Paging through Marvel’s monster 104-page Amazing Spider-Man #600, there were only 3 ads. The inside covers and the back cover. And they were all for Marvel licensed products. Jackets, toothpaste holders, and statues.
Maybe this was done on purpose. It’s a big, special issue. And a lot of ads would have been needed to reduce that $4.99 cover price. (I was expecting to pay that much anyway. It’s worth it for a milestone issue.)
But where have the advertisers gone? I’ve been reading the original Transformers series from Marvel. In the late 1980s, movie companies advertised for films like “The Last Starfighter” and “The Heavenly Kid.” There were pages broken up, where advertisers bought half page and quarter page ads. Even eighth page! A lot of this space was taken up by people trying to sell comics out of their store or collection. Asking readers to send 50 cents for a catalog.
It could be that comics’ readership is harder to define these days. When you think of the average comic book reader, it’s an adult male. These are not people to whom you would market Reese’s Pieces or Bonkers candy. I think adult readers’ tastes are too different to sum up in any area.
Also, I think the speculation craze in the 1990s hurt this as well. A comic might have sold 200,000 issues, but half of those were bagged and boarded and never read. And maybe advertisers found that out.
A few years back, I looked up DC’s ad rates. They had them broken up by age bracket: All ages, tween, teen and adult. So if Sony was marketing a kid’s video game, they would put it in the all ages books like Batman Adventures.
A little bit of a spiral has taken place. Readership has gotten older. Publishers cater to the larger crowd. Advertisers drop off. Prices go up.