The Audacity of Spotify’s Ad Campaign

The advertising campaign rolled out by Spotify in 2018 is bold.

For those that may not be part of the popular crowd, Spotify is the go-to music streaming subscription service. Launched in 2008, the company offers both a free streaming service (with ads) or a premium account (without the ads). It’s the best $9.99 that I spend all month.

Spotify is not without controversy. Music artists have been sounding a rally cry for years, arguing the site does not offer them acceptable compensation for their music. These artists have a valid point. At the end of the business day, artists on Spotify make less then a $1 per song that has been streamed. Taylor Swift, famous pop music icon, dramatically withheld her entire music catalog from the site (and others) in an effort to bring this debate on to the main stage. Ultimately, in 2016, the artist released all of her music onto the site.


Fast forward to 2018. Spotify has unveiled their audacious ad campaign. My 8th grade students would describe it as “savage.” Because that is exactly what it is. The campaign features a variety of huge billboard-size posters that both insult and flatter the customers that are streaming music on their site. Using images like Ed Sheeran, and taking bold political stances, Spotify effectively taps into their target audience.

Who is their audience? Based on the political boldness of some of their advertisement copy, I can tell you who isn’t their target audience: the conservative Right. This ad campaign promotes the ideals and values of the liberal Left – from taking jabs at Pence and his anti-gay stance, to mocking former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. It is a bold statement for a company to make. It is also an effective one for a company whose target audience is teenagers and college students.

Spotify’s new ad campaign is a great combination of pathos and logos – those terms that may sound vaguely familiar if you ever took a high school or college writing class. The ads create a powerful connection with the target audience, both through an appeal to humor and an appeal to the human desire to be “cool”. Spotify’s ad campaign makes so many references to current music that a person feels cool because they manage to identify them all. Something that I bet your grandmother can’t do. But the music streaming company does more than just appeal to their consumer’s emotions, they also present data in an entertaining and effective way. It is strangely fascinating to learn that “3,445 people [streamed] the ‘Boozy Brunch’ playlist on a Wednesday.” The marketing team at Spotify does a great job using statistical data in a way that appeals to humor and to their audience demographic.

The 2018 ad campaign at Spotify is also an intense study in the power of kairos – that idea that powerful rhetoric must pay attention to the right place and time to present an argument. Spotify takes full advantage of the political climate in America. The boldest billboard savagely takes a swing at Vice President Mike Pence. The ad references a playlist called “Daddy Pence, Come Dance.” To add to the political dig at our country’s VP, the billboard visually showcases a gay pride flag waving in the background – a direct call-out to Pence’s stance against the rights of gay people in America. It is a timely and powerful message.


People have taken notice. AdWeek calls the campaign “one of the most delightful deployments of user data in advertising today” and focuses their analysis on how much Spotify has improved on the ad campaign they used in 2017 (that followed the same user-data model). Spotify CMO, Seth Farbman told Creativity Online that the campaign is meant to invoke “a spirit of hope and optimism.” By providing consumers with a light-hearted advertising campaign, Spotify successfully takes some of the seriousness out of the current pop culture climate. They have provided us, using their billboards, with a good laugh.


Musings on the Immigration Debate

Since taking the oath of office, President Donald Trump has met with numerous controversies regarding policy and law. One of the most urgent – immigration reform – has become a hotbed of debate. Currently, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been unable to reach an agreement about the changes that need to be made to America’s immigration policy.

Aviva Chomsky, an academic and historian who also happens to be the daughter of political activist Noam Chomsky, has entered her voice into the debate over immigration. In her article, “Dividing Immigrants into Good and Evil is a Dangerous Game” republished on the Nation’s website, Chomsky delineates the current debate on immigration from a political and historical perspective in order to effectively criticize the Trump administration.

Chomsky begins her article by describing the current state of immigration policy reform in the United States, stating that “the immigration debate seems to have gone crazy”. This use of subjective language sets the reader up to view all the information that Chomsky presents about the struggle to reform immigration policy as just that: crazy. This has the effect of placing her audience on the side of the Liberal left. However, based on Chomsky’s conversational tone when discussing the negative aspects of both Trump and the Republicans that support him – the reader gets a sense that she knows that her audience was already on her side.

In order to show just how wrong Trump and Republicans are in regards to how they view immigration, Chomsky uses select quotations to prove her point. Taken out of direct context, there is rhetorical power in showcasing Trump’s “sweeping references to ‘foreign bad guys’ and ‘shithole countries’.” This evidence of Trump’s racist speech helps to support Chomsky’s main argument – that current immigration debate is just fuel for the racist opinions that currently hold power in government.

Chomsky’s observations of the state of immigration debate is not confined just to her words. The accompanying image to the article is a picture of ICE police agents handcuffing an (illegal) immigrant. While the audience is not privy to the face of the arrested individual in the picture, it is clear that this person is not of the Nordic blond and blue-eyed persuasion. This image helps to drive home the fear that Chomsky builds into her rhetoric by calling attention to the threats posed by ICE agents to turn America into a police state. Chomsky describes this “concept of criminality” being taken to “new heights” by ICE agents, with the intent to escalate her audience into perhaps taking a more active role in defending the rights of immigrants.

One of the points of Chomsky’s article that she executes effectively is to draw attention to the misuse in government and the media of the term chain migration. She unabashedly calls out both Democrats and Republicans for their misuse of the word. For the benefit of her audience, who may be on the Left but may lack historical background, Chomsky provides the socio-historical background of the term and how its place in immigration policy has led to a systemized racism towards Mexicans and other Latino groups attempting to immigrate to the United States. Chomsky places this distinction between family unification and chain migration as the crux of her rhetorical analysis of the immigration debate. It is with this quasi-history lesson that Chomsky is able to direct the rhetoric back to her main goal: placing a spotlight on the racist Trump administration.

The article ends with Chomsky calling out Trump and his overuse of the concept of threats to national security for what it is, claiming that with the administration’s view on immigration policy “race has again reared its head explicitly.” It is clear from the audience for this article that Chomsky knew she was presenting information to fellow liberals and anti-Trump Democrats, however her sense of urgency as portrayed in evidence and word choice presents a powerful level of exigency regarding the current debate on immigration.