Startup Solve Media garnered attention this fall with a novel idea -- replacing that distorted sequence of letters or digits you sometimes have to type to enter a site with an ad. Instead of trying to decipher and copy the string of wavy text known as a "captcha", the company's "Type-In" unit allows Web users to retype a tagline or other phrase shown within a display ad to gain access to a site or other content.
Because the normal text in the Solve ad is easier for people to read -- but still tough for bots to read because the company pixelates the image differently each time -- the process becomes simpler and users remember brand messages better because of having to type them. That's the pitch, anyway.
Solve CEO and co-founder Ari Jacoby says that message recall with the Type-In ad is 12 times higher than typical banners -- a rate of about 40% compared to 3%. A dozen high-profile brands are on board, including Dr Pepper, Toyota, and Groupon and 800 sites including AOL. Now the company is adding video as an option in its ads to boost engagement further. Microsoft and studios including Universal Pictures have used the new 15-second video format.
Universal was among the first to use the video ad, to promote the release of the M. Night Shyamalan film "Devil" released in September. Users had to type in the phrase "Now Playing," which appeared while the trailer was playing. A more recent campaign for "Little Fokkers" required users to type "In Theaters December 22nd."
By providing a captive audience, in effect, the Type-In video ads would seem to hold innate appeal for movie studios and other advertisers. Solve is charging on a cost-per-engagement basis for the video ads -- 50 cents for each text box filled in within the unit. Solve typically splits its fees evenly with the publishers of sites where its ads appear. But how much inventory is there for this kind of advertising? How times a day online are you faced with a captcha compared to how often you see a traditional banner?
Jacoby says captchas are filled out 280 million times a day worldwide and typically take 14 seconds each to complete, working out to "124 years of attention time." With the greater efficiency of the Type-in ads, Solve has cut the fill-in time to seven seconds, he notes. The key is, the company's format isn't as easily ignored as standard Web ads and requires interaction for someone to reach desired content. "Advertisers get exactly what they pay for," says Jacoby.