Ads can and should do more: How Spotify missed its mark.

Let me preface this post by saying that I know there are probably lots of business dealingy, contracty, label signingy, financially focused reasons for the content of Spotify’s ads. I also realize that whining about commercials on a free, instant, multi-million track library is unbearably #firstworldproblems, etc. But I’m looking at this as an advertising enthusiast, as a young strategist who thinks that advertising has an incredible opportunity to give back to consumers while also serving it’s own interests. That being said… Spotify!

I got on the bandwagon. This post won’t be about how apparently it’s pretty much exactly the same as other music services, yet somehow advertised themselves to be a revolution… no, right now I’m thinking about their ads. Now, I had originally written this before I signed up for the premium account. I saw the value in it (especially offline listening with the iPhone app) and absolutely detested the ads.

The ads. Oh… the ads.

Two anecdotes about their wonderful ads.

I’m sitting there, listening to some Janelle Monae, and really diggin’ it. Then, this song starts playing. A great song. A ‘start nodding your head and singing along even though you haven’t heard it before’ song. One I’d awkwardly sidle up to the register and ask the employee of whatever store I was in what track was playing kind of song. This song.

Well, it pretty well fit with what I was listening to. I loved the sample it gave me, then the lead singer told me to listen to his album on Spotify. I did. Great job, Spotify!

Now, technically, this ad played its part – upped their click throughs, got an album listen. And they won’t know it, but I’ll definitely go to their concert when they swing through. Deeper, though. It provided a real benefit. It gave me something I love – I got to discover a new summer jam. More: I get to tell my friends, I get to use it to soundtrack a Friday night gathering. All this incredible, deep benefit to their audience, from some banner ad. Phenomenal.

Now, the second anecdote: I’m listening to the ‘progressive breaks’ of Way Out West, revisiting some old classics, and really getting into the groove of things.
(might want to skip about halfway through to get a feel. Needless to say, I was zonin’).

Then, BAM! I’m listening to Bob Marley! The tasty licks of The Doors!

Like, holy shit! They’ve got Bob Marley on this thing? I finally have a way to listen to some classic Doors albums?

I turned off the sound, turned it back on again because I realized that if you turn the sound too low the commercial pauses (clever girl, spotify) and sat at my computer, pausing all work, to think about how stupid it is to remind me that Aretha Franklin has a greatest hits album.

Then I realized something about this volume trick they did: it creates an us vs. them mentality. It’s saying “you wanted to skip the commercial? Like you do on every other medium? Too bad, you will sit here and listen to this odd-voiced man tell you to upgrade to spotify premium.” It let’s the user know that this is Advertising: one-way, business interested, tell you what to do advertising that doesn’t care what the customer feels. It makes it that unpleasant time-placeholder, only there because that’s the way advertising works – it interrupts those free things you love.

What irks me is that there’s so much opportunity. I’m pretty confident that Spotify could somehow find out more about me. Digital footprints and all that (I mean, it connects to your Facebook! Use your ‘liked’ bands, look for local bands through your location… something!). Aside from that, they could’ve asked: what music do you like? Where are you located? Choose some genres, some decades you’d like your ads to focus on. Hell, talk to, Pandora, get some targeting going on.

So why not give links to concerts (like iConcertCal? Target the ads to genres, playlists, labels, you might like? Give back to your supporters, start a dialogue with them, make it a two-way conversation. Hell, disguise it: if it’s so valuable to the consumer that we barely recognize we’re being advertised to, I sure won’t care about its intent either way.

The point of all that would be to give some BACK to the customer. Make the ads provide that benefit that I randomly happened upon with Fitz and the Tantrums. Now that’d be a way to make it a real money grabber.


One thought on “Ads can and should do more: How Spotify missed its mark.

  1. I couldn’t agree more. As an avid music listener, I signed up on Spotify, MOG and Pandora. However, I quit using Spotify almost immediately. Their ads are not only way off target, but they’re intrusive as well. And they seem to come on all the time – like, after every other song.

    I think Spotify is trying to cash in the chips it got from the hype of its US debut. Pandora and MOG both had to work slowly and diligently to earn users, so they take steps not to alienate them. Spotify, on the other hand, assumes an air of superiority, acting as though theirs is the only game in town. I don’t think this bodes well for them, especially since their free service is going away.

    Moreover, it is fast becoming apparent that while Spotify and the labels make money from streaming, artists earn almost nothing unless their songs are played millions of times. That’s basically the same model that brought down the record industry. In other words, it’s not sustainable.

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