We’re all at the mercy of big data. Our online purchasing patterns, social media interactions and internet browsing habits make us vulnerable to marketers. They use this vast sea of information to understand our instincts and behaviors which, depending who you ask, is both dreadful and exciting. For some people, big data evokes images of a “Black Mirror”-like dystopian world, while for others it is a beacon of the technologically possible.

Here are a few brands that recently have been up to more than just playing Big Brother. Instead, they’re using their data-mining abilities to entertain audiences through advertising.


In its latest billboard campaign, Spotify took all the data from its users’ most bizarre music-listening habits in 2017 and turned it into #2018Goals, a wide array of suggested New Year’s resolutions. Not only do these headlines and nuggets of user data make us laugh, they demonstrate how deeply embedded this streaming service is in our lives. We use its songs and playlists to relax, free our minds and be our true selves. Spotify respects the power of data in revealing our hidden and lovable quirks.


The act of eating is just as universal as listening to music. Seamless acknowledges this in its newest subway ad campaign about Special Instructions that its local restaurants have received from patrons to customize their orders. The cultural insight that many New Yorkers like to personalize their meals to a ridiculous degree practically wrote the entire ad copy for the campaign. Whether it’s an extra-burnt sandwich or organic mayonnaise, no order is too individualized for Seamless. “We’ll deliver anything but judgment,” the brand confidently states on YouTube. By scouring hundreds of data sets to humanize New Yorkers’ picky eating habits, Seamless has also effectively transformed its #HowNewYorkEats slogan into a big data project.


This full magazine spread by Utah ski resort Snowbird takes data-driven advertising to new levels. Snowbird spotlighted its one-star reviews, knowing that its steep chutes and tree wells might deter some but attract hordes of more adventurous skiers. The self-deprecating but confident tone seems to have been directly inspired by restaurants’ long-standing battle with negative Yelpers, whose complaints have often been turned into T-shirts for sale by the restaurant itself. Snowbird is a resounding example of how big data can bring out all sorts of brand personalities – even a mountain’s.


Companies are using their all-seeing, all-knowing programs to tap into the collective mood while still celebrating people’s eccentricities. They are drawing back the curtains on big data to show consumers their relationships with products in cutesy but clever ways. Much like art, these campaigns try to hold a mirror up to society. Brands will continue to harness the power of big data to make the world a small place. As Apple put it 33 years ago, “you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.” 


This piece was written in collaboration with ThoughtMatter Strategist Dylan Stiga.

Image Credits: Black Mirror Cover Photo // Spotify 2018 Goals Campaign // Seamless Subway Ad Photos by Jason Lombardo, Martha Kirby and Shivani Gorle // Snowbird Ad // Apple 1984 Athlete

More Thoughts.

  • 212.994.8500

  • 27 West 24th Street, Suite #600 New York, New York 10010