Insights

Creative Best Practices: Lessons from Organic Valley’s Custom Soundscape Campaign

Article
April 2024

In 2023, NPM worked with NPR sponsor Organic Valley to share an important part of their story with NPR listeners: their dairy products come from small family farmers who are committed to caring for their animals and protecting their land.

To bring this to life, they worked with NPM Creative to produce a custom audio campaign, including a Brand Soundscape featuring Tyler Webb, an organic dairy farmer in Vermont. Supervising Producer Shannon Boerner and Senior Production Manager Sara Barbour traveled to Stony Pond Farm to record with Tyler and his family, and their experience led to some valuable lessons about creating stories that resonate with NPR listeners. Read on to learn what made this top-performing campaign so special.

The impact of recording on location

Photo by John Lee; Image courtesy of Organic Valley.

Shannon: When we started brainstorming for this story with Organic Valley, we knew that the best way to capture and convey their values was to hear from one of the farmers directly. Because of the role the farmer plays in caring for their land and animals, their job truly cannot be removed from its ecosystem. So to tell the story properly, we wanted to bring listeners to the farm, to hear every crunch of the dirt, sniff of the cows, and chirp of the swallows.

My favorite stories to create are the ones where we can really bring the listener along for the ride. And being in the Green Mountains of Vermont, surrounded by curious cows with the summer breeze blowing, was the perfect opportunity to capture on-site audio. Using our field recording kit, we captured over four hours of tape. When we sat down to edit this story, having these additional elements elevated our audio by accentuating the points that Tyler was making. When he spoke about the bird houses they built for the tree swallows because they helped with pest control, we were able to layer in the sounds of those exact birds. When he talked about the relationship he had with his herd, we were able to include clips of him calling out to them affectionately and introducing individual cows who wandered up to us. My hope was that a listener could imagine themselves on the farm with Tyler, and better understand the values he brings to his stewardship.

Sara: After this story and the mid-rolls went live, we were curious to test them with NPR listeners and see how they responded to hearing the sounds of the farm. We ran a creative measurement test via Veritonic with a panel of NPR podcast listeners that compared a mid-roll with just Tyler’s voice to one that also included immersive audio captured on the farm. The results were clear – listeners appreciated hearing sounds from the farm in the message!

 

When listeners were asked how they felt about the sound effects:

78%

agreed they liked the sound effects and found them engaging

77%

agreed the sound effects made them feel like they were on the farm

The power of finding the right speaker

Photo by John Lee; Image courtesy of Organic Valley.

Shannon: Another reason behind the success of this campaign is that Tyler was the absolute perfect speaker for the story Organic Valley wanted to tell. We recommend that brands find someone who is involved in the work and can speak passionately about it while sharing authentic anecdotes. Tyler not only has the expertise – a Masters of Science in Agronomy and Grazing Management – but he is also deeply passionate about organic farming. The authentic fervor in Tyler’s voice while walking through the farm brings that human connection that we strive to capture.

In fact, the majority of the audio we used for our final story came from an off-the-cuff walkabout on the farm the night we arrived. Even though our recording schedule was set to start early the next morning, Tyler was excited to take us on a tour and show us his farm. And having that extra time with Tyler allowed me to understand the true meaning of caring for the land and animals on an organic farm. He was in his element, confident and comfortable, which enabled him to be in his groove, sharing what he was passionate about.

Sara: Finding the right speaker can directly translate to performance! When we tested these messages with listeners we found that when it came to learning about Organic Valley, they really valued hearing from a real farmer.

 

When asked how they felt about the messages:

88%

of NPR listeners agreed that hearing from a real farmer helped them learn how Organic Valley farmers care for their land and animals

87%

agreed that hearing from a real farmer made the messages more relatable

Embracing the opportunity to try new things

Photo by John Lee; Image courtesy of Organic Valley.

Shannon: We create custom visuals to promote our Soundscape stories, which include headshots or visuals supplied by our sponsors. Since we knew we were going to be on the farm in person, we took the opportunity to bring a photographer as well. The photographer joined us in the walking tour of the farm, heard Tyler’s stories, and was able to capture the images that we would need to visually support those stories. For example, when Tyler focused on the tree swallows and the wildflowers, our photographer matched those beats and gave us stunning photos that helped bring Stony Pond Farm to our listeners.

Sara: Trying new things can have a ripple effect, and we saw that in this campaign! Taking our own photos during the recording meant when it came time to design the custom landing page for the campaign, we had a variety of beautiful images to work with that were directly relevant to the story. Our designer had much more flexibility in building out new, image-rich sections of the page, like an interactive carousel that showcased ways Tyler works to protect his land.

To help drive more traffic to the landing page, we also decided to pilot a new approach to promoting Soundscapes in NPR newsletters. Teasing Tyler’s story, we tested a native, responsive newsletter placement that runs as a roadblock and matches the look and feel of the newsletter itself.

The new promotion approach furthered the campaign’s impact:

0.21%

click through rate (vs. 0.14% benchmark)

8,000

clicks to the landing page

Campaign Results

 

Organic Valley utilized brand lift studies conducted by Veritonic to measure the overall impact of their campaign. Results showed that their Soundscape creative together with a cross-platform campaign across NPR platforms was successful in driving significant lifts in brand awareness, perceptions and intent for both NPR podcast and NPR radio listeners overall, as well as key audiences including those who don’t yet use Organic Valley products.

Awareness Lift:

+13ppt

lift among NPR podcast listeners

+21ppt

lift among NPR radio listeners

Favorability Lift:

+28ppt

lift among NPR podcast listeners

+37ppt

lift among NPR radio listeners

Intent Lift:

+28ppt

lift among NPR podcast listeners

+40ppt

lift among NPR radio listeners

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