Netflix has been in the news recently: for losing 200,000 subscribers in the first part of 2022, and having announced the possibility of cheaper Netflix plans – but with ads.

Before we heave a collective groan and bid goodbye to the days of uninterrupted viewing (still available, but at a premium), let us be reminded that not all ads are bad ads. In fact, Netflix itself has done a ton of successful advertising campaigns in the past for its shows that are – dare I say it, interesting.

From bus stop ads to inspired food collabs, the sky’s the limit when it comes to these creative Netflix ad campaigns. 

1. Altered Carbon 

This popular sci-fi show highlights a cyberpunk world where the human consciousness can be “downloaded” into different bodies, known as “sleeves”. That means you can, if you’re rich, effectively live forever.

Altered Carbon Netflix AdImage credit: Netflix

That futuristic concept might be disturbing – and so was the marketing done for the show. Bus stops in Hollywood showcased billboard adverts containing plastic-wrapped mannequins as spotted in the series. While shocking to commuters, it definitely caught eyeballs and even blew up on the news. 

Another note-worthy marketing effort for Altered Carbon was at a tech convention in Las Vegas. Here, Netflix secretly set up a booth under “company” Psychasec, where hosts in all-white showed off artificial bodies you could trade up to in a few years. Sounds fishy? Unbelievable? Strangely familiar? Well, you betcha as it turns out it was a very convincing Netflix marketing stunt. And thankfully, not real – for now.

2. Narcos 

Hit crime Netflix series Narcos follows the tales of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, who pretty much lorded over Colombia with his cocaine kingdom. 

And while we don’t promote drugs, we must say that agency We Are Social did a solid promotion of the show by partnering up with language app Babbel. The goal? To teach folks how to speak Spanish – just like the show’s characters, and even in situations shown on the series. The demo concluded with a prompt to leep learning Spanish or to watch more Narcos.

Another creative way Netflix marketed the show was in the most apt of places: nightclub bathrooms in the US. Here, messages were incepted into strategic locations where customers in the 90s could have been using the cocaine that the Cali Cartel disseminated. 

Narcos Netflix AdImage credit: Adweek

Creative…and definitely drew attention beyond Pablo Escobar to the Cali Cartel, which was a key focus of the show in later seasons.

3. Squid Game

“Mugunghwa kkochi piotsseumnida…”

Recall when this Korean childhood song struck fear in our hearts, thanks to hit survival drama Squid Game. And if you were fascinated by the plot – 456 financially desperate people playing life-threatening childhood games to win a pot of gold, you might have yearned to play the games yourself, minus the deadly bit.

Squid Game Itaewon Station Activation Netflix Ad
Image credit: Netflix 

The closest you could get was probably at Itaewon subway station in Seoul, where a pop-up set installation drew attention to the drama, complete with a pastel coloured playground and the iconic robot doll. Here, visitors could win Squid Game merch via games or creating posts on social media – a super smart way to create buzz for the brand.

The show also blew up with smart ad campaigns by brands who did some Squid Game trendjacking: from honeycomb challenges to the iconic shapes-based “invite card” popping up everywhere in digital and physical marketing. 

One thing’s for sure, Squid Game achieved virality due to its memeable nature, a pro tip for marketers out there wondering how to make campaigns stand out.

4. Stranger Things 

For fans of Stranger Things, you’d be no stranger (*cough*) to the fascinating, eerie alternate dimension known as the Upside Down. Netflix knows that full well and drummed up interest in the series’ later seasons with a collab with Burger King, releasing food items like the Upside Down Whopper in the US and Upside Down Coke in London.

Burger King Stranger Things Netflix Collaboration AdThe packaging was also in the 80s style – in the spirit of Stranger Things.
Image credit: Burger King

Coca Cola Stranger Things Netflix Collaboration Ad
Image credit: Coca Cola

Closer to home, Netflix Singapore put a fresh spin on promoting the show by featuring our very own Yishun in a video promo. It referenced Stranger Things elements like colourful lights and shadowy monsters, while making a comedic jab at Yishun, which has been in the spotlight for crime and dodgy activities. 

5. Money Heist

Money Heist is one of the most addictive Spanish shows to ever hit TV screens, which focuses on a group of thieves out to carry a very ambitious heist. Netflix’s global ad campaigns for the show has had our hearts pumping too, with everything from unique launch events to fun musical collabs.

For instance, Netflix invited fans and influencers to a show in Madrid, only to ‘trap’ them on a play as hostages by the crew from Money Heist. Smart move on their part, as it also prevented any spoilers being leaked.

Our neighbour across the Causeway also created a memorable Spotify playlist that remixed the addictive theme song “Bella Ciao”, inviting popular singer Yuna and even the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra to lend their voices and talents.

Creative Netflix ad campaigns to be inspired by

As these ads goes to show, people don’t hate ads, they just dislike bad ads. And with Netflix proving their mettle in creating interesting past online and offline campaigns that garner eyeballs, we for one won’t be too worried as they move towards an ad-supported model. 

Whether you’re gonna opt for uninterrupted bingeing or the occasional ad pop-up in the future, Netflix is at a crossroads for sure, and hopefully, they can prove yet again that they’re still a market leader in creativity as we move towards a more ad-friendly future.

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Cover image adapted from: Netflix


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