Peter Kafka

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Solve Media Lets You Skip Web Video Ads. One String Attached …

You want to watch Web videos. But you don’t want to pay for them. You don’t want to watch any ads, either.

Solve Media has an idea. The ad tech company will let you skip the “pre-roll” commercials before Web clips. But only after you’ve typed a branding message into a text box.

So, rather than watch an ad for Toyota’s RAV4 before you watch a video on AOL’s Huffington Post, you can now type in “no time to waste” and go right to the video. You can see it in action here, and there’s also an explainer video at the bottom of this post.

This may sound familiar. Solve Media employed the same mechanism — “type a branding phrase, and we’ll give you access to something” — a couple years ago, when it used it in place of captchas, the random text strings some sites use for security reasons.

Like that one, this gambit has conceptual logic working for it, especially for marketers — getting someone to type your brand’s name or campaign slogan, in return for something they value, seems like a good thing.

This one seems harder to sell to Web video watchers, though. The work/reward ratio seems off.

Yes, pre-rolls can be annoying, especially when the ad is long and the clip is short. But I’ve generally gotten pretty good at tuning out whenever they pop up. Asking me to lean forward and type in order to skip them — particularly when YouTube and Hulu often let me skip them with a single click — seems like a lot of work, when I could just zone out instead.

But maybe I’m particularly zen when it comes to ads. I don’t really mind most of them, anyway. Particularly when they help pay my bills.

Some of you seem more agitated by this sort of thing, so you tell me: Are you willing to type a marketing message in order to avoid watching a marketing message?


Solving the Pre-Roll Blues from Solve Media on Vimeo.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus