Podcast

Creatives' Favourite Podcasts

The listens that feed the restlessly inquisitive minds of advertising creatives

By Sonoo Singh

It was the true crime American podcast Serial in 2014 that first snared me into the world of audio series. Since then I've listened to them all - This American Life, My Favourite Murder, S-Town.

Right now I'm enjoying the intimacy of Matthew Sayed talking directly to us, while exploring the ideas that shape our lives in his Sideways Podcast. And that foghorn of a voice of John Sweeney telling us those ghastly stories in his podcast Hunting Ghislane. And that seemingly spontaneous spirit of Americast with Jon 'Sopes' Sopel and Emily Maitlis.

The foreboding music of the Lost Hills podcast that explores a series of strange shootings at a state park in Malibu, California, haunted me for a long time. And the podcast that followed a three-year investigation into the rise and fall of former Silicon Valley darling Elizabeth Holmes, Dropout, will always remain an ultimate favourite.

We asked creative leaders who are self-confessed podcast lovers to tell us what is that draws them inside this world, from Adam Buxton to football, celebrity podcasts to high quality news and history. And read on to discover why we should also all be protesting against listening to Louis Theroux.

Chaka Sobhani, global chief creative officer, Leo Burnett

I’m obsessed with podcasts. Have been for years now and it continues to grow into probably my favourite and most time consuming form of entertainment, education, inspiration and therapy.

Everyone has their favourites - for me it’s all about interviews with the brilliant and the strange and sometimes undiscovered from different worlds. Sometimes serious or some times laugh out loud, I’m interested in interesting people who have real unfiltered stories to tell about their lives and experiences. Stories that are personal and honest and not confined to a tight time format where they’re rushing or trying to sell me something on the junket trial. There’s such an intimacy to listening in on these conversations as I walk around uninterrupted by visuals. I can properly listen. And learn. Or laugh. And connect.

There are too many to name but a handful that do all of the above for me include Design Matters with Debbie Millman, WFT with Marc Maron, Armchair Expert with Dax Shepherd, Under the Skin with Russell Brand, Out to Lunch with Jay Rayner, I Weigh with Jameela Jamie, Don’t ask Tig, Table Manners with Jessie Ware, GriefCast, How to Wow, The Adam Buxton Podcast, How to Fail and Homosapiens.

Check them out if you get a sec. I promise you’ll be listening in the shower before you know it.

Dede Laurentino, chief creative officer, Ogilvy UK

The GuardianToday in Focus

It’s exactly what it says on the tin. With life rushing past and our personal lives more entangled with our professional ones, it’s tough to keep up to speed with the world. The acronym FOMO should actually be updated to Frequency Of Missing Out. This podcast focuses on what’s important that day, with The Guardian’s usual brilliance. In about 35 to 40 minutes, you’ll be so much more informed and intelligent. From sperm counts to the American gun debate, you never know what the topic of the day will be. But it’ll be worth listening.

Get Wired

This isn’t about today. It’s about tomorrow. Wired has been such an authority on tech, the future and how it’ll shape our lives and the business world too. I like the format with two editors giving their views and inviting guests to talk about what changes will be coming into our world. It’s like reading a brief a few years ahead of it landing on your desk. I’ve tried Scott Galloway’s podcast for the same reasons, but I somehow prefer his books. Wired has many podcasts (too many?), so this is the one that does it for me.

The New Yorker: Fiction Podcast

This is my favourite of all favourites. Deborah Treisman, the editor who’s been hosting it for 14 years now, sounds like a friend of mine at this point. They’ve found a wonderful format, which teaches you how stories work while also showing the brilliance and subtleties of each story they read. A guest writer per episode also ensures a diverse cast and a wide range of sensibilities. It’s an absolute must.

It’s funny to notice my three podcasts are all from an originally printed medium. I hope this says something about the relevance of high-quality news outlets in the world we live today.

Dede Laurentino

Ray Shaughnessy, executive creative director, McCann London

PODCASTS FOR BALLAST

Professional coach/ego wrangler/creative soothsayer Alison Chadwick serves up wisdom for creative leaders in Made Not Born. I’m learning stuff. But mostly this is a comfort listen in that I’m constantly looking for validation that people are feeling their way around and busking it in the careers. Not me. Other people.

PODCASTS FOR REALITY CHECKS

Nice White Parents from The New York Times. This triggered me on many levels – ever been to a PTA meeting? Right. Brilliantly deconstructs well intentioned middle-class white folk in Brooklyn who in an effort to do right by their kids, unintentionally do the dirty on the Hispanic communities they’ve moved into.

The depth and breadth of research from Madeleine Baran and her team from APM Reports’ In the Dark makes me gasp. She shows up with such an unassuming manner that people underestimate her laser focus. SUXXERZ. This second series was about Curtis Flowers, a man who was tried six times for a murder he didn’t commit. Listening to him being interviewed after his release was one of the best moments of 2020. You can donate money towards APM’s incredible work.

PODCASTS FOR SUSTENANCE

The Lonely Palette is art history-psycho-geography-social-commentary from the silky voice and clever head of Tamar Avishai. Each episode dissects artworks with academic smarts but big generous dollops of humanity too. “Behold the Monkey” reminds us of the shittest and therefore greatest art restoration of all time. But Mary Kelly’s ‘Post-Partum Document’ quietly devastates. Tamar is a new mum so she’s feeling that work in a very raw way, the good bits as well as the especially hard ones.

I think that podcasts can be especially great for accessing celebs in a more unfiltered and more dignified way than the Sidebar of Shame. Questlove Supreme has given me Questlove with Solange, Questlove with Maya Rudolph, Questlove with Q-Tip. I don’t know how much more you want. Then What’s the Tee? More like where’s the tee? I’ve worked through Mama Ru and Queen Visage’s work over lockdown, it’s like being in the best chat ever. But I’ve done them now. So when are they coming back, someone please, WHEN?

Ok I’ll stop. After this. I really, really love Adam Buxton and refuse to listen to Louis Theroux because he’s built his podcasting career on Adam’s mic that he lent him. Join me in this protest. Louis’s doing just fine.

Guy Sharman, creative director, twentysix

There are some amazing audio stories being told across a range of podcast genres. Yes you’ve got the true crime classics and sporting favourites. But one has recently got my attention and it’s all by design.

The basic idea? To make history more engaging by adding a healthy dose of humour. And they’ve come up with the perfect solution.

You’re Dead To Me from BBC sounds often tells some atrociously real stories and corrects some massive perspective biases in our education, questioning pop culture nonsense along the way.

The host, the brilliant Greg Jenner, adds a comedian to a professor of history and you get 40 minutes that makes you laugh, wonder and often count yourself lucky to not be born in the middle ages.

It’s the lessons you’d have dreamt of as a kid. Incredible real stories brought to life with a smile.

So if you want to know who the wealthiest person that ever lived was, how amazing Sacagawea was at the age of 16, or race through a quick history of chocolate, you may just want to give it a go. As it proudly states in the intro, this is a history podcast for people who don’t like history.

Will Brookwell, senior creative, Saatchi & Saatchi

Athletico Mince is the brainchild of Bob Mortimer and Andy Dawson and I’ve been hooked on it for years. Firstly, I defy any football fan to not howl at its football insights, both in the present game and about personalities from yesteryears.

But secondly, it’s a masterpiece in character creation, based on real insights, cultural truths and irreverent lies. It puts theories, sketches, and songs out into the world that you wish were true. Because if they were, football would be better, a place where footballers aren’t untouchable with unattainable lifestyles – just a bit more like you and I.

Simply put, it’s the first podcast I had to stop listening to in public for fear of being ‘that’ weirdo guy who laughs out loud, we all know that’s not what us Brits do.

Anything that can put a smile on your face and encourage braver character creation is good for the creative soul.

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