Yes, Netflix, you missed your move

We’ve all been there – settled into another episode of our current binge, snuggled up on the couch, glass of wine in hand, and just when we begin truly relaxing into our evening, John B’s thrilling escape from Outer Banks authority is abruptly interrupted by, “Are you still watching?” 


A common annoyance among cord-cutters, this question can even be perceived as out-of-touch during a pandemic. As we’ve all begun running out of puzzles to do and bread recipes to try, we’ve turned to streaming. Netflix, in particular, has experienced record growth, boasting over 16 million new subscribers in Q1 alone.


Netflix survives off of the insight that consumers are willing to pay a premium for access to uninterrupted streaming. CEO Reed Hastings has even reassured shareholders and consumers that remaining ad-free is a deep part of the Netflix brand. And while free of traditional interruptions (advertisements), there certainly are opportunities for Netflix to market within its platform. 


As marketers, we often think about the best, and most natural ways to get in front of our consumers – to make a connection and create meaningful engagement. The ‘are you still watching’ screen not only obstructs content that consumers are already enjoying, but it can’t be ignored, and won’t go away without pressing ‘continue.’ That kind of placement is a marketer’s dream-come-true. And yet, Netflix has ignored the opportunity to turn that message from a common annoyance into something more meaningful. 


To simply disable the feature during stay-at-home orders would have been an effective way to address the current trend of increased entertainment consumption. An even better approach would have been for Netflix to use that space to address its audience directly. What if, after a few episodes, you were surprised by a message that read, “Thanks for keeping our communities safe by staying home and binging. If you’re not enjoying a well-deserved nap, please press continue”? This simple message would have seamlessly contextualized the current situation while acknowledging the recent surge in subscribers.


Moments like this remind us that in many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has separated the men from the boys in advertising. While some brands lazily hopped on the bandwagon with messages that almost unanimously started with ‘In these uncertain times,’ others seized their opportunities in creative ways. Where Netflix may have missed the mark, the following brands, among others, used their unique voices to comment on current human experiences in authentic ways. For instance:


  • Progressive used video conferencing to deliver a light-hearted message that all of us working from home can relate to
  • Guinness acknowledged its role in St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that was celebrated differently this year
  • DoorDash empowered consumers to support local restaurants through the use of its app
  • WalMart aimed to inspire and encourage with a montage of employees singing ‘Lean on Me.’ 


It’s really hard for brands to break through today. The advertising landscape is vast and cluttered by innumerable brands clamoring for attention. With that, there are only so many seamless, natural ways for brands to make that meaningful connection with consumers.

Unfortunately, Netflix opted for a series of one-off social posts, and neglected what could have been a really awesome way to optimize the experience for their users. 


And yes Netflix, until we can begin to enter back into our world together, I’ll still be watching. And will be reminded every few hours of an opportunity missed.


This blog originally appeared in MediaPost

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