Dear Spotify, Thank you for the Ads.
Imagine this: It’s the end of a terrible day. You come home, put on your favourite party playlist. In the flash of a second, you’re suddenly vibing to classic Bollywood bangers, already feeling the endorphins spike.
Hips swinging, hair swaying, it’s a private concert now, trivial worries of the day have evaporated, and there’s a pleasant warmth in your temples as you lose yourself in the intoxicating beat that reminds you that life is good again, when—Mom, ek medium pizza mein 6 pieces kyu? Kyuki hum bhi 6 hai. And a family that eats together, stays together…But what about toto?
I think every music listener has been through this and can attest to the fact that it’s one of the most annoying experiences humanly possible. Not only are the ads infuriating, they dampen the high, and they are excessive. To such an extent that they are now engraved in the walls of my mind. Wake me up at 3 am and I’ll still be able to recite every word flawlessly. Not that it’s something to be proud of.
The panacea for this? Good old money. Though most of us get away with buying a Spotify premium, it is highly impractical to assume that everyone has the privilege and will to do so. Some still get coaxed into buying the package out of peer-pressure, even if it makes a hole in their pocket. But there’s a vast group of people who stand their ground and suffer silently, knowing that a better listening experience is just a few rupees away. Or is it?
What if I tell you that you’ve been squandering your money? What if I tell you that these ads, ironically, make your listening experience better?
Hear me out. A study at NYU’s Stern school proved just this. Subjects were shown 3 types of programs: Taxi episodes, nature documentaries and Bollywood shows. Some with ads, some without. By the end, subjects who had to endure ads reported greater enjoyment. Further study proved that the results were unaffected by the quality of the ads, showing that it was the ad itself, and not the content of the ad that improved viewer experience.
It seems quite ironic, doesn’t it? That you would pay extra money just to have a worse experience. But it stems from the fact that we don’t expect to enjoy interruptions, even though we eventually do end up enjoying them. But what is it about ads that gives them this potent power?
The answer: Hedonic adaptation. It’s the phenomenon behind why your new job stops making you happy after a month, why lottery winners return to their emotional baseline eventually, and why losing weight doesn’t bring eternal happiness. In simple words, it’s our tendency to adapt to a stimuli. So much so that we start to treat it with indifference.
Eating your favourite dessert might bring waves of pleasure at first, but eventually the joy diminishes. With the second and third bite, you grow accustomed to the taste. And we can all agree that the tenth bite is nowhere near as good as the first, intoxicating one.
It’s no wonder that movies and music, too, follow the same trajectory. Your favourite song may instantly lift your mood, but, played over and over again, your brain stops responding to the stimuli. Until you’re interrupted by an ad. The next song spikes up your happiness levels again, making the experience more gratifying in general.
So the next time an ad decides to cut in on your dance party or break your meditative trance, take a deep breath and thank Spotify for thwarting hedonic adaptation instead.
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