Audio ad for killer clown invades Spotify classical lullabies playlist

The image above is Pennywise the clown, from the 2017 movie It. Not an image we ever expected to place before RAIN readers. Likewise, a frightening audio commercial for the movie’s sequel wasn’t expected to play during the “Classical Lullabies” playlist on Spotify. At least, the mother who was lulling her young child didn’t expect it. But she got it, in what might be an example of an ad-tech targeting error, or a Spotify misjudgment of the playlist’s target audience.

We learned about this from Alan Cross’ wonderful blog, A Journal of Musical Things. The audio mishap is being covered in the UK press because of a parent, according to Wales Online.

The advertiser, Warner  Brothers, is taking heat for the placement, although the company says it specifically labeled the campaign as inappropriate for children. Spotify seems to be deflecting responsibility as well, noting that the “Classical Lullabies” playlist is not explicitly for children, according to reporting. That reasoning might ring false to some observers, but it is true that the lullaby is an established classical composition format, and any classical playlist could be reasonably targeted mainly to adults. Countering that reasoning, the playlists did include this track: Children’s Music No.1: I. Lullaby, 5 English Nursery Tunes and For Children Vol 1.

“Algorithms aren’t perfect, apparently,” Alan Cross concludes. That’s funny and has some truth to it. At the same time, targeting mishaps that gain publicity are exceptionally rare.

Also worth noting is Spotify’s longstanding interest in children’s programming that is set apart. As early as 2016 Spotify introduced Kinds & Family programming. More recently, the company began trials for a stand-alone kids app. That project was intro’d in October, and got a UK/Australia rollout last month. Evil clowns probably scrubbed out of the experience.


Brad Hill