Adobe PDF Ads

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 3, 2008
Updated • Dec 15, 2012

Am I the only one that is thinking that putting Ads into Adobe PDF documents is not going to be that successful ? Putting contextual ads next to content in PDF documents is going to fail and here is why. Users are not used to ads in documents like PDF or Doc and they will have a hard time convincing users and advertisers to try this new ad form.

This could work and is not the biggest reason why I think it will fail though. Users can get used to it much like they are used to see ads when reading newspapers. I think it depends on the content and how the ads are displayed in the document. The main reason why this is going to fail is the following.

Users have to accept that the Adobe Reader is connecting to a Adobe server if the document contains sponsored content. They have to do so every time they open the document and this is why PDF ads will fail. Most users can simply click on No in that dialog and still view the contents of the document. There is no need to accept the connection.

Other PDF viewers like Foxit or Sumatra do not display the ads at all and do not ask the user therefor if he wants to display them. This means that the target audience is only a fraction of the viewers of the content. It remains to be seen how many users will accept the connection so that ads can be displayed on their system.

It is also possible that Adobe will fix this in a future version of Adobe Reader so that ads are displayed without asking the user. But that is just an assumption on my side and must not be the case. A quick manipulation of the host file should be enough to counter this though. Unless the pdf won't be displayed at all if the ads are not displayed.


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  1. Cynthia Tillo said on January 22, 2008 at 2:04 am

    This dialog will not appear when you are reading the PDF in-browser. I have more clarification about the purpose of this dialog and when it appears in my blog post:

    Cynthia Tillo

  2. Jesse said on January 3, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Martin, one thing you might not have thought about is free versions of paid e-books like Kevin Kelley of Cool Tools’ book True Films(link at the bottom for example).

    His book used to be purchase only (print and e-book) and now you can get it for free with opt-in ads. Granted you can opt out of the ad views, but since I have respect for him, if I I want to buy one of the documentaries outlined in his book then I’ll open the PDF and click the link to the film as they are contextual.

    But I digress, being a webmaster myself and knowing how hard it can be to get conversions makes me do stuff like that and the general public will most likely not care at all.

  3. Thilak said on January 3, 2008 at 9:14 pm

    If I was Adobe, then I wouldn’t let other PDF readers open PDFs with advertisements. This way they can force ads upon users.

    I agree with your thoughts that PDF ads won’t last long

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