Part of the attraction of online advertising is that you can change the ads anytime, including the content of the ads and the advertisers, and you can make them contextual. So far that kind of advertising has escaped digital content like ebooks and streaming shows and movies, but a patent from Amazon indicates that may change.
"Content developers, producers, publishers, distributors and the like seek to generate revenue from content items. Revenue can be generated by charging for consumption of content items such as by selling a music album or a book. Revenue can also be generated by charging advertisers to place advertisements in content items. Broadcast television is one example of generating revenue through advertisements. A combination of advertisements and payment by consumers, such as in a newspaper or cable television, is also possible.
"With the spread of personal computers and the Internet, many different types of content items are now available as digital content items. Digital content items may be more malleable than analog content items, allowing for greater flexibility in inserting advertisements or other additional content."
Amazon is strategic in considering ad placement in digital content:
"For example, an advertisement may be placed shortly before or shortly after a climactic moment in a movie. At this point, the consumers are likely to be highly interested in the movie and more willing to endure an advertisement without abandoning consumption of the movie.
"Similarly, advertisements may be placed in a temporal flow of a digital item before revelation of a significant plot element. For example, an advertisement may be inserted into a murder-mystery eBook before the page that reveals the identity of the killer."
It gets weirder. The patent talks about placing deleted scenes or alternate scenes in movies depending on the user's learned preferences.
And it may seek to manipulate ad placement if it sees you're multitasking while watching a movie: "For example, if the consumer starts to interact with a different web page while watching a streaming video that interaction may be interpreted as indicating that the consumer has lost interest or is having a negative response to a particular portion of the video. If this and other types of negative responses tend to correlate with advertisements, various manipulations of advertisement placement may be attempted to minimize the negative responses. "
Amazon also sees the possibility of enticing consumers to trade privacy for convenience: "Consumer authorization is received before collecting data about consumption behavior in order to protect privacy and allow consumers to control how much information is shared. Consumers may be motivated to share this information in order to benefit by receiving advertisements placed in locations that are least objectionable."
And it wants to track user behavior to create user profiles: "All of the positive and negative user feedback gained through both observation and explicit feedback from the consumer may be aggregated as part of a profile for the consumer. The feedback may also be aggregated for a given digital item across multiple consumers to identify which locations consumers as a group tend to prefer or dislike advertisements."
Because Amazon is considering tailoring ads and ad placement based on numerous factors, the conversation around the water cooler about a "cool" or interesting ad in the latest blockbuster or bestseller may change as each person has a different experience.
It's not as though advertisers haven't always tried to exploit consumer behavior, but how Amazon is considering the use of technology in serving ads in digital content makes it seem a bit creepier.
The possibilities for brands and retailers is intriguing (watch out Google) - imagine being able to advertise a red dress similar to the one a character is wearing in a movie?