Behind the Podcast with Etienne Bouvier and Julien Fabre, TV and Transmedia Team at Ubisoft

Behind the Podcast with Etienne Bouvier and Julien Fabre, TV and Transmedia Team at Ubisoft

Written by Miles MercerAssociate Manager, Digital Content at Acast2023.05.05

When you put your headphones on to listen to your favorite podcast, it might be the voices of the hosts you hear, but there’s usually a whole team of audio extraordinaires working behind the scenes to bring that show to life.

Our Behind the Podcast series pulls back the curtain on podcast production from around the Acast Creator Network, sharing stories from the diverse mix of people and roles working within podcasting. We’ll hear from the sound designers creating immersive sonic experiences, scriptwriters who’ve mastered words to build intricate worlds, and the producers who pull all the strings to bring you brilliant episodes week after week.

Branded podcasts have burst onto the scene as a must-have content-marketing channel for any growing or established business. Chances are, if you have made your way to this article, you are interested in starting one for your business. Branded podcasts are great for engaging with your target audience in long-form media, building  brand awareness, and establish brand loyalty as you provide your audience with valuable content beyond promoting your products or services. However, coming up with intriguing content that will actually captivate your target audience can be a difficult hurdle to overcome.

Ubisoft, the video game company behind such classic games as Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, has developed a unique approach to creating podcasts that reach both its primary audience as well as new demographics. Now in its third season, Ubisoft’s Echoes of History podcast formed a unique approach to branded podcasting by developing a concept that was thematically in line with its products but spoke to a wider audience beyond the gaming community. The show draws inspiration from Assassin’s Creed and expands upon the actual historical context of the game through interviews with historians and mythologists. The main creative forces behind the show's development are Etienne Bouvier and Julien Fabre from Ubisoft’s TV and Transmedia (books, comics, podcasts, digital media) content team.

“We wanted to make sure we were creating something that was up to the standards of the podcast industry, not the marketing industry,” said Bouvier in reference to their development of the show. This reflects their adamant effort to create podcast content that is of a high production value and lives up to Ubisoft’s standard of quality across its gaming titles. To learn more about its unique approach to branded podcast content, we caught up with them in their respective homes near Paris to talk about the development of the show.

On Reaching New Audiences

One unique element of the Ubisoft approach to creating branded content is the fact that its shows are not directly targeted at its primary demographic of gamers. Instead, in making a podcast focused on history, they are reaching a new audience of history buffs who may have never heard of Ubisoft. According to Bouvier, this is all a part of the plan to continue expanding Ubisoft’s brand identity. “Our mandate is to expand our brand, our universes, and reach across each and any media possible,” he explains. “Podcasts being a strong growing trend within the content industry, it was just natural for us.” This, as he explains, is all a part of its effort to expand the world of Ubisoft games outside of the game itself – continuously adding content for enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike to get lost in. “It’s all to add an educational dimension to our brand",” says Bouvier, “we really capitalize on that through a great diversity of formats.”

The field of gaming also presented unique opportunities for Ubisoft to capitalize on the emotional connection many gamers feel with the games and use this to develop its transmedia approach and, by extension, its podcast. “You create strong emotional bonds with characters and universes,” explains Bouvier. “When there’s a gap between [the release of] two games, there’s space for other content in the same universe to be consumed. So we fill that space with our transmedia projects.” By identifying this opportunity to continue to build upon the world of Assassin’s Creed in between the release of games, they were able to reach an entirely new audience of history buffs. “We don’t make a good podcast for gamers – we make a good podcast. That’s how we intersect with the podcast audience, which is not necessarily our gaming audience.” He goes on to explain that a few key collaborations have brought a certain level of credibility to their show as well. “...the fact that we are working with podcast hosts such as the guys from History Hit, Dan Snow and Matt Lewis, really reflects that we want the audience to know that there’s new sources of historical content in the Echoes of History feed. That’s a conjunction of both audiences we want to reach and it’s implemented in the design of our content.”

On Keeping the Brand at the Center

While expanding into new media is an effective method for building new content streams, the challenge is ensuring that Ubisoft as a brand does not get lost in the shuffle. To keep the brand central to its content, Bouvier says that they have three main methods. “First,” he explains, “it’s in the writing of the podcast. Second is the sound design of the podcast and third is the visuals you use to promote your podcast.” He explains that by centering these three concepts throughout the podcast production, they are able to keep Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed top of mind even when they aren’t being directly referenced. “So on the writing part, of course, the actual content is very much linked to our games. We also make sure that our hosts mention the games and explain how the real history was very much like what happens in the game or on the contrary, a bit different than what happens in the game. Then, we have the sound design part which, of course, is very important to us. We can add original music from the game as well as sound effects which are iconic to the franchise. The sound design is well thought out so that fans of our games feel that they are in the universe. The last thing is the visual assets, your promotional assets. We make extensive use when we need characters to illustrate our vignettes and we try to stick to the graphic visual codes that we implement across our visual assets.” By drawing upon strong and well-recognized brand elements during the writing process, sound design process, and cover art process, they are able to capitalize on its distinct brand identity and keep Ubisoft at the center of the podcast without the need for overt marketing language.

On Why Podcasting Works for Ubisoft

“The podcast gives us data regarding who is listening and the completion rate of the episode,” explains Fabre. “This kind of data is really interesting to us in order to drive how we are creating the content.” This insight is central to understanding why podcasting continues to be a central component of Ubisoft’s transmedia strategy. While games take years to develop and cost upwards of 100 million dollars to produce, podcasts are relatively cheap and offer real-time feedback about who is listening and paying attention to the brand. They say this is central to its growth and development strategy for new products. “For us, as an IP owner, it’s all about how much time people spend with our brand,” says Fabre. “A podcast is really interesting to us because it is complementary to the content we are creating at a company level.”

Bouvier and Fabre have managed to create a media stream at their company that is engaging, accessible, and complimentary to the larger objectives of the company without creating something that is focused on product sales.. These have proven to be the key differentiator in what has made its branded podcasts succeed.