These Painfully Accurate Spotify Ads Want You to Get Back to Raging, Not Just Aging

Brilliant U.K. campaign celebrates the contrasts of being Gen X

Spotify hopes to rekindle nostalgia for the heady days of the '80s. Spotify
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Generation X has been hiding in plain sight for years now. Today’s culture war is typically divided into two camps: fist-shaking Boomers who hate socialism but love Medicare, and millennials staring alongside Gen Z into a future that somehow promises to be both unaffordable and apocalyptic.

We Gen Xers, however, are just kind of stuck in the middle—born too late to enjoy the best stuff, but likely to die too early to endure the worst stuff. I mean, you know it’s a bad sign when the only Gen X headlines you ever see are ones about how everyone has forgotten Gen X.

But not Spotify! The streaming service is currently running one of its best outdoor campaigns ever—which is saying something, given the brand’s history of hilariously specific billboards—and it’s aimed squarely at teens of the ’80s and ’90s.

The “Listen Like You Used To” campaign, from London agency Who Wot Why, contrasts the way today’s 40s-50s crowd enjoyed music back in their youth versus the comfortably bland realities of today.

Here’s a closer look at some of the executions:

“What we love about Spotify is they totally get the art of great, punchy copywriting with a strong and provocative subject,” says Sean Thompson, a founder and creative strategic partner at Who Wot Why. “The headlines leap off of the billboards and smack you right between the eyeballs.”

The out-of-home ads are running throughout Britain, with media being handled by UM. There are video versions of some of the copy lines, as well:

Spotify head of marketing in the U.K., Olga Puzanova, said in a statement about the campaign that Who Wot Why captured the perfect tone both for Spotify and its target audience.

“The chemistry with Who Wot Why was immediate,” she said. “They get our brand, they get our tone of voice and, like us, are passionate about using creative storytelling to create and shape human connections.”

While most of the ads will appeal to ’80s and ’90s music lovers on either side of the Atlantic, some are certainly specific to British (or at least Anglophile) audiences, like this one referencing the phenomenon of U.K. Levi’s ad mascot Flat Eric:

The campaign’s specific goal was to connect with any viewers who were teens between 1979 and 1999. The brand says its research has found that people’s musical tastes as teenagers largely set their preferences into adulthood, meaning that if you enjoyed that Spice Girls CD in 1996, you’re probably still going to find it’s a banger in 2019.

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@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."