July 23, 2015
I didn’t expect to spend 5 minutes watching a commercial for an ecommerce startup, let alone enjoy it enough to share it with friends. But, Amazon competitor Jet.com produced a delightfully entertaining commercial that proves the financial underpinning of ad-based businesses don’t have to be an annoyance.
Jet.com, the hot new competitor to Amazon, hired HBO “Silicon Valley” comedian Kumail Nanjiani to perform a 5 minute semi-interactive standup routine explaining the ecommerce startup’s best features. “5-pounds of mayonnaise is a fundamentally ridiculous thing to buy. When you’re done with it, you can live inside the jar–7 years from now,” jokes Nanjiani, explaining how Jet.com uses pricing algorithms to offer warehouse-style pricing on typical grocery products.
I watched the entire ad (voluntarily), then clicked on the video at the end, when I was offered the chance to learn more about Jet.com from Nanjiani, who points to hyperlinks embedded in the Youtube video. It was basically a pitch deck disguised as a video and it managed to get me through the entire spiel.
The video, which was popular enough to land on the front page of Digg.com, is important not just for startups, but for the free web. The media industry, social networks (like facebook) and countless free web tools count on ads to work–they pay the bills for the tools many users enjoy for free.
The alternative to entertaining advertising is worse. As click-through-rates for many types of advertisements decline, websites are forced to become increasingly aggressive, with annoying popup ads, auto-play videos, and complicated tracking software that can slow web-page load times to a crawl. If people don’t voluntarily consume ads, companies are forced to get attention by any means necessary.
Jet.com’s model is hard to replicate. But, it can be done. Here’s to hoping that ads can be become less of an annoyance and welcome part of the web.
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