There's always something bracing when a pillar of the Web decides it should advertise itself on TV.
So there I was the other night, bathing in the fantasy of reality television--was it "Dancing with the Stars"? was it "American Idol?"--when music from what I presumed could only be a new iPad ad yanked me by my ears and demanded attention.
There was the indie music. There was the whimsical air of a summer's evening watching Shakespeare in the park. So I looked up and saw that the visuals were channeling Peter Gabriel from his "Sledgehammer" days. And my confusion went beyond a slight cabernet infusion when I saw the words at the end of the spot: "Amazon Kindle. Books in 60 seconds."
The new ad features a boy, a girl, and a pair of handcuffs. Which follows up quite nicely from the first ad, a fantasy that involved a girl, a bicycle, some goggles, and a gun.
Yet the music in each relentlessly brings you back to Apple, despite the visuals' attempt to be terribly colorful--which some might find slightly ambitious given Kindle's black-and-white nature.
The ads were directed by Angela Kohler, the winner of a contest run by Amazon last year. And the fact that they are running in very expensive time slots suggests that Amazon is trying as best it can to drown the loud, insistent and, who knows, magical footsteps of the iPad.
The question, surely, though, is whether this type of advertising, reflecting a little too much of an Apple mood, can truly distinguish and dramatize Kindle in the moments before the iPad begins to take on a life in the physical world.
Verizon's Droid has shown, with considerable success, that it is possible to distinguish your own brand from Apple's by having a distinct strategy and an execution that could never have emerged out of Cupertino's more refined taste bible. And it is possible that the Kindle might have a far tougher commercial challenge in the coming months than those faced by Droid.