A Ford Fiesta campaign testing a new kind of site visitor verification saw above-average click-through rates (CTR) of 8.76 percent, as well as 133 hours of brand interaction.
Are You a Human calls its CAPTCHA alternative PlayThru, touting it as not only a better way to separate people from bots but also a branding environment that cuts through site clutter and banner blindness.
The PlayThru campaign for Ford Fiesta targeting 18- to 34-year-olds, launched in August and will run through the end of the year, across 3,200 of Are You a Human's network of 5,000 sites.
PlayThru substitutes the wiggly characters of standard CAPTCHAs, which supposedly can be solved by humans but not by bots, with simple games that ask the user to drag an item within the unit. In one Fiesta example, you must drag a guitar and a microphone into the hatchback of a Fiesta in preparation for going to a music festival.
Andrea Zuehlk, digital marketing manager, at Ford Motor Company says, "Ford is always seeking new ways to reach consumers. Working with Are You a Human lets us do two things: deepen brand engagement while creating a better user experience."
While it could be argued that consumers are willing to spend time playing the Fiesta-branded game because they want to access website content or services - not because they have any interest in the Fiesta - Zuehlk says that Ford runs survey-based research for all ad campaigns in order to understand if consumers have had a lift in favorable opinion. While she cannot divulge results of the survey for this campaign, Zuehlk does say that the company enjoyed success with improved favorability with the Ford brand, adding that the CTR for the campaign exceeds Ford's benchmarks.
PlayThru ads can be targeted via content categories and demographics; for Fiesta, Ford keyed into travel, music, fitness and technology, tying one of three pieces of creative to a landing page with branded content from Ford's Fiesta Movement campaign.
Zuehlk also likes the gamification aspect of PlayThru ads. Ford has tested a number of game-based branding initiatives, including a recent campaign with Words for Friends. "Casual gaming is a very hot trend right now, so this ties into that trend, as well," she says.
Reid Tatoris, co-founder of Are You a Human, says that, in field trials, the company has seen as much as 67 times the standard interaction time, 54 times average CTR and more than 300 percent increase of brand message recall, compared to banner ads.
Nobody likes CAPTCHAs. According to Are You A Human, it takes the average person 2.3 attempts to complete a CAPTCHA, and one in four people will leave a site when confronted with one. By contrast, in Ford's test, PlayThru had a 97 percent completion rate.
Are You a Human is not the first company to attempt to, um, solve the CAPTCHA problem. In 2010, Solve Media introduced a CAPTCHA alternative that asked site visitors to type in brand messages shown in display ads. At its introduction, Solve claimed brand engagement rates of 40 percent. In June 2013, Solve said that Unilever reported 87 percent lift in purchase intention following the brand's use of the platform.
PlayThru units can be used to verify humanity during site registration, comments, resetting passwords, making a purchase or sharing links. Once the game is completed, marketers can include a range of calls to action.
In addition to branding of the games, PlayThru includes options for sharing via social media and the ability to click through to a custom landing page, which can include full e-commerce.
Are You a Human bills advertisers on a cost-per-human basis, meaning that advertisers pay for each completion of the unit. The company shares ad revenue with publishing sites using the unit. Tatoris says," for publishers, in addition to improving the user experience and making visitors to the website happy, you also get to make money."
Zuehlk says PlayThru can also address the issue of ad visibility. "As the digital ad space gets more and more cluttered, a common theme we've been hearing over the last year or two is visibility. Are ads being served above the fold? Are they actually being seen by consumers?" she says.
"We think this type of interactive ad unit gives us a true understanding of where the eyeballs are and where the interactions are --and eliminates waste, which is big for us."
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
March 19, 2014