If you haven’t heard, podcasts are hot.
Nearly two decades after these audio series and narratives first emerged, almost half a billion people worldwide are podcast listeners.
It’s an audience that continues to grow rapidly as the number of Americans over the age of 12 who listened to a podcast in the previous week rose to 31% this year.
Not surprisingly, medical marketers and the healthcare brands they represent are also increasingly interested in opportunities presented by the format.
Among the companies that have ventured the most into this audio medium is GSK’s ViiV Healthcare, which focuses on research and development of HIV/AIDS treatments.
Launched in 2020, the company’s Being Seen podcast addressed the queer and gay Black male experience through conversations with artists, activists and community leaders.
The success of that series led to the debut of Love in Gravity last year, which highlights the stories of HIV-positive and at-risk Latinx communities. The Hispanic/Latino communities account for 29% of new HIV cases while making up 18% of the U.S. population.
The show proved to be a hit, which resulted in a second season of the podcast that was released last month.
Pivoting for the sequel
While season one’s six episodes form an anthology of different stand-alone stories, ViiV took a different approach for season two, as one storyline runs through all the episodes.
Love in Gravity begins with Jules, played by Marcel Ruiz from One Day at a Time, and Teo, played by Froy Gutierrez, from Teen Wolf and Cruel Summer, hooking up before a big football game.
Jules is a rising pop star who sings the national anthem prior to kickoff and Teo is the star quarterback for one of the teams.
Over the course of seven episodes, the podcast follows the characters as they navigate falling in love, coming out and going through day-to-day life.
P.J. Moton-Poole, senior manager of external affairs at ViiV, describes the company’s original turn towards podcasts as being intertwined with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We recognized that podcasts were a way to record new content and continue to move messages forward during a time when there were limitations,” he says. “When we entered into the podcast space, one of the things that was important for this particular project was that between 2020 and 2022, there was no representation of LGBTQIA+ Latinx folks on television.”
Familiar star power
The original season starred a number of popular Latinx actors and celebrities including Robin de Jesús, Harvey Guillén, Jessica Marie Garcia, Jason Genao and Wilson Cruz.
In addition to Ruiz and Gutierrez, the second season features Gina Torres, known for roles inFirefly and Suits as well as Mexican actor Cecilia Suarez, of Promised Land and House of Flowers.
It is not only the voices in the podcast that are drawn from the Latinx community, but those who created the storylines as well.
“The entire writers’ room and the production crew related to this project are Latinx and Afro Latinx folks,” Moton-Poole explains. “It is more than just the stories that we’re telling, but it’s also the orchestration of the stories behind the scenes. We’re giving folks an opportunity to ensure that these stories are authentic as they reach the audience that we are creating them for.”
The second season also has a subtitle that embraces a number of different themes that run through the episodes: “Fans, Faith, Family and Falling Love.” It’s more than an alliterative flourish, as Moton-Poole explains that many of these are topics that are reflected in other ViiV marketing efforts.
“Some of the central themes of this particular season are faith and family. There’s a strong mother-and-son storyline,” Moton-Poole says. “We also have another program for Black and Latinx men called Mother to Son that talks about the importance of that particular network of support as it relates to getting men connected to, engaged and re-engaged in HIV care.”
Moton-Poole adds that one of the characters has a strong connection to his faith, leading to storylines around navigating the duality of what it means to be committed to your beliefs and also accepting and loving yourself wholly for all parts of who you are.
He adds that ViiV has yet to commit to a season three and is instead focused on amplifying the first two seasons and its stories.
Regardless of what the future holds for the podcast he concludes by noting that this has been an important piece of work related to Latinx and Afro Latinx men and HIV.
“Telling these stories in the way that we’re telling them allows folks to see themselves fully reflected, fully authentic and fully whole,” he says.