An outdoor ad people actually look forward to? Why Spotify ‘Wrapped’ is so successful
The music streaming platform has been rolling out its annual marketing campaign since 2016. For The Drum’s Out-of-Home Deep Dive, we look at why it works so well.
Spotify Wrapped 2022 / Spotify
Every December, we Spotify users can’t wait to show everyone on social our ’Wrapped’ results, laughing together at our collective cringe-worthy music habits as we see in black and white (or in bright green, pink, purple and orange this year) exactly what we’ve been listening to and just how often.
The success of this widely shared marketing campaign, according to AMV BBDO creative partner Tim Riley, is down to the fact “it talks to us about the thing we find most fascinating in the world – ourselves”. He’s joking, but only slightly.
This year’s campaign got even more personal with the introduction of ‘listening personalities’ and detailing how our tastes change throughout the day. The campaign’s out-of-home elements (for many people, just as exciting as the personalized experience) were also amped up this year, with a huge focus on interactivity through quizzes, word searches and dot-to-dots.
Riley admits that he wasn’t massively impressed with 2022’s OOH efforts, however, telling us: “Let’s be honest, even though this work deliberately sets out to involve the reader, I think some of the previous campaigns did it better, simply by using funny, insightful lines.” And when you remember back to billboards with lines such as ‘Dear person who played Sorry 42 times on Valentine’s Day. What did you do?’ and ‘Skip dinner invites from the people who added these songs to their cooking playlists,’ he may well have a point.
Nonetheless, there’s no denying that, at a time of year when we once looked forward to seeing a Coca-Cola truck or a big retailer’s Christmas ad (before they all started coming out in October!), we’re now waiting about for some out-of-home spots from a streaming service to pop up in cities around the world with a load of clever copy. Clearly the campaign is working.
Going back to Riley’s favorites, he says WhoWotWhy’s work from a few years back that included ‘1979, London calling. 2019, conference calling’ and ‘1995, Smashing Pumpkins. 2019, smashing avocados’ were unbeatable. “No gimmicks. No images. Just empathy, insightfulness and well-chosen words. Loved that work.”
Of course Riley is no stranger to long-running, universally applauded outdoor ads, AMV BBDO being behind The Economist’s famously witty, white on red billboards. “You just have to make it good,” is how he rather simply explains the secret of a successful OOH campaign.
“People appreciated the wit. They liked it when they ‘got’ some of the more lateral executions.” He even recalls people writing their own and sending them to the magazine, adding that the project was “interactive before interactive was a thing”.
Unfortunately, he thinks OOH is “poorly used these days,“ but adds: ”Spotify is one of the very few brands to recognize and successfully exploit the potential of outdoor – we should all be making more of it as a medium.”
Rapp UK’s chief creative officer Al Mackie isn’t quite so sold on Spotify. “I’m not convinced ’Wrapped’ is best experienced as an OOH moment,” he says. “For me, the idea comes to life in mobile where Spotify walks you through your diary for the year. It’s a brilliant customer experience enabled by the brand.”
He does agree, however, that people love sharing personal snippets of their lives with other people and that’s what makes the campaign so successful overall. ”My first boss was adamant that a customer’s favorite subject will always be themself and flattery will get you everywhere.”
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When it comes to ’Wrapped’, he says, ”the smartest bit for me is the value exchange – the more you use the product, the more you get to look forward to the roundup.” He says Peloton has similarly tried to home in on this tactic, where the more rides you do the more data you will be shown at the end of the year. What Spotify has in its favor, though, is the nostalgia that comes with music. ”It has the ability to transform you back to that moment. My top song this year is the one we always seem to play in the kitchen at the end of the night when someone says ‘we’ll just have one more’.”