As detailed by AdAge, on May 1, the music streaming service Spotify will give advertisers the ability to target ads to its tens of millions of users based on playlists that map to activities.

For instance, advertisers looking to reach active consumers can target the ‘workout’ playlist category. They will also be able to target users who are listening to playlists associated with particular moods. Available moods include happy, chill and sad.

According to Spotify’s VP of North America advertising and partnerships Brian Benedik “we’ve been able to aggregate this idea of launching playlists as a proxy for the activity or mood you’re in.” Thanks in large part to Spotify’s acquisition of music analytics platform The Echo Nest. 

Benedik says that Spotify has been testing its new activity and mood-based targeting with several brands over the past few months and calls it “a strategic evolution of the Spotify ads business.” 

Targeting users or targeting ads?

The idea of targeting users according to the activity they’re likely engaging in seems to make sense. It doesn’t seem far-fetched that a brand like Nike, for instance, could use this capability to effectively reach consumers who are more likely to be active.

The potential efficacy of mood-based targeting, however, doesn’t seem as direct.

AdAge’s Tim Peterson suggests that this would “let a brand like Coca-Cola play on its ‘Open Happiness’ campaign when people are listening to mood-boosting music” but it’s not clear why consumers who are listening to upbeat music would particularly respond to the campaign, just because they’re ostensibly more likely to be in a happy mood.

The message of the ad may seem aligned to the consumer’s mood, but it doesn’t necessary align to the consumer’s interests, needs or demographics.

While there is no doubt that new targeting capabilities like those offered by Spotify create exciting new avenues for advertisers to explore, brands should approach them thoughtfully. In some cases, these targeting capabilities will help brands reach the consumers they want to reach.

In others, they will probably only help brands figure out which campaigns to employ. Recognizing the distinction can be the difference between success and failure when using these new offerings.