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I didn’t expect to spend 5 minutes watching a commercial for an e-commerce startup, let alone enjoy it enough to share it with friends. But Jet.com, a hot new competitor to Amazon, produced a delightfully entertaining commercial that proves the financial underpinning of ad-based businesses don’t have to be annoying. 

The company hired HBO “Silicon Valley” comedian Kumail Nanjiani to perform a 5 minute semi-interactive standup routine explaining the e-commerce service’s best features. 

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“Five pounds of mayonnaise is a fundamentally ridiculous thing to buy,” says Nanjiani, explaining how pricing algorithms allow for the warehouse-style pricing on groceries. “When you’re done with it, you can live inside the jar—7 years from now.” 

I watched the entire ad. Voluntarily. Even more important, at the end, when Nanjiani pointed to embedded hyperlinks, I clicked to learn more about the company. The clip was basically a pitch deck disguised as a video, and it worked. Due to sheer entertainment value, I sat through the whole spiel and wanted to learn more. 

Creativity Rules 

Engaging videos are important not just for startups, but for the free Web as a whole. The media industry, social networks like Facebook, and countless others depend on ads for their livelihoods. The business they bring in pays for the tools users enjoy for free.  

But click-through-rates for many types of advertisements are declining, forcing online businesses to become increasingly aggressive about their tactics. The online world is riddled with annoying popup ads, auto-play videos, and complicated tracking software that slow webpage load times to a crawl. 

The rationalization: If people don’t voluntarily consume ads, then companies must get attention by any means necessary. 

That approach, to put it simply, is wrong-headed. There’s a difference between videos that bully their way into your view, and ones that draw people in and inspire them to click or share. The latter is not only less annoying, but, as Jet.com’s effort shows, can be highly effective. The video was so popular, it landed on the front page of Digg.com. 

This is, apparently, the year of video marketing. Larger companies have some advantages, like more resources and bigger budgets. But young companies looking to grab attention don’t have the layers of bureaucracy and approvals that all too-often bog down video production. They just need to use the same type of creative thinking that went into building their apps or developing their products, and let it loose for the cameras. 

Here’s to hoping that ads get less annoying and become more a welcome part of the Web.

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