Podcasts and Pocket Casts. So, the strategy for the website, was to be a place where listeners could go to to learn more, get some of the "behind the scenes" content, and listen again. A few cool features of the site: 1). The site itself is "hackable". We hid "Easter Egg" codes in the site, in an episode, and in a blog post. The "curser" in the logo blinks, letting on that it can be clicked on, then backspace and replace "Hackable?" with the easter egg code. The site runs a script and changes-- making it feel like it's hacked. 2). If you opt to listen to an episode on the site, the player was coded in such a way that it continues to play even if you move onto another page. We hadn't seen any other podcast sites do this. 3). Each episode has it's own page with supplemental content. Not surprisingly, we've been seeing most of our traffic go to the episode pages.


We've been completely blown away by the results:

- 920,000 (and counting) downloads across 10 episodes

- 72,000+ subscribers

- 5-star rated on Apple Podcasts

- Topped Apple Podcast U.S. charts: #1 Tech News Podcast, #3 Technology Podcast, #42 Podcast (Overall)

- #1 most successful podcast launch in Pacific Content history based on number of subscribers

- Received feature placement in PocketCasts app and within Apple Podcasts New & Noteworthy (these are not placements that can be purchased, content is featured based on editorial review).

- The show was picked up by SiriusXM Insights

- 79% of listeners are able to identify McAfee as the sponsor of the podcast

- A majority of listeners (65%), even those who never used a McAfee product, are left with a higher opinion of the McAfee brand after listening

- 77% of respondents said they "liked" or "loved" the podcast after listening to it

- 88% of respondents said they learned something new from the podcast after listening to it

- Countless positive emails and social mentions, like these:

@deselinord (Despina Durand) - "I feel like @McAfee's #Hackable podcast is like Jackass for nerds." Then she replied, "Also, please understand that this is an endorsement."

In an email from Tom Davis, "Love your podcast! ...You're educating a huge audience of non-technical users who are security naive."


Video for Hackable? An Original Podcast by McAfee

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Response and Pacific Content, McAfee


Entry Credits