Culture Hack

Confessions of A Spotify Wrapped Fan: When Data Isn’t Creepy

It may come across as trite to work in advertising and say you love data-derived insight, but no Christmas present is as exciting to my data-driven brain these days as Spotify Wrapped. My listens and likes, clicks and repeats, crowd pleasers and guiltiest pleasures over the 12 month period, to be perused and shared at my leisure. 

I remain in awe of the teams that can weave emotion and storytelling from these raw metrics. The first song I played at the dawn of the decade. My musical aura. The song playing during my intense training montage. My most personal data transformed into a personalized narrative of my year’s highlights and heartbreaks.

In an era of growing distrust of big tech and the data-derived algorithms it deploys, this isn’t an easy feat to pull off. Much has been made of Facebook’s algorithm intentionally pursuing platform engagement at the expense of promoting polarization and extremism. Many LGBTQ Netflix users have commented with suspicion on the platform’s seemingly different approach to serving them content, even accused of unwittingly nearly outing an LGBTQ teenager to his family.

From the ad campaigns it’s been deploying since 2016, Spotify’s approach (arguably along with Pornhub) to making the algorithm personable through storytelling is what’s helped them stand apart; humanizing their brands in an increasingly tech-skeptical climate. Knowing when and how to use data to build fandom and deeper connection to the platform. A knowing, culture-forward tone of voice. A recognition that music streaming data can be a form of self-expression that illuminates what makes you unique and what connects you to others. For me the “3,749 people who streamed “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” on the day of the Brexit vote” is one that stands out as using streaming data to speak to a moment with a deft touch and levity.

Here’s hoping they’ll apply that same deft touch and levity to my Anita Baker fueled March.

-Ed Hunt