Big Brother is watching you…

Towards the end of 2016 Spotify put its abundance of listener data and insights to playful use in a new Out-Of-Home ad campaign, placing billboards globally after an initial release in the UK, US, France and Germany.

The adverts were created by the company’s in-house marketing team and revealed some of the weird and wonderful habits of its users, using accumulated and even some personal data, Spotify generated headlines such as;

“Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?”

“Dear person in the Theater District who listened to the Hamilton Soundtrack 5,376 times this year, can you get us tickets?”

Spotify then ended many of the billboards with the tagline “Thanks 2016. It’s been weird.” In ways a celebration of both a great year for music and also the continued support and listenership of its users.



The ad campaign by Spotify was clever and engaging and was received extremely positively by consumers for the most part.  What they managed to do in a way was to humanise the technology – this worked particularly well based on the personal and emotional connection that people have to it.


A not so successful story for Netflix…

On December 11th 2017, Netflix tried to apply a similar approach to Spotify in customer data and insight sharing, only this time using their Twitter account as the medium.

Netflix revealed that 53 people had watched its latest Christmas movie ‘A Christmas Prince’ everyday for the past 18 days, adding to the end of the tweet – “Who hurt you?”  The tweet has gained more than 100,000 retweets and 400,000 favourites at the time of writing.


The tweet was intended to be light-hearted and humorous, but has faced a massive backlash from consumers, with many users describing it as being “creepy”.  The tweet has also managed to kick off a debate around how closely the company is watching its customers, and raises the questions, what exactly can it do with the data generated by the viewing habits of its users, and more alarming, how many people in the company have access to the data.



Netflix were quick to defend the tweet and certainly didn’t feel that they had anything to apologise for.  They did however, reassure their users that their privacy was not totally being invaded with an official statement saying; “The privacy of our members’ viewing is important to us.”

But the question is – how did Netflix fail at something that Spotify managed to do so well?

The Spotify campaign had an underlying positive tone to it, celebrating the weird and wonderful habits of its users.  One the other hand, Netflix took a slightly harsher tone in their tweet.  ‘A Christmas Prince’ is a movie that they produced and marketed and it follows a format not unlike the ever-popular Hallmark Christmas movies.  The tweet comes across as a little judgemental, shaming those for falling in love/becoming maybe a little obsessed with their movie.

It could also be perhaps that people hold different emotional connections to music and TV or Movies.  Therefore, to be potentially confronted by your TV viewing habits would feel a lot more intrusive than for someone to know what music you’re in to.

Up until now we thought that the scariest feature about Netflix was the ‘Are you STILL watching’ screen that may pop up while you’ve been watching the latest addictive series for 4…5…10 hours straight (no judgement here!).  Now we know they’re documenting everything we watch.

Is this a PR disaster?  Maybe, a little.  Will it have lasting impact on the company?  Probably not – people will still continue to ‘Netflix and chill’ and binge watch their favourite TV series.  Perhaps next time though…Netflix should think of all the implications before trying to be funny on Twitter.


Jonny Allen is a final year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University.  You can find him on LinkedIn here –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s