Say Hello to CAPTCHAs as Advertising

Solve Media Allows Brands to Use Security Type-in Technology

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NEW YORK ( -- Do you remember the last time you purchased tickets on Ticketmaster, or wanted to leave a comment on a website which required that you sign in first? You were probably asked to decipher a code, called a CAPTCHA, of distorted letters and type it into a box. And if you wanted to get to the next step, you had to focus quite carefully on reading those characters. It kind of required your undivided attention, and that's kind of, well, exactly what advertisers are looking for.

What if, instead of typing a non sequitur, you typed "Just do it," the Nike slogan? That's where Solve Media comes in to play. The company, which was created a little less than a year ago, has been working furiously to perfect a security technology that allows advertisers into this space, and they are officially launching today.

"Ads are just getting bigger and louder as attention online is getting so scarce," said Solve Media CEO and founder Ari Jacoby. "So we're fishing where the fish are," he said, referring to this untapped space where users are forced to spend time.

You might wonder how the security system still works when all the user has to do is re-type a perfectly legible slogan or fact about a brand. Well, even though these new ads, called "type-ins," all look the same to the naked eye, no two are identical because they each have slight variations in pixilation.

"We built a security technology company and then layered an advertising company on top of it," Mr. Jacoby said.

Mr. Jacoby, 34, co-founded a media company called VoiceStar in 2004 that enabled advertisers to more easily track which ads yielded the most business. That company was acquired by Marchex in 2007, but last year, Mr. Jacoby was able to "re-assemble the band," as he put it, and get most of his old staff to work on this new venture. There are about 25 employees, including the company's president, Todd Lieberman, divided between a New York office and a network operations center in Philadelphia.

One of Solve Media's bigger clients is Toyota, which has a type-in ad that features a mother holding her baby, and to the right says, "Star Safety System." At the bottom, it asks the user to type in those three words.

"Advertisers are looking for message comprehension," Mr. Jacoby said. "And you know what they say, 'If you write something down, you remember it.'"

He may be right, and Toyota seems excited about the new advertising opportunity.

"Banner ads are easy to ignore," said Kim Kyaw, senior media strategist at Toyota, "so we're very intrigued by this."

Ms. Kyaw said that instead of paying by CPM, or the cost of reaching 1,000 users, they pay each time someone types in their message, which she called an "engagement."

Mr. Jacoby said that his company's business model is to work with advertising agencies to create campaigns for its clients using type-ins. Then, Solve Media splits the revenue with the online publishers, such as Meredith, for example, which will run a type-in ad on the website of its "Parents" property to safeguard against users cheating the system on their "Cutest Kid" contest.

For publishers, this is a completely new revenue stream that doesn't require them to create new content. Andy Wilson, senior VP-digital marketing for Meredith Publishing, said they have been using Solve Media since January (today is the official launch, but the technology has been used and tested quietly for nine months) and they have seen great results.

"We're making money in an area where we hadn't before," Mr. Wilson said.

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