Why Accenture launched a podcast about AI

The consultancy believes a different communications platform could help demystify the tech and drive adoption.
Accenture's "The AI Effect" season 2 launch party

Tech personality Amber Mac, left, with Accenture Canada’s AI lead Jodie Wallis at a launch event for the second season of “The AI Effect.”

A few years ago, artificial intelligence stopped being the domain of university researchers and engineers working at tech giants and became something businesses of all sizes began to take notice of. Jodie Wallis, lead of Accenture’s AI practice in Canada, says that was when the opportunity came about for the consultancy to help clients take advantage of the emerging technology. But when it comes to something that is both as buzzy and intimidating as AI, communicating the ins and outs of that opportunity is key.

“I didn’t want to use old school techniques like a white paper, because that seems incongruous with talking about something as revolutionary as AI,” Wallis says. “A podcast seemed like the right vehicle for getting that message out.”

The podcast – produced by Entertainment One’s Podcast Network – was launched in February and is hosted by Wallis and tech personality and writer Amber Mac. All seven episode’s of the podcast’s second season were released last week, with the first episode featuring an interview with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussing Canada’s role in AI developement. Future episodes will cover industry adoption, smart cities and AI’s potential in healthcare, insurance, customer service and the environment, with nearly 20 guests including Craig Nevill-Manning, head of engineering at Sidewalk Labs; Tomi Poutanen, chief AI officer at TD’s Layer 6 AI; Hassan Murad, CEO and co-founder of Intuitive; and Kathryn Hume, VP of product and strategy at Integrate AI.

“In the first season, we had a hypothesis we ended up proving that we as companies and governments and Canadians at large have done a good job of investing and paying attention to academic research, but we need to do a better job of moving from that to mainstream adoption,” Wallis says. “For season two, it seemed pretty obvious to think about and share stories about mainstream adoption to encourage others to accelerate what they’re doing. We designed it around industry-focused episodes that highlight examples of where companies are making a difference to their bottom line and their customers by using AI.”

While the primary target for the podcast is a business audience, but the fact that the podcast was produced with an eye towards “demystifying” AI also makes it suitable for any curious listener.

“We talk a lot about the impact it will have on Canadians as citizens, consumers and employees,” Wallis says. “The business audience, we want to inform them about what this is and if they should be paying attention, but it’s also for individuals who just want to learn more.”

Branded podcasts have long been pegged as a marketing opportunity to a general audience, but recent months have seen brands use them to reach a niche business and enterprise audience. In October, Interac launched “Earning Curve,” adding a B2B dimension to its otherwise consumer-facing marketing. The payment company worked with U.S. podcast network Gimlet to produce the podcast; among Gimlet’s other recent business-focused branded podcast work is a series for Adobe about design, UX and UI.

Wallis says Accenture looked at available numbers for other B2B podcasts to help decide if it was the right platform for both the message and the kind of audience it hoped to reach. However, podcast audiences tend to skew younger, so the company used PR and direct channels – as well as launch parties for press and clients – to get the word out.

“We figured that it might not be obvious for all of our intended audience,” Wallis says. “We didn’t assume people would automatically find their way to the podcast without being led there.”