Pandora Launches a Major New Ad Campaign as It Finally Gets Into On-Demand Streaming

But 'Sounds Like You' is about more than Pandora Premium

Pandora today launches a big new ad campaign heralding, in part, the launch of Pandora Premium, its long-awaited foray into on-demand music streaming. But the campaign goes beyond hyping Premium to emphasize the brand’s larger commitment to delivering a more personalized music-streaming experience, which Pandora has long seen as its real point of difference.

The digital and out-of-home campaign was created in-house, with some production and media strategy handled by DigitasLBi in San Francisco.

“It’s a big year for Pandora,” CMO Nick Bartle, who joined the company last fall from Apple, told Adweek. “We’re really excited about the launch of our Premium product. But this is really about reintroducing the entire company and driving interest with all three tiers of our service [including the ad-supported offering and Pandora Plus].”

The centerpiece of the new campaign is a series of 18 portraits that pair musicians, mirror-like, with a large letter P made up of the covers of albums that influenced them. The ads feature the line “Sounds Like…” along with the artist’s name, followed by the new tagline, “Sounds Like You.”

The ads cleverly perform the double duty of emphasizing the uniqueness of both the musician and the listener, and reinforce, on the brand level, the importance of nurturing that uniqueness through Pandora’s product features. Other materials further down the funnel in the campaign explain in more detail the products’ personalization features.

The letter P, referred to internally at Pandora as “the fat P,” was introduced last October as the new logo, part of a larger brand overhaul. The P has taken many forms, colors and patterns, and Bartle said he sees similar flexibility in the “Sounds Like…” line.

“One of the things I love about the line is that it’s versatile as the way we rebranded the logo,” he said. “The P takes many different forms to reflect all the different music that’s out there. We use the line in a similar way … sharing the sense that everybody is different, everybody has different musical tastes, and that’s a wonderful thing.”

See some of the portrait ads here:

The portrait ads will live on out-of-home billboards across the U.S. and online, where some versions will be animated. The 18 musicians in the ads all chose the album covers that would be featured, and they also curated playlists for the new service.

Here’s an animated version of one of Miranda Lambert’s portrait:

The out-of-home ads also feature a Snapchat Snap code that passersby can use to unlock that particularly artist’s “Sounds Like You” mixtape—which Pandora says is a first use of such codes on OOH ads.

“We handpicked all the out-of-home placements for impact and uniqueness throughout the U.S.,” said Christian Birk, managing director at DigitasLBi San Francisco. “The Snapchat codes are very exciting.”

In addition to the artist portraits, the campaign includes videos, directed by Michel Gondry, featuring four artists in particular—Big Sean, Gorillaz, Miranda Lambert and Questlove. Shot partly from the artist’s POV, they also highlight their unique taste and influences.

See some of the video work here:

Other videos will take a deeper dive into each artist’s background.

The campaign also includes various social media elements, including a custom Snapchat lens, canvas units on Facebook, carousels on Instagram, a custom emoji on Twitter, and an auto-response program on Twitter where users will get mixtape recommendations based on the emojis they tweet.

All this will be combined with influencer marketing and first-to-market artist programs with Pitchfork and Vice’s music channel Noisey.

The core target market for the campaign is consumers 18-34 who are key to the success of music streaming, Bartle said. Pandora is also targeting its own users, hoping they will upgrade from the free ad-supported service or the $5 a month Pandora Plus service. (Pandora Premium is $10 a month.)

Targeting existing users makes sense for Pandora in trying to play catch-up as a latecomer to the on-demand streaming space. Pandora has more than 80 million active monthly users, though fewer than 5 million paying users. By contrast, Spotify has more than 50 million paying users, and Apple Music over 20 million.

See more of the portrait ads below: