I recently came across some great examples of how computer-generated content can deliver bizarre, confusing and even hilarious results.
First up is a CAPTCHA that co-worker Kent Clark encountered on a Twitter account sign-up. (Thanks for sharing, Kent.) Check out the "word" on the right:
Even assuming I know where to find the "pounds" symbol on my North American keyboard, I'm still going to have a heck of a time finding what appears to be a "7/8" character.
My other examples come from Adwords. And whom can we credit for supplying these classic Adwords groaners, but that most venerable of Adwords advertisers, eBay.
Now, I'm used to seeing eBay show up in the sponsored results of most unlikely searches. I've even searched for "life and death" and found eBay ads offering great deals on these events:
Who'd have guessed: apparently even God shops on eBay! (Hey, we're all counting our pennies these days...)
But for me, the funniest example came up when I was researching baby adoption. (No, I'm not in the market. It was research for a client.) Look what eBay offered me:
Wow, I knew eBay had branched out. But they're auctioning off babies now? And how comforting it is to know I can save money on my next baby purchase, by dealing with Canadian sellers!
Funny as these examples are, there is a more serious side to this. Some people may actually click these ads, just to see where they could possibly lead. So you have to wonder: how much money is eBay wasting on ads for products and services they simply don't list?
It appears that eBay is taking huge lists of keywords, then using Dynamic Keyword Insertion and bidding on all of them — without getting rid of keywords that are completely irrelevant to their business! If they actually spent some money optimizing, they could save a bundle.
These are great examples of what can happen when you let computers control your content, and take humans and common sense out of the equation.