Yes, it’s that time of the year again: time for the lists and discussions about the best of 2010 and what’s ahead in 2011. I’m keeping my first list simple by trying to answer just one question: What are the ad units/ad platforms to watch out for in 2011?

Hint: None of them involve users accessing the web via desktop or laptop. 

Specialty tablet ads (kicked off by Apple, of course)

Though media buyers’ reactions to the iAd have been mixed, there’s no denying Apple shook up the marketplace with the launch of its proprietary ad unit. After all, what third party could better understand how to fully exploit the iPhone's capabilities?

The industry wondered when that ingenuity would scale out to the iPad, and now we know. Apple's first iPad iAd campaign launched this week for Disney's TRON: Legacy. Big brand advertisers were among the first to devote budgets to the original iAds; expect them to do the same for the iPad iAds next year.

Yahoo iPad ad

But Apple will have stiff competition in 2011 - both from companies like Yahoo that have also launched their own, easier-to-implement iPad ads, as well as from other tablet-makers. Samsung already launched the first Android-powered tablet this year, and Microsoft will reportedly launch tablets with Samsung and Dell next year.

Given the success of the iAd, the other device manufactures will not hesistate to release their own proprietary ad units (or partner with specific networks to launch them).

Ebook ads

Kindles, and Nooks, and Kobo readers, oh my! Ebooks are clearly not just a fad. With Amazon selling "millions" of Kindles in the first few days of holiday shopping, and Barnes & Noble selling roughly 18,000 Nookcolor units per day, it's safe to say that the reading devices have saturated the market.

What these devices haven’t done though, is really boost publisher/author revenues. Ebook ads could help them make more money. According to the WSJ, the popularity (scale) of ebooks definitely has advertisers interested:


Marketers are exploring a variety of formats, including sponsorships that give readers free books. Videos, graphics or text with an advertiser's message that appear when a person first starts a book or along the border of the digital pages are also in the works.

Ads can be targeted based on the book's content and the demographic and profile information of the reader.

Meanwhile, digital book formats like the Vook - which include videos, audio and other interactive elements - could give advertisers access to potentially even more ad options like product placements.

The caveat is that no matter how well-crafted and "unobtrusive" the ad, some readers may still be pissed off. That could lead to a drop in brand affinity or purchase intent for the brand - the opposite of what they'd be investing in the ad for. That said, I think marketers will definitely be willing to experiment with ebook ads in 2011.

Targeted set-top box ads

The cable companies seem to be too big to figure out how to deliver addressable ads, so perhaps nimble startups like Boxee and Roku will lead the way.

These set-top box makers continue to add more content partners - DirecTV, for example, is pondering whether to syndicate its NFL Sunday Ticket to Boxee - and with more content, comes more eyeballs. More eyeballs means more advertiser interest.

Google TV logo

The indie set-top box makers need to generate revenue; since they don't charge users for anything other than the actual devices, running ads could be a viable alternative revenue source. (An ad rev-share model could also make the networks more willing to let these companies access their content).

Meanwhile, big players like Google, Apple and Microsoft also have a stake in market for targeted, set-top box-based ads.

Microsoft has already been selling its Xbox LIVE audience - connected via the Xbox 360 - to advertisers with some success. Expect Google and Apple to flesh out, or at least test their own targeted ad units in 2011.

Your thoughts?

So, those are my picks for three content-based ad units to watch in 2011. Of the three, I think the tablet ads will gain the most traction. I think we'll see the most experimentation with the ebook ads, and I think we'll see caution - but definite interest - in the targeted set-top box space.

What do you think? Have I hit the nail on the head? Are there ad units you're excited about watching next year?

 Photo Credit: dailylifeofmojo via Flickr

Tameka Kee

Published 16 December, 2010 by Tameka Kee

Tameka Kee has been covering digital media with a focus on online advertising, social media and gaming since 2007. Find her at or follow her on Twitter

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Comments (8)

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Brad Gosse

Good call on the e-book adds. Considering most of these devices are always on Internet connected, the idea of embedding ads within iBooks, e-books and Kindle books will definitely take off 2011.

Not sure I agree on the set-top boxes. I have been Apple TV user for years and have yet to see any of these devices take off. I still think it will be a few techie enthusiasts that buy them and not much more. Only time will tell :-)

over 7 years ago


Ian Fernando

Hi Tameka,

Yes I would totally agree with you that advertising platforms will truly be changed and be improved. The traditional way of doing advertisements will be left off and new ways will come to place.

I guess we need to expect more advertisements of our future ebook purchases. Hope it does not look very annoying. :-)

over 7 years ago


Meghan Burton, SEO & Social Media Manager at Web Marketplace Solutions

While I think ebook ads in particular are going to arrive, I can say that I will be one of those pissed off readers. Ads at the end or beginning of books are fine, I can handle those. In the middle or along the side of the page? No thanks. I read books for an uninterrupted experience, and it's one of the many reasons I actually prefer reading books to watching TV or reading a magazine or newspaper. If my book paused halfway through to deliver me a commercial, I would stop buying from that publisher in digital. I may not have a choice in future, but while I can exercise my vote with my wallet I will do so. I know a lot of readers will agree with me.

I expect more targeted ads via Xbox Live in the next year. With the Kinect, they can now figure out how many people are in a room, will know what gender they list themselves as (at least for the player in question), and what types of games they like to play. That could be massive for targeted advertising.

over 7 years ago


Reza Badel

Great post Tameka,

The rewards for those advertisers, which manage to implement a well designed and executed ad campaign via these new platforms will be amazing.

I also believe that these new marketing channels will create lots of new revenue streams, however we may need to change the focus from revenue to other key metrics such as brand reach, awareness and the impact this has on the other marketing activities, as part of an overall strategy.

My prediction is that with increasing use of GPS devices as well as the need for contextual ads, local search and marketing services will become more important and this is helped massively by the uptake of Smartphones, Tablets, Sat-nav and Internet TV.

over 7 years ago


Dave Evans

Hear hear Meghan, I completely agree, I want an ebook experience to be the same as buying a book - an ad-free experience. It's the same reason why I prefer to listen to my digital music through iTunes over Spotify.

over 7 years ago

Tameka Kee

Tameka Kee, Writer/Analyst at Econsultancy

@Meghan, Ian and Dave - I do think the publishers and marketers will try to be as unobtrusive as possible, but I also think we'll see a few angry blog posts from readers about "stupid" ads that interrupted their reading experience. Sometimes companies have to learn the hard way.

As for Kinect, MSFT said it's *won't* be using it to target Xbox 360 players with ads outright - but it also said it won't be sharing any data it gathers with a third party. Hmmm ... you won't be targeting, but you'll be gathering data? We'll see.

@Reza - Good call on the location/GPS-based ads. I just wonder, will there be any specific new units tied to those platforms? (Or will we just see more text and banner ads being locally targeted?)

@Brad - Indeed, the set-tops have only enticed a fraction of the population. Would be good to do some research, but I'd estimate that there are at least 5 million set-top boxes in homes (b/w Apple, Google, Boxee, Roku) - not counting the Xbox. That's enough scale for experimentation, I'd think. But we'll definitely have to see.

over 7 years ago


Tim Norris

I think you've missed a trick by not mentioning AOL's Project Devil here: There won't be all that much to watch in the eBook market in 2011, just experimentation as you say. Devil on the other hand is an example of a clean and sophisticated example that combines formats and reduces page clutter to actually support quality content. It will also appeal to high-end advertisers looking for quality interaction. There's a fairly good (and neutral) blog post on it here:

over 7 years ago



eBook advertising could be a good fit for my client, how can I get more information about eBook advertising. Has anyone done this and if so how were the results?

over 7 years ago

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