Pandora and Rapper YG Created a Call of Duty Playlist to Promote the Game’s Release

Campaign aims to reach millennial men

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Video game fans can thank the rapper YG for their next war game soundtrack.

To help promote the upcoming release of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, rapper YG has created a curated Pandora playlist. The soundtrack, part of a campaign for game maker Activision Blizzard, is part of a broader promotional push ahead of the game's release next month.

YG is one of several celebrity fans within the ranks of the war game's franchise, along with others including Cara Delevingne, Marshawn Lynch and Snoop Dogg. In a recording promoting the mix tape, YG explained why he likes the game and how he picked the songs.

"The songs I picked on my playlist either turn me up, put me in the mood, or have me thinking about life and my next move," he says. "And most importantly, they've moved the culture, or are moving the culture right now as we speak."

Musicians have been fairly present on Pandora, with about 80 percent of artists having some sort of social footprint on the platform. YG's own following is massive. In addition to his 8 million Pandora followers, the rapper has 1.1 million Twitter fans, 1.6 million YouTube subscribers, 2.5 million Instagram followers and 3.8 million Facebook likes.

The playlist will be promoted through Pandora's custom Artist Audio Messages product, along with other campaign assets through Pandora's mobile video and display ads. The Call of Duty campaign will also utilize Pandora's sponsored listening product, which allows listeners of the ad-supported model to receive four hours of uninterrupted listening by watching a Call of Duty trailer. The campaign will also be pushed across Pandora's own social channels.

Gaming and music seem to go hand in hand. According to Pandora, 84 percent of gamers using Pandora said they listen to music while playing. Call of Duty fans on the platform are even more likely, with 89 percent reporting listening to music while playing. (About 75 percent of total gamers said they listen to music to "get in the zone.")

According to Katherine Bowe, Pandora's executive director for entertainment and gaming, YG's one-to-one relationship with everyone listening to the station is attractive to advertisers.

"I think often times with these mix tapes, the audio piece is really one of the most exciting points to note," Bowe said. "Because you really have this conversation, almost, with the artist."

The campaign will be the first time a gaming brand is sponsoring a gaming-centric musician. And while gaming brands advertising on Pandora is still a fairly new vertical, entertainment has been growing quickly. Pandora has run campaigns for more than 800 entertainment brands so far this year, said Michael Chuthakieo, a regional vp at Pandora. That includes everyone from national advertisers like NBC and Universal Pictures to smaller markets like local TV stations.

Mobile scale has been one of the core drivers, with 85 percent of the company's total user base accessing the service through mobile devices. It also commands high market share of time spent. In July, it was the ranked by ComScore as third in terms of average monthly number of minutes per user—behind only Facebook and Google.

According to Caroline McNiel, vp of Global Media at Activision, the company has been using the platform for at least two years to increase engagement with the hard-to-reach target audience of millennial males. Past Pandora campaigns include promotions for a previous Call of Duty game, along with other Activision Blizzard brands such as Guitar Hero.

McNiel said attaching music makes a campaign feel more culturally relevant for both the brand and the artist.

"It's one of those things where it can really make you feel super excited or super sad as you're playing through a game," she said. "Even as you think of the soundtrack, it's well thought through for the type of game play, and it sets the emotional tone for the game."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.