Uncool IS Cool

Studio Resonate creates a Pandora campaign voiced by Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle for Pen15 Season 2 on Hulu

When did “nerd” become something to aspire to? nǝrd (noun) = A person with deep knowledge who possesses the ability to shut down a debate with an obscure factoid. (verb) = “We totally nerded out on graphic novels at the bookstore.”

Admit it: a part of us also kind of likes it when things get awkward. We acknowledge it with affection and smile. “Awkwaaarrrd.”

Pobody’s nerfect. We don’t just accept the fact, we embrace it.

So perfection is out. Real is in.

This shift is also true for audio advertising. Slick car dealership announcers with way too much reverb have been replaced by stripped-down, acoustic music beds and a female voiceover who sounds like your favorite aunt. Who gently encourages you to venture out onto the open road (in your new SUV) and live life. The way YOU want to live. As long as it feels right for you.

Ads that feel authentic resonate with audiences. Listeners are more inclined to trust the message and take action.

Now, let’s take that idea to the extreme: imagine audio with an actual cringe factor...because it’s for a Hulu series that shows life in 7th grade in all its awkward, true realness: Pen15 Season 2.

For entertainment audio campaigns, there was a time when a typical approach was to just grab the audio from the trailer and make a spot - which does not have the best results since the sound and visuals were created to be played together, and you need both to understand what’s going on. This is not the approach Studio Resonate takes.

Studio Resonate, Pandora’s audio-first creative consultancy, specializes in bringing campaigns to life in ways that are specific and unique for audio. So when we found out Pen15 was sponsoring the 2000s Pop, R&B, Love Songs, and Summer Hits stations, we clicked our rainbow gel pens into action and virtually stepped into the baby tees and parachute pants of the main characters, Anna and Maya, to write scripts that could capture attention by capturing their hilarious, one-of-a-kind voices and personalities. We carefully crafted audio-specific ideas that reflected their quirkiness and lines that followed the cadences of the way they speak.

With their reads, the stars, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, made them even funnier in the way only they could. We laughed all the way through audio production of 20 spots for the campaign (versions for pre- and post-Season 2 launch). Here are a few of our favorites.

These two are a throwback nod to song dedications on 00s radio, and fit the audio environment they’re served within: 2000s genre stations.

This one evokes humor and nostalgia with trends from the aughts.

Voiced and embellished by Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle. Written by Miya Kanzaki and Natalie Leal; audio production by Katelyn Mueller; project management by SaraBeth Wanzek, all from Studio Resonate. Music: “Now I’m in It” by Haim and “Yolo Swag” by Charlie Tenku.

Yes, Anna and Maya are characters (though they do have the same first names as two of the creators...who are, yes, 30-somethings portraying 13-year-olds). But these characters are not airbrushed to unattainable perfection. They’re flawed, honest, awkward, and completely cringey. We get to know them, we see inside them. And we grow to love them as much as they love each other.

As consumers of media, we crave storytelling about authentic people. All different kinds of people - I loved feeling representation in the experiences of Maya, who is Japanese-American. Because whether it’s music on Pandora, or a series on Hulu, or ads about a series on Hulu while you're listening to music on Pandora...real things make us feel things. #ForTheNerds