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 –

The Tale of Two Placements

While studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University, it felt like most of second year at university was consumed with the stress of securing a placement year to commence in the summer.  It’s one of the first things that gets mentioned on the induction day of second year, filling you with both fear and anticipation…and of course you start to day dream of the exciting and new world that lies outside the lecture theatres and in the real-life world of the marketing communication industry.

I tried to be selective when applying for jobs as I wanted to ensure that I found a company that would be a good fit for me and would allow me to gain the knowledge and insight I wanted to achieve from my placement year.  After a few rejections I finally saw a job advert that seemed like the perfect fit looking for a media assistant at ASG & Partners on the Holywood Road in Belfast.  Upon receiving a phone call inviting me to interview for the job I discovered that there was another job role sandwiched onto the media assistant role – marketing assistant for one of their partner companies, Webrecruit Ireland.  All the stress of trying to find one placement, and then all of a sudden here I was confronted with the possibility to work two back-to-back, it was definitely an enticing offer and I was overjoyed to hear I’d been successful in landing the job.

So towards the end of June 2016 I headed off the Holywood Road unsure of what lay ahead but excited to begin my two placements.  What was to follow was a year of a lot of learning, a lot challenges and a lot of fond memories.

From the one desk I worked both jobs and from the one email inbox managed both job enquiries – called Jonny in one and Jonathan in the other so at times it did feel like I had a slight split-personality disorder.  My media days were Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, and marketing on the other two.  Of course it was impossible to switch off from either and I would constantly find myself trying to discreetly answer a call so that I wouldn’t annoy one boss over the other.  The way my time was negotiated and swapped around did at times feel like I was stuck in the middle of two divorced parents.

The media industry in Northern Ireland is an exciting and fast paced environment that seems to be ever-evolving.  I got to work on some amazing campaigns for the likes of Remus Uomo, Belfast International Arts Festival and Forestside Shopping Centre…and never a dull day in the office, even ended up as a last minute model in one of the campaigns for Forestside.

There is also a great social side to Belfast’s advertising world – and getting to be a part of PANI was amazing. It gave me the opportunity to network and form relationships with local suppliers. When I arrived at ASG, I was thrown in the deep-end and taken to my first event on day four of my placement, but everyone was so welcoming and it was great to get to know familiar faces over the year.

Webrecruit Ireland was a small team 5 and I worked as a marketing assistant under the direct leadership of the managing director.  What wasn’t made aware to me at the time of interviewing was that I was the only member of the marketing team and while a little daunting at first to learn that the companies marketing activities fell almost solely on my shoulders there was no time to panic.  It was my job to plan the social media calendar, email marketing and keep the website up-to-date among other ad-hoc duties – thank goodness for Google because it definitely helped me out of a few binds during the year.

While yes, my placement year did have its challenges, some of which I definitely wasn’t expecting – I wouldn’t change anything about the year.  It gave me a taste of two very different sides of the marketing communications industry and better prepared me for heading in to final year and beyond that into graduate employment.

For anyone thinking of skipping the opportunity to do a placement year I would definitely urge you to reconsider because the experience gained is too good an opportunity to turn down.


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