Sticking an Ad Where Users Are Already Engaging

Microsoft Applies for CAPTCHA Ad Patent

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There’s one area of your site that if you include it, users have no choice but to engage, if they wish to continue with the task they’re trying to complete. That would be the CAPTCHA, other wise known as that annoying, (often times barely legible) word you have to recreate in a box, so that the site knows you’re human.

So if the user is already engaging with this, why not make it an ad? That appears to be Microsoft’s mentality, as it has proposed exactly that with a patent application. The concept is simple. It works just like any other CAPTCHA, but it shows you a picture of a product (the Xbox 360 in an example from Microsoft) and asks you to type the name of the product you see.


Todd Bishop at TechFlash points to this and actually another mention of this concept from as long as four years ago, at Ad Lab, which simply presents the concept, showing logos for Tide and UPS.

Clearly this is a concept that has been around for some time, but you don’t see it very often, and you have to wonder why that is. There’s no question that the CAPTCHA is intrusive, and perhaps brands won’t always want to be associated with that kind of advertising, but in reality, it’s not the ad itself that is intrusive. It’s the step of completing the CAPTCHA form, which is already there. If it’s already there, you might as well utilize that space for some further benefit.

What you would not want to do is start displaying more CAPTCHAs specifically for the purpose of advertising. That’s where things could go sour. On the other hand, a user might not know the difference, and could reach the conclusion that you’re just throwing an intrusive advertisement at them.

The strategy has its pros and cons. It is an interesting strategy nonetheless. Obviously there is no click value to this from the advertising standpoint, but the brand value is certainly there.

What do you think about this concept? Have you seen it in use? Do you think users would be more turned off by something like this than they already are with the CAPTCHA itself? Please share your thoughts.

Sticking an Ad Where Users Are Already Engaging
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  • http://www.homesolarpowersystems.org Home Solar Power Systems

    This is another kinda marketing strategy were you remind the user that the product exists, eventually one day the user will definitely browse for it and in turn increase the popularity of the page.

  • http://www.laokay.com Steve

    I think it’s a nice touch for branding, but I expect the advertiser to pay more for those types of ads because they’ll be sold on a CPM basis.

    I guess you couldn’t get any click fraud there, but impression fraud?

  • James

    The CAPTCHA learning curve is pretty short, as the display the visitor sees is clearly not a typical part of the page it appears on, and the instruction to “type the words” is very clear.

    With this ad-as-CAPTCHA concept, the risk of visitor confusion is pretty high, as many visitors are ignoring display advertising, or moving quickly past it, and the instructions within the ad are not as clear (using the illustrative ad as an example, and comparing that to a typical CAPTCHA display).

    So IF the visitor sees the ad-as-CAPTCHA AND they understand what they are supposed to do with it, THEN it may be useful. But if the visitor spends time drifting around the page wondering why they haven’t been taken to the acknowledgment screen, it builds frustration that gets attributed to the website owner. And if they are forced to scan every ad just to be sure it’s not a CAPTCHA, or to find the one that is, that will add to their frustration.

    Negative reactions are to be expected for any website that rolls out this method unless it is clearly defined as CAPTCHA and it stands out very clearly with very clear instructions.

    • Chris Crum

      Good point, and I agree. It would have to be very clear to be effective, and I could definitely see the method being abused and frustration increased. If done right though, I think it is an interesting concept, because it is not one that we’ve seen done too much if at all.

  • Anil

    Hmm, ya.. this will have a good impact for sure. In fact the idea is a nice .. perfect .. coincidence(?) , to one of my friends mini-project, which he demonstrated long back , as part of ‘Innovative Challenge’ in office.

  • Abhishek Punj

    The idea is not novel and has even been developed by many, who provide their services as captcha providers. When I had the same idea some 2 yrs back I too was very excited about it and thought of fetching a patent but you see that is when i searched and realized that the idea was not that novel.

    Although I planned to go on with the idea and give it a try without the patent. You can have a look at the prototype that has been deployed at www.abbol.renovads.com

    Can anyone throw some light on the point that how is it possible in any case that microsoft holds a chance to be granted a patent for this..?

    • Abhishek Punj

      The system is called Ad Oriented System to Inhibit Spamming.. provides a platform to earn from your website and also to spread awareness for social causes. try registering at adosis.renovads.com to avail the service.

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