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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Streaming Ads Don't Have To Suck

I recently experienced my first non-film/show ad on Amazon Prime Video...


... and it was done exactly the way ads on streaming services should be done.


The ad started with a simple phrase, which I'm paraphrasing here: "Thanks to SkipTheDishes, the following program is ad-free after this message."


Then I had to watch one, 30-second spot... and that spot was entertaining.


To recap:


1. SkipTheDishes earned some goodwill by ensuring the show I wanted to watch could be viewed uninterrupted;


2. I only needed to watch a single ad, which I thought was a fair trade in exchange for an ad-free show;


3. The ad was good! So good, in fact, that I tried to rewind it to watch it again (and to get the exact phrasing of the simple phrase above for this post), but I wasn't able to do it because controls are disabled during ads.


Note to Amazon: if your advertisers are going to show good ads, you might want to enable the "rewind" button.


I hope Amazon was able to command an exclusivity-premium from SkipTheDishes in exchange for being the only advertisement shown, if only because that would encourage Amazon to ignore the temptation to earn more money by offering more ads.


Sure, it's possible (even likely, given ads were just recently introduced on the platform) that the "only ad shown" was the result of too much available ad inventory, but I maintain that Amazon creating artificial scarcity with advertisers by limiting the number of available commercial spots to one per show would be a win for all parties: higher revenue per ad for Amazon, higher attention per spot for the advertiser, and fewer forced-ads for viewers.


How can Amazon continue to make money with ads while also putting the viewer first?


Well, I can think of three things:



1. NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES SHOW ADS IN THE MIDDLE OF FILMS!


To a cinephile, that's absolute sacrilege. "This ad-free film is brought to you by X" should be the only model ever used for movies. For TV shows too, but ESPECIALLY for films.



2. Dramatically increase the level of personalization.


I watch TV content using my Amazon Fire Stick, and before I watch anything, I need to select my individual user profile. Amazon also knows everything I buy from them. I'd like them to combine those two packets of information to serve me hyper-relevant ads. Yes, I know we aren't there yet, and, yes, I know not everybody would like this -- so it should be opt-in -- but showing me a relevant ad makes having to watch the ad perfectly okay... and that should be the goal.



3. "Surprise and Delight" me!


It won't take me long for me to get used to watching ads before a show. Soon after, I'll learn to not start paying attention until a few minutes after I press "play".


But what if, every once in a while, Amazon surprised me with a message that said something like, "Here's your Attention Reward... scan this QR code in the next five seconds to get $5 off your next Amazon order!"


THAT might train us to pay close attention to the ads that pop up, which would benefit advertisers, which would benefit Amazon, which would be motivated to show more QR codes that benefit viewers.


(It would also be yet another way the company Bezos built could use popular entertainment to sell us more toilet paper.)


As it turns out, streaming ads don't have to suck.


Who knew?


A screenshot of a SkipTheDishes television commercial shown on Amazon Prime Video.

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