When Spotify Ads Burst Your Bubble – Advertising in the Age of Curatorship

Spotify has consistently delivered spectacular advertising campaigns. They are masters in using the data at their disposal as a way to connect with users and the general public in a way few brands can. They have a huge leverage: the product they are selling is, on its own, a means to connect people to one of the most personal and deeply moving forms of art — music.

Music is, arguably, the most universally appreciated form of art. Part of its magic is how easily and effectively it can be in bringing people together, yet, at the same time, speaking to each one of them in such distinct ways.

Over the years, the way we experience music has shifted, not only in the physical format it assumes for distribution, but also – especially in the past 15 years – in the way we consume it. The days when one would religiously sit by the tape deck for hours to tape that song and send the perfect mixtape to their crush are long gone. Unless you don’t have internet access, it is very unlikely you won’t be able to play what you want to hear, exactly when you want to hear it. We’ve become curators, rather than spectators.

How does that translate to the world of advertising?

People are progressively being given the tools to escape advertising, but even Spotify – the most popular music streaming platform – has 80 million active users on free accounts. It’s an immense market, ready to be explored. The platform has been pushing Spotify for Brands, a tool that aims to further refine audiences for advertising purposes, while also taking the chance to promote itself with melomaniacs by sharing some of the stats they gather from listeners’ activity on the app. Using this to one’s advantage is very appealing – especially after you have seen how Spotify itself makes that work to their advantage.

But then the big question arises: people are turning to these platforms in an attempt to easily access and cherry-pick from the orchard at our disposal. In parallel, they are steering away from the radio. When you evolve from passive to active listener, you expect the power to decide what to hear to be in your hands – and that also means the power to avoid unnecessary stimuli disrupting your 1 am dance-off.
Enter – ads.

Ads – for so many a satanic invention – are seen by the majority as intrusive and annoying, and a disruption to the activity being carried out by the user. Spotify is one of a million examples we could focus on. I chose it because I find it to be easily relatable, and to push one’s buttons more easily than by – say – being interrupted by a small popup on a website. Audio, especially if you have headphones on, is a very intimate experience.

So where do we draw the line? When are we just blatantly invading someone’s ‘bubble’ for no good reason? No matter the platform, the principal is the same: the trick to conquering users is to be relevant, and speak their language.

Correct and pertinent targeting is of utmost importance, but your message is essential; and on platforms as personal as Spotify, tone is absolutely crucial.

Who is your audience? Are they most likely to be listening to rock songs to get them through their commute, or are they winding down to quiet jazz songs? If they are relaxing, trying to find peace at the end of a long day, the last thing you want to do is to present them with an upbeat, loud, all-over-the-place ad. Adapting to each platform means making the most of the data available to you, and playing with this behavioural data – more so than with demographics – will allow you to adjust to the moment you will be talking to them. When advertisers fail to understand these nuances, they end up not only missing opportunities and – what’s worse – they push potential leads away.

Remember: if you don’t adjust to what your audience is experiencing in the moment, you will burst their ‘bubble’. If that’s easy to mess up on more impersonal channels, doing it on a channel with these specificities is exponentially easier – and with far dangerous results.

In short: listen to them; they will listen to you.

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