Netflix denies marketing tricks aimed at black audiences

Here’s one for conspiracy theorists….

Netflix is denying it is sneakily promoting its content to African-American audiences with poster imagery that misrepresents the degree to which black actors appear in them.

One subscriber pointed out that images shown to her were dominated by black performers even when they weren’t prominent in casts, suggesting it was a trick to lure her into viewing.

Other users found different imagery for the same titles including Like Father, Jason Bourne and Monster in Law.

But Netflix says imagery is not determined by personal demographics and its algorithm is based on personal behaviour during a user’s experience.

“We don’t ask members for their race, gender or ethnicity so we cannot use this information to personalise their individual Netflix experience. The only information we use is a member’s viewing history,” it said.

On its tech blog, Netflix goes into some detail to outline its imagery strategy.

“Someone who has watched many romantic movies may be interested in Good Will Hunting if we show the artwork containing Matt Damon and Minnie Driver, whereas, a member who has watched many comedies might be drawn to the movie if we use the artwork containing Robin Williams, a well-known comedian,” it notes.

“A member who watches many movies featuring Uma Thurman would likely respond positively to the artwork for Pulp Fiction that contains Uma. Meanwhile, a fan of John Travolta may be more interested in watching Pulp Fiction if the artwork features John.”

Via: SBS


  1. In my opinion the method of listing entertainment selections is still a bit of mess on Netflix, any novice user will find boldly promoted recent and popular releases but searching further can become a bit daunting unless you know exactly what title you want and that it is available in Australia, Netflix have hundreds of titles that most paying subscribers will never know about unless they spend some time researching all Netflix content, surely a full list of content with a genre search facility should be part of the side menu introduced with a recent Netflix home page update, Netflix always promotes itself keeping ahead of the competition with tech investment and formats but still hides most of its content.

  2. I had a similar discussion to this with my partner recently. I’m a gay man and watch a bit of LGBT content on Netflix. I regularly get thumbnails on more mainstream shows showing the only LGBT character or of a hot guy with no shirt on. I don’t see the problem to be honest, it’s just a streaming product trying to hold people’s eye balls.

  3. I’m quite impressed with this marketing strategy, though I personally dislike “targeted” promotions as I tend to be bombarded with ads for products that I already own (which is a waste of money for the company targeting me with such ads), or products/content of a similar theme that I otherwise have no interest in.

    The Love Actually image with Kiera Knightley’s on-screen husband is a laughable (and blatantly disingenuous) stretch though, considering that the character’s role in the film is almost nonexistent.

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