We’re always being advertised to, but there are ways to get some solace from the bombardment of product placement. Spotify, for example, allows users to pay $10 a month to stream music to their heart’s content with no commercial interruption. Apparently, this was too much for KFC to handle, so it partnered with Dubai marketing firm Memac Ogilvy to bring ads to Spotify Premium.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Ads have their place. This website is funded by ad revenue. However, you get to read our articles for free. Sometimes we have an affiliate link or two that generate extra income as well. However, the key here is that we don’t ask you for money and then expect you also to tolerate ads.
That’s supposed to be the idea behind Spotify. Either stream for free and support the service by listening to ads, or pay for Premium for an ad-free experience. However, KFC Arabia’s ad campaign bypassed Spotify’s business model by paying three regional artists, Flipperachi, Moh Flow, and Shébani, to deck their profiles out in images and references to the new Kentucky Burger.
The three artists added images of the Kentucky Burger to their profile pics and backgrounds as well as their album covers. Their playlists were changed to say things like:
- Come and Visit
- Get it
- Before It’s Too Late
References to the Kentucky Burger were also added to the artist’s bios and events pages. The following example is from Shébani’s about page with emphasis placed on the additions made for the ad campaign:
“Born and raised in Dubai, the Iraqi singer-songwriter carved out the beginning of her musical career performing across almost every local venue in the city. With her guitar in one hand and the New Kentucky Burger in the other, she quickly racked up a string of shows juggling between playing covers and a handful of originals, in hopes of seeing what her next step would be. Reaching what she ultimately felt was a plateau in her journey, she soon decided to undertake in creating her first official release with Dubai-based producer Rayan. She also partnered with the New Kentucky Burger that embarked her into a new and original direction and sailing into a significantly unexplored genre of music and campaign in the Middle East. It wasn’t long before the spirit of her first EP, “Alter Ego” came to life. These special ingredients certainly make her unique in the region. Bringing her childhood inspirations to the forefront of her music and burgers, whilst discussing themes often subdued, Shébani represents the first female singer-songwriter to embrace the challenges of modern day relevance through music and other performances, and finding her inspiration in a juicy burger to write songs. To be honest, we believe she is singing her way to success.”
Bypassing the ad restriction on Spotify Premium on the sly is terrible enough, but Memac Ogilvy was flippant about it. A PR shot of the campaign (via The Drum) showcases the ads and touts them as “the first campaign ever on Spotify Premium.” The same shot adds, “We found a way to place ads in Spotify Premium: Using the artist’s profiles as our own media space.”
We can’t really blame the artists here for “selling out” here. All three hover at under 100,000 monthly listeners, so it’s not surprising they’d jump at the chance to work with a large brand like KFC.
— Ishana Tolani (@Ish_tolani) February 1, 2020
Maybe even more cringey than the ad itself is Memac Ogilvy Group Account Director Ishana Tolani‘s posts on Twitter concerning the campaign. These appear to be her pretending that she doesn’t work for the company in an attempt to drum up some viral support.
Haha now that’s clever advertising! @Spotify claims no ads on Spotify Premium, but looks like @kfcarabia still managed to make their way in! @SpotifyArabia least it’s uninterrupted and finger lickin’ good at the same time! #advertisingthatworks #spotify #kfc pic.twitter.com/JcV6YRgOdp
— Ishana Tolani (@Ish_tolani) January 30, 2020
This campaign might seem harmless, but it shows that Memac Ogilvy and KFC don’t have any respect for the people who pay for Spotify Premium, expecting an ad-free experience. It’s obvious this was meant to be some sort of viral marketing, and we were all supposed to praise KFC for their quirky “hacking” of Spotify. Fortunately, it seems to have fallen flat, and there’s little mention of it online. It’s worth noting, though, because it sets a precedent that companies may exploit. This could lead to more aggressive marketing attempts targeting Spotify Premium users.
So far, this campaign seems very short-term. Two of the artists, Flipperachi and Moh Flow, have removed the ads from their profiles. As of writing, Spotify hasn’t officially commented on the KFC ad campaign.