Marketing

An agency exec has started a podcast to “call bullsh!t” on companies

Ty Montague, co-founder, chairman, and chief purpose officer of the creative and strategic agency co:collective, has teamed up with iHeartMedia for the gig.
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co:collective, iHeartMedia

· 4 min read

An ad exec is calling BS on corporate America.

Ty Montague, co-founder, chairman, and chief purpose officer of the creative and strategic agency co:collective, has created a podcast with iHeartMedia that aims to do exactly that.

Calling Bullsh!t debuted on February 9, with the first episode homing in on one of the biggest, baddest companies of the moment: Meta. Montague said that the January 6 attack on the US Capitol—then becoming aware of the “role” Facebook may have played in the event—served as a catalyst for the podcast’s creation.

“Facebook is a company that says that its purpose is to empower all of us to build community and bring the world closer together, and that was obviously the opposite of what was happening,” Montague told Marketing Brew. “That made me wonder how many other companies are saying that they’re trying to make the world a better place, all while they’re doing something completely different.”

To Catch a Predator(y company)

The premise of the pod, which Montague is creating with his agency, is twofold. The first half of each episode explores “the facts of the case,” Montague explained, including the history of the company in question, the issue that caught his team’s attention, and interviews with experts like authors, reporters, and activists.

In order to determine which companies are worthy of the spotlight, Montague starts by discussing companies that have recently made headlines with his team. Then, once a decision has been made, the pod’s lead researcher and guest curator, Basil Soper, and researcher Mijon Zulu, take the reins for a final deep dive before Montague and the team line up interviews with experts.

Halfway through each episode, Montague declares whether or not he thinks the company under the microscope is full of it.

“There are companies where there is a gap between word and deed and that gap appears to be intentional,” he said. “They appear to be trying to mislead people.”

Meta, as well as the NCAA, fit that classification, according to Montague, who’s already recorded about six episodes. The show also spotlights a handful of companies he believes are promising to do good and actually following through, like Allbirds and Vital Farms.

Others land in a middle ground, “where there appear to be some unintended circumstances to their growth,” Montague said, like Airbnb, which is driving up housing prices, according to researchers.

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“We spend the second half of the show, rather than just cursing the darkness, lighting candles because we believe that BS is a treatable condition,” he said. “You just have to take positive action to close the gap between word and deed, and so we explore positive actions that the company in question could take to close the gap and restore trust.”

Montague said none of co:collective’s former or current clients, which have included Microsoft, Home Depot, and Google, have been subjects of the podcast so far, although that could change next season.

Profit with purpose

Montague, who’s spent time at several agencies throughout his career, working with clients like Nike, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, and Coca-Cola, remembers a time when “talking about purpose and the importance of pursuing a higher purpose got us a lot of funny looks,” he said. (His agency, founded in 2010, says it helps “purpose-led businesses.”)

Then, about 10 years ago, by Montague’s estimate, it became popular for venture-funded, Silicon Valley companies in particular to talk about some sort of purpose beyond turning a profit.

He says Juul, the star of episode four, falls into that category. It started out with the stated goal of getting smokers to quit, but “wound up getting a whole new generation of young people hooked on nicotine,” Montague said.

Montague thinks Gen Z really expects "companies today to be purpose-led, to be actively helping to solve some of the big problems in the world.” He expects that trend to likely only accelerate in years to come.

“The best companies really believe in transparency and about calling it like it is,” he said. “People don’t expect perfection today. They want to know where you are on your journey. Where are you getting it right? Where are you not getting it right? That sense of transparency, that sense of lack of perfection, that sense of honesty that comes from admitting where you get things right and where you get things wrong, is the thing that builds trust, and trust today is the most powerful currency.”

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