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The Revolution Will Not Be Advertised

Happy birthday to Pandora, who turns 10 this week, according to TechCrunch. The service has had a spotty history, but has survived through the ever changing market. To celebrate, Pandora are treating their U.S. users, of which there are 175 million registered, a day of ad-free listening.

What is interesting is the placing of ad-free being a reward. Pandora customers are, broadly, the Middle. They are supposed to be the listeners who don’t mind the odd mainstream radio advertising. But someone has realised that even that audience could be enticed with something ad-free.

Talking to my students and others much younger than me, they (broadly) don’t mind ads, especially if it saves them money. But no one loves them, and it seems we are tapping into that ‘ad-free’ sentiment more and more. Is it enough to differentiate all these services?

How important will the ‘ad-free‘ message be in the new world? Advertising online is baked into the business of the biggest companies in the world – Google, Facebook and all their mates. Traditional advertising opportunities disappear and online advertising gets cleverer.

Netflix are making No Commercials a part of their new marketing campaign. YouTube is working on paid channels. Apple Music launched with no free, ad supported tier. The irony is those no commercial Netflix ads are playing as pre-rolls on YouTube. Advertising, online, is not only effective, it is going to be the only trick we have left.

We are placing the ad supported model into the uncool bin. And so many of these companies and services are desperate to play the cool card. Like the bloke who brags about his soundsystem, will some bloke be turning to his friend and saying – hear that? No ads between songs.

Cool, huh?

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