Click To Reveal & Drop a Cookie – Right Or Wrong?

Voucher code sites and the click to reveal problem have hit the spotlight again on Affiliates4U. Click to reveal a code is used by many voucher code sites as a way of ensuring a cookie is dropped when a visitor comes looking for a discount. It at least beats them using the unethical 1×1 iframes or pop unders and most networks seem ok with this practice.

The problem is that the “click to reveal code and show site” has now extended to beyond just a valid voucher code and it seems it can now be applied to offers, promotions, free delivery and the biggest bugbear of them all “no discount code”. There’s no doubting that the mechanism is a powerful call to action but is this right for affiliate marketing?

The issue is this – in a content scenario I may write “Merchant X are currently offering 50% off Turnip Shaped Ornaments. Click here to visit the site” where as in a click to reveal scenario the copy is usually “Merchant X Offers & Discounts. Click for current offers and to visit site”. The user then has to click to see that the offer is for “50% off Turnip Shaped Ornaments” whilst having the cookie set.

Personally I think the user should be pre-sold and then encouraged to clickthrough rather than told/incentivised to clickthrough before they get the full pre-sell. It’s a subtle difference, and I can understand why some affiliates don’t see why there is an issue with this.

The concern for me is at what point is “click to reveal my content and drop cookie” acceptable or unacceptable?

If a price comparison search result was “We have found 15 cameras for you, the cheapest is £25. To show your results and visit the cheapest store – click here” would that be ok? Perhaps it is? Perhaps it isn’t? Yes you can argue a punter doesn’t have to click, but with such a powerful call to action the likelihood is they will.

You could also argue that as you’re dangling a carrott in front of the user (a code/details/information) you are incentivising the user to click… and aren’t incentives to click/drop a cookie frowned upon in AM?

To get a code perhaps click to reveal is required to safeguard the affiliate’s interest (?), but to see content or to find out a site actually doesn’t have a code, I cannot see why the click to reveal is required. Put up content and offer a user a link to a merchant.

The problem we have though is that the only people who can resolve these issues are the networks – and it’s shocking how little appears to be said from that quarter when it comes to offering solutions and guidelines.

You’d have thought that everyone in the industry should be striving for best ethical affiliate practice, and yet despite the tuxedos, IAB commissions and award waving, the affiliate playground is still pretty much wild west territory with no one willing to say anything in case it jeopardises their revenue.

Maybe I’m wrong in thinking that just because something makes money doesn’t necessarily equate to it being right!

And perhaps networks and merchants don’t see it as a problem?

If that’s the case then why don’t they say so?

5 Comments Click To Reveal & Drop a Cookie – Right Or Wrong?

  1. Chris Clarkson June 23, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Regarding networks making a move in this area – we were on the verge of changing our T&C’s similar to Alpha Rooms but were told that our network would shortly be updating their T&C’s for all their merchants in a similar way.

    Not sure when/if this is scheduled to happen, but I believe it’s coming.

  2. Deals N Clicks June 23, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    I was just about to implement this kind of script on my 1990´s deals site. Maybe a rethink is in order!

    Great post thanks for the insight!


  3. Matt Bailey June 24, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Hi Jason,

    I agree that this is an issue but again it is one that networks seem slow to tackle. The cynic may say that this is because they are earning commission from this practice, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for now as I know a lot of networks are investing heavily in tackling the voucher code issue.

    At i-level we are in the process of rewriting all of our Ts and Cs and going forward all of our merchants will state the following in their terms: “Voucher code/Discount code sites are permitted to promote Merchant X however any offers or codes displayed must be currently valid. Any expired offers/codes must be clearly marked.”

    We will then outline, on a merchant by merchant basis, what is considered valid on each campaign. As a general rule it will have to be a legitimate discount code authorised for use in the affiliate channel that will give the customer a tangible benefit that they wouldn’t get otherwise. So for example, with a gaming merchant they would not be able to advertise the free sign up bonus that all customers are eligible for.

    Our feeling is that this sector is a very valuable one for our merchants but, as you say Jason, it needs to be a little less Wild West before we will get our clients to fully embrace it.

    Matt Bailey
    Head of Affiliate

  4. Jason June 24, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Hi Matt

    “So for example, with a gaming merchant they would not be able to advertise the free sign up bonus that all customers are eligible for”…

    Not sure I’m clear on this… do you mean they’d not be able to advertise full stop, or advertise via the click to drop a cookie/reveal method?


  5. Matt Bailey June 24, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Hi Jason,

    We would look at fixing rules for each merchant on a case by case basis. In this instance we would ensure that the discount code site is not promising a “unique” code so would probably ensure that the offer was displayed with a click here to visit site link, instead of click to reveal code.


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