I’d like to preface this by saying I hate this idea on its face, as its intention is what’s wrong in a lot of web-based revenue these days: selling the user to advertisers.
Nevertheless, I haven’t seen it done.
These days, advertisers are burning a lot of calories wrapping user-generated content with display ads. Get people to write comments, then put ads in and around them. It’s tantamount to product placement in television, and is an effective way to promote one’s product.
Need an example? Something like Promoted Tweets on Twitter.
But what if we flip the idea around and put our focus earlier in the process: when the comment is being written?
While the user is typing out their comment, auto-completed word suggestions appear for brands who have bought “advertising” space.
I’ve illustrated this in the graphic below using this post as an example:
The effect is certainly subtle, possibly subliminal. But, it’s not nearly as intrusive as a big, loud display ad, and it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the person typing. The user can keep typing along and eventually the suggestion will disappear.
It’s more passive than a link that can be clicked, but if it couldn’t be effective, we wouldn’t still be seeing TV ads.
A company like Disqus or Facebook could drop this feature in relatively easily and glean two new revenue streams: advertising, or in Disqus’ case, a paid license to shirk the product placement.
You could even argue Google is already doing this with their instant results; showing ads for products while the user is still typing their search query.
If nothing else, it’d be be an interesting exercise to compare this method with other advertising media.