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Why Spotify is NBC’s secret weapon to promote ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’

The show’s unique tie to music—and broadcasters’ increasing need to go multiplatform—made it a perfect marketing matchup.

Why Spotify is NBC’s secret weapon to promote ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’

What makes the namesake playlist so extraordinary in NBC’s new drama series Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is the fact it exists entirely in the lead character’s head. She hears people’s innermost thoughts, but she hears them expressed in song. Whatever you think of this Glee-meets-What Men (or Women) Want premise, it’s a natural fit for some serious music marketing tie-ins.

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NBC Universal unleashed a full-court, multiplatform marketing press when it made the first episode available across more than 20 platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Bustle, and Playbill. But its most in-depth and interesting is with Spotify, an obviously natural fit for such a music-centric show, but not a platform that plays nicely with hard-sell advertising. Spotify reported last week that 124 million people pay upwards of $10 a month to avoid ads (this is a global number; Spotify does not release a U.S.-only statistic for its premium members), so the platform takes special pains to make sure any branded partnerships are led with content that people will actually want and like.

[Image: courtesy of Spotify]
So with NBC, Spotify not only created content utilizing its vaunted discovery engine but also incorporated video streaming for the first time with an entertainment marketing partner, allowing users to watch the show on Spotify itself. Spotify users can access tracks from the first three episodes in advance of them airing. The playlist will update automatically as subsequent episodes air. Now through February 16, you can also go to a Spotify-created microsite and enter your birthday and favorite genre of music to get a custom soundtrack of your life. The show will also temporarily take over one of Spotify’s top stations during the week leading up to its premiere, similar to how Jordan Peele took over the Film & TV Favorites playlist last year to help promote Us.

Kjerstin Beatty, NBC Universal’s SVP of media, says that while Spotify was a rather obvious partner for a show like this, it’s also a platform that lets the network access a younger demographic than traditional TV marketing channels typically reach these days. “As we thought about Zoey and how to launch it, we knew given the nature of the show that music was endemic, and we should be looking for a partner that will reach the audience who will watch it, and that allows us the creative freedom to put stuff together in a compelling and meaningful way,” says Beatty. “A lot of what we did in creating our little hub was a first, and we just felt like Spotify is the leader in the streaming audio space and reaches a younger demo, which is something we aren’t reaching with our owned platforms.”

[Image: courtesy of Spotify]
The partnership is not the first that Spotify has had with entertainment marketers, and it’s sure to be faaaaar from the last. The company now has a dedicated team across departments that are focused on working with studios, networks, and creators on content such as this. “The nature of the show and contextual relevance within music allows for creativity and authenticity within the experience itself around music discovery,” says Spotify’s head of North American sales, Brian Berner. “The balance is between the storyline and how it’s rooted in music. You’re still trying to create awareness for the show by showing the trailer, but you start with the music insights first, to get people interested. Everything else is testing and learning through the content and seeing how users respond.”

Broadcast and cable TV are increasingly finding novel ways to extend their shows to other platforms, whether in podcasts as HBO has done with Watchmen and McMillions, or as NBC is doing here with Zoey. Entertainment marketing has caught up with consumer marketing’s long-held belief in (and often misguided execution of) an always-on mentality. Building engagement beyond the show itself aims to ensure fans—now inundated with more content choices than ever before—stay interested.

“That just speaks to an overall marketing trend, which is to know people aren’t going to watch a show when we tell them to watch it,” says Beatty. “For us, shows like Zoey, with a younger audience appeal, it’s important that we have a mechanism to keep them engaged—and find them in the first place. There’s just so much competition, we need to make sure whatever we do is always on, to some degree, as much as we can.”

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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