Sticking an Ad Where Users Are Already Engaging

    August 26, 2009
    Chris Crum

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.