Diversifying Netflix’s Content Strategy
We all know Netflix has an infinite array of diverse films and shows. But why?
Having disrupted first the video store industry, then the DVD industry, and then the cable industry, Netflix is now known for its high-volume on-demand entertainment streaming. With a $12 Billion production budget and outposts around the world, Netflix’s success is epic, but also problematic. Companies like Disney and Apple are moving into streaming digital entertainment, and much of Netflix’s content is licensed from studios now building their own streaming platforms. Even with hundreds of original shows in production, Netflix knows that the near future will feature more competition from huge and beloved brands. What will Netflix be known for once its flagship shows are reclaimed by studios creating their own platforms?
Netflix is more than a red cipher with a mnemonic, but beyond trailers for new shows, people don’t know what this company stands for. It is neither a premiere content destination like HBO, nor a free-for-all like Youtube. At a time when brand ethics are in the cultural crosshairs, brand loyalty can be very, very fickle. What can one of the most well known, most disruptive companies in the world say about itself?
Netflix is a big presence in a lot of people’s lives, but they think of it as one long stream of shows and movies. How could we talk to Netflix’s audience about why it exists in the first place? People will comment on a show like Orange Is the New Black, but rarely do they comment on Netflix’s commitment to diversity—racial, gendered, cultural, creative, sexual, religious, and narrative. At a time when the headlines (in pre-George Floyd 2018) are alight with #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, #oscarssowhite, and #grammyssomale, the film industry remains shockingly un-diverse. But with a proven track record of developing shows by and about women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and others marginalized from the creative industries, this seemed like an opportunity for Netflix to do a little more disrupting once again. We all talk a lot about “diversity and inclusion,” but we wanted to make a case for more than “affirmative action”—we wanted to make the case for what diversity brings to all of us when we share creative and economic space with the talented artists, actors, writers, comedians, producers, directors, and composers who don’t have a guaranteed seat at the table. “Make Room” is a reflection not just of Netflix’s approach to film and show making, but an argument for why diversity is good for business, for entertainment, and for humanity.
Could Netflix’s “disruptor” DNA be channeled to increase awareness and model actual social and economic opportunity for the film industry?
Rather than politicizing the effort, we wanted to find a way to talk to everyone—from the viewers to the producers to the writers and the studio heads—and bring them in to the conversation. We wanted them to think more deeply about WHY diversity is good, beyond the obvious representation issues. Under the banner of “Make Room,” we could talk about the need to make room in the industry, but also that making room creates advantages: creative room, innovative room, room for new genres, new voices, and new stories that people love and connect with. But talk, even about diversity, is cheap. As a female-founded agency, our vision was to create a film featuring and made by those underrepresented in the industry: Women, people of color, LGBTQ, those from other countries, and those whose talents have been historically seen as less valuable…like people over 30! Using Netflix talent to tell the story, we enlisted “Orange is the New Black’s” Uzo Aduba as our “she-ro”, genre breaking comedian Hannah Gadsby, and the indigenous Mexican star of Oscar nominated “Roma,” Yalitza Aparicio. We highlighted diverse shows from Netflix, brought on an African-American director, female creative and strategic teams, a female editor, worked with a woman-led production company, and “made room” while making “Make Room.”
Netflix “Make Room” Spot
We also suggested ways to make even more room at film premieres, festivals, or large industry events like the Oscars by creating spaces for minority publications and photographers at the front of the velvet rope, and a social strategy that included asking actors, directors, writers and other industry icons “Who made room for you?,” creating a relay of posts thanking and honoring those who’ve helped others break in to the industry.
The Day After
When you feel strongly about something, it’s easy to generate conversation. But that’s not enough. Brands, just like people, have to stand for something. As people, discrimination takes away everyone’s humanity. As consumers, discrimination denies us exposure to the brilliant talent that could captivate, delight, challenge and educate us. Our film asks people to identify with a sense of being left out, of being discriminated against, and ends with a promise that if you want to seek out new voices and new stories, they’re on Netflix, looking for you. This is what we mean when we say we want our work to be sustainable—that there is always a reason for what we do, and there is always a drive to keep working long after the original work is done.
Behind the Scenes
“Make Room” is Netflix’s most successful brand campaign to date from an earned media perspective.
Within the first two weeks:
total owned organic impressions.
impressions were on the first day.
Clio Entertainment | Social Media 2019
Clio Entertainment | Brand & Program Identity 2019
Campaign US | Inclusive & Creative Award 2019
Comm Arts | Advertising Annual 2019
Rosey Award 2019
The Oprah Magazine | March 1, 2019
Netflix’s “Make Room” Video Starring Uzo Aduba Will Make You Feel Seen
HuffPost | March 4, 2019
Netflix Issues Impassioned Statement in Response to Steven Spielberg and Oscars Backlash
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