Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ads In Books And The Future Of Advertising

For the second time in less than a year I left my Kindle in the seat sleeve of an airplane -  it's slim and weightless mass making is easy to misplace amidst the airsickness bag, shopping catalogs and previous passenger's trash.

Although this was a relatively inexpensive mistakes to make (more expensive than the 10 umbrellas and less expensive than the two phones lost during the same period), I couldn't bear to buy a third one at full price, opting for a new version priced at $119 ($25 less than the base model) that includes ads and special offers on the home page.

Even though I make my living in the advertising and media business, and have always been quite liberal in my views on when and where ad messages should appear (my own family and most of the tenants in my co-op stopped speaking to me when I proposed hanging a 10-story billboard on the back of the building to raise revenue), there have always been a few places even I deemed sacrosanct, and books were one of them.

But Amazon is one of the most successful and innovative companies in the world, rivaling even Apple in its repeated ability to actually mold consumer behavior around emerging new technologies.  The move for me to Amazon's e-reader from paper books last year was swift.  Just a few months before it became my primary reading source I was pretty adamant that I was a "real book in my hand" person.  But the convenience of accessing any book and downloading it in seconds was just too compelling.  All part of the steady march towards being able to consume any piece of media anywhere, at any time - with advertisers breathlessly trying to keep up.

Amazon's move to provide an "ad supported" discount represents just one small innovative move in what is becoming an epic transformation of the advertising business, well masked by the continued vibrancy of the 50-year-old, unchanged TV advertising marketplace.  Along with the power consumers are gaining over what they see and when, they are being given more choices of what ads they see (if any).  In environments where ad choice is not an option (TV in particular), advertisers are insisting on tools and platforms that provide more finely tuned targeting and accountable ROI.

It all leads to a much more mutually beneficial and comfortable relationship between consumers and advertisers. (Provided media companies and advertisers play above boards and squeaky clean with privacy protocol.)  I can listen to Pandora for free with ads or pay a monthly subscription and not see/hear any; and when I am exposed to ads, they will be relevant, based on my location and demo data gleaned from my listening patterns.

I can watch 30 Rock on TV with a full ad load, on Hulu with a smaller, more targeted load, or buy an entire season with no ads for $33.99.

I will see mini-van commercials in "The Bourne Supremacy" on TBS and my swinging neighbor will see ads for sports cars at the same time in the same movie.

And coming shortly, which is sure to cause quite a stir, ads in the actual books on the Kindle and other e-readers.  I'm sure they will be discreetly integrated into the reading experience, with an appealing discount attached.