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Few Advertisers Use Pop-Ups (or do they?)
September 16, 2002 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Few Advertisers Use Pop-Ups (or do they?) "Though they seem to be everywhere on the Internet, pop-up advertisements are used by less than 10 percent of all companies that advertise online, according to a report from Nielsen//NetRatings." Do you buy this? Is this industry propaganda or a true description of what is out there? The sites I visit regularly all seem to have pop-ups (e.g. nytimes, espn, slate, theatlantic.com). For the last 1 month or so, ESPN seems to launch two pop-ups when I first visit them, in fact. What has your experience been?
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy (28 comments total)

 
I don't know. I have software that automatically prevents them from showing up on my computer.

And seeing as how ISPs are actually advertising this software as part of their sales pitch, I think it's a good sign that (hopefully) soon the advertisers are going to realize that the majority of people literally do just that- click away the ad before even bothering to look at it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:30 AM on September 16, 2002


I've been logging which sites use popups/unders and also which companies are advertising on them. When it comes time to make purchases, I avoid those companies. No matter how low their prices, I won't book travel using Orbitz until they stop using popunders.

I think the Nielsen/NetRatings claim may be true. It only seems like more sites are using them because popular sites have given in to them. It used to be that only scummy sites and smaller pages would assault you with popups. Now some of the highest profile sites use them, and they accept advertising from the same questionable advertisers. It's disappointing.
posted by neuroshred at 8:33 AM on September 16, 2002


I'm with XQU....

I've had no problems with popups since I started using Mozilla, which nicely blocks them for me. Why put up with crap like that if you don't have to?
posted by Windopaene at 8:37 AM on September 16, 2002


Whether or not the Nielsen/NetRatings claim is true, one thing's for certain: Popups are still freakin' annoying. Can't seem to get away from these damned webcam, casino, get-rich-quick, penis enlargement, life insurance, and Orbitz popups. One day, I'm going to see these damned ads in my pizza.
posted by freakystyley at 8:37 AM on September 16, 2002


that's not always entirely true, neuroshed... I was told by one website owner that the advertisers actually put the code for the popus in their banners, which give the webmasters no control over what actually is popping up.

The worst, however, is stuff like Gator, or other sites that actually run an ActiveX script to install some ad-browsing software onto your computer.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:38 AM on September 16, 2002


Part of the reason pop-ups seem more common than imbedded ads is simply the fact that they're in your face. They get in front of the content you're trying to look at, instead of blending into the scenery, so to speak, like all the other ads on the page. Do a quick count of the other ads on a page the next time you encounter a pop-up ad; chances are there are a good half-dozen, both animated and static, scattered all over the page -- especially heavy commercio-entertainment sites like ESPN and CNN. Take that ratio into consideration in conjunction with the fact that most sites don't use pop-ups and 10% doesn't look that odd.

Now, if we can just get rid of that 10%, we'll be on our way to a cleaner Web...
posted by me3dia at 8:39 AM on September 16, 2002


Recently I've been bombarded by pop-ups advertising pop-up blocking software...
Ironic or stupid?
posted by monkey closet at 8:48 AM on September 16, 2002


I run an online advertising department and we do ads. Lots of ads. We also do a ton of advertising on search engines, but only if the placement is clearly marked as a sponsored result. But I digress. We do not do popup ads unless there is a very, very targetted placement and then we have very tight restrictions on frequency capping (e.g. not more than once a week per user, max 3 times a month, which triggers end of campaign for that user).

However, not every advertiser and certainly not every media partner has such restrictions. Nonetheless I know for a fact that the majority of the ads run in our markets in Asia are not popups. This is also true internationally. Indeed, if we round off and say that only 10% of online advertisers are using popup ads, and of their total online ad impressions only, say another 10% goes to the popups, we arrive at a mere 1% of ads online being popups.

Why then, as the poster of this article suggests, do they seem to be everywhere? Why are they, subjectively at least, disproportionately greater in number than standard banner ads?

Simple: they aren't. While only 1% (in our rough estimate) of ads online might be popups, they are generally placed on entry points (home pages, etc.) or high traffic areas. The other 99% of ads you are exposed to that day make little or no impression, but that 1% stands out like a sore thumb.

And yes, people do click in droves on these suckers. And the media outlets will tout this fact, and advertisers are going to sell and build them because they are an easy solution. Clicks don't mean anything though. If someone clicks and closes, thats worthless. Unfortunately there is still a lot of talk about click-through-rates in lieu of more meaningful metrics. On the right site in the right location, they can be acceptable if they are limited, targetted, and capped. Even then, however, we generally shy away from them.

And though I work in the industry, I use netcaptor which blocks all popups (and ads if I want) automatically.
posted by i blame your mother at 8:48 AM on September 16, 2002


Neuroshred,

I have always wanted to keep a log. I never got around to doing it. I think we need to build an online advertiser hall of shame and make this list public. What do you think?
posted by SandeepKrishnamurthy at 8:48 AM on September 16, 2002


POW! from AnalogX.

If you don't likee, there are competitors. Works well for me...
posted by dash_slot- at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2002


Don't like popups? Ok, neither do i, hence the netcaptor use. But here is a better solution:

Don't go to the sites that have them.

Big news flash: you can't shame these guys into stopping. They are seeing results. They are making money. The media partner is making money. You are tacitly consenting to the ads. The site in question is probably free to read. You pay with your demographic.

Seriously, where does the money come from to produce these sites? espn? slate? good writers enjoy journalism as a profession require care, feeding, and most of all money. money comes from one of two places in the media industry: subscriptions or ads. Take your pick.

Popups are annoying, but until we see either micropayments (and the willingness to pay them), a high-click/conversion alternative to popups, or research which shows that it is damaging the brand, it won't stop.

Ok, to be constructive, I do hear your annoyance. You can act on the last point I mention above. Don't bother trying to "shame" the advertisers. Write them and tell them they are negatively impacting the brand. Write the website and tell them the same thing. That will at least pique their attention.
posted by i blame your mother at 8:59 AM on September 16, 2002


The sites I visit regularly all seem to have pop-ups (e.g. nytimes, espn, slate, theatlantic.com).

Just wanted to point out that these aren't the advertisers the article was talking about—they're the pages selling the ad-space that the pop-up demons (X10, Orbitz, Bonzi, etc.) are buying. And the reason that pop-ups seem to be everywhere is because, even though only 2% of online ads are pop-ups, pop-up space is often purchased on high-profile sites like Hotmail and NYT.
posted by dilettanti at 9:16 AM on September 16, 2002


Why don't the NYT and other such sites put an end to it? Why don't they tell the advertisers, "look, if you want to advertise here, you can't use pop ups."

My respect for the NYT dropped significantly when pop-ups starting popping up on their site.
posted by jennak at 9:24 AM on September 16, 2002


Do a quick count of the other ads on a page the next time you encounter a pop-up ad; chances are there are a good half-dozen
With a bit of magic CSS and Opera/Mozilla, I see, uh, none (well, except the odd small/hard to block one).

I also turn off Flash and disable gif animation, which makes the web much less obnoxious.
posted by Freaky at 9:47 AM on September 16, 2002


A combination of Junkbuster and Mozilla makes my web browsing as fresh and clean as a mountain spring.
posted by RylandDotNet at 9:53 AM on September 16, 2002


I spent time on Friday volunteering in the computer lab at my son's elementary school. The kids were all assigned to visit a site (which of course, now I can't remember) to solve a math puzzle, and I spent more than ten minutes walking around the room, explaining to the thirty kids what pop-up ads were (five little windows showed up), and how they were not actually part of the site, and to just close the windows and move on.

I figure that today I'll be spending time asking whoever is in charge of the district's setup why they don't have ad blocking software installed on the systems.
posted by keli at 10:09 AM on September 16, 2002


Zonealarm Pro and Opera/Mozilla. Haven't seen a single popup in about a year, and I only see about 10% of all the banner ads. wOOt

I don't understand why people complain about them when they're so easy to block.
posted by spungfoo at 10:16 AM on September 16, 2002


Personally, I'm inclined to agree with the Nielsen findings. On those not-so-rare occasions I forget to activate Pop-Up Stopper, the pop-up ads I see all appear to be from the same five advertisers: Debtscape, Orbitz, VeriSign, X10 (naturally) and those mysterious ones that ask you to answer a survey question to win a prize.
posted by fredosan at 10:26 AM on September 16, 2002


i think the % in the article is right. after all, it seems to be the same advertisers that perpetually pop up. the other 90%, while more polite, are just probably noticed less. for instance, i almost never even notice banner ads anymore...
posted by adamms222 at 10:38 AM on September 16, 2002


SandeepKrishnamurthy: I think we need to build an online advertiser hall of shame and make this list public.

My list (self-link) is here. Let me know if you start your own. A better strategy would be to make a white list of companies who promise not to use pop-ups.

XQUZYPHYR: ...advertisers actually put the code for the popus in their banners, which give the webmasters no control over what actually is popping up.

The site's owners made the decision to run popups, so they are responsible for what appears on their site. They aren't excused from responbility just because they decide to let the advertisers pick the ads.

i blame your mother: Don't bother trying to "shame" the advertisers. Write them and tell them they are negatively impacting the brand. Write the website and tell them the same thing.

I write both the advertisers and the sites letting them know popups devalue their brand and encourage people like me to purchase from their competitors.
posted by neuroshred at 11:30 AM on September 16, 2002


The site's owners made the decision to run popups, so they are responsible for what appears on their site.

No, what XQU is saying is, the code for making the pop-ups is in the banner. If you run banner ads on your site, any banner could be used to trigger a popup.
posted by kindall at 12:57 PM on September 16, 2002


any banner could be used to trigger a popup.

Oh I see. Thanks for clarifying. The banner-creator is scum for popping up another ad without the site's knowledge, but the site can only claim ignorance for so long. If they find out about it then let it continue, they are approving of the ads by their inaction.
posted by neuroshred at 1:06 PM on September 16, 2002


No, what XQU is saying is, the code for making the pop-ups is in the banner. If you run banner ads on your site, any banner could be used to trigger a popup.

Just to clarify (I hope): Image tags cannot pop up banners. If you include just a banner ad on your web site -- the image call and its hyperlink -- then your web site cannot generate popup ads (absent third-party adware scum like Gator). However, if you remotely include Javascript code from an advertising network, as many networks require you to do just to generate their banner ads, then the ad network can sneak in popups/popunders whenever they like.

Luckily, the code provided by most ad networks contains a "NOSCRIPT" clause with a traditional anchor/image pair intended to generate banners on browsers that do not support javascript. If you hate the thought of your users seeing popups as much as I do, you can make this the behavior on all browsers and remove the javascript code. (Some ad networks might not allow this, though.)

That said, I wish I knew an effective way for publishers to disable Gator. It breaks my heart to receive angry emails from users who think that my web site is responsible for the popup ads that Gator is generating on their system.
posted by dougb at 2:12 PM on September 16, 2002


Most banner ads these days are IFRAMEs that can inline an entire HTML document, so the banner can be Flash, JavaScript, or whatever, in addition to (or instead of) a simple animated GIF. Animated GIFs are so 1997 anyway.
posted by kindall at 2:44 PM on September 16, 2002


And yes, people do click in droves on these suckers.

I wonder how many of those "clicks" are simply the user's attempt to bring a pop-under to the foreground in order to kill it? A lot of pop-up/under windows are linked from edge to edge, so I occasionally wind up clicking through even if I'm just trying to hit the chrome and I miss it by a pixel.

(Of course you can focus/exit most browser windows on Windows via the taskbar -- but sometimes it's easier to just focus the window directly, and MacOS 9 doesn't have a taskbar.)
posted by macrone at 4:11 PM on September 16, 2002


10 percent of all companies that advertise online

That's just statistic spin. It says nothing about the percent of advertising which uses popups. For all you know that 10% of companies could represent 99% of advertising.
posted by HTuttle at 4:41 PM on September 16, 2002


Just a gentle reminder that it's trivial to disable pop-ups in MSIE for free; simply disable Javascript by default in your security settings, and leave it enabled for your "trusted" sites. This alone eliminates 90% of the web's unpleasant advertising behavior. More aggressive default settings such as disabling ActiveX and its ilk can make general browsing on IE quite bearable.
posted by johnnyace at 11:18 PM on September 16, 2002


And yes, people do click in droves on these suckers.

Gosh, could that have anything to do with the way so many of "these suckers" are designed to trick gullible users into thinking they're dealing with a Windows error message? Or some other computer-related doohickey it's urgently important for them to click? Yes, I think it could. And it's not just pop-ups; a lot of banners are deceptive like that, too.

But my biggest online ad peeve is popups that show up as you *leave* a site. Lots of magazines shove those at you, including The New Republic. Its popup entices you to a 4-free-issue subscription (so they can sell your name without your permission to direct mail lists, of course) by shouting, "STOP RIGHT THERE!"

Um...NO. Is there something about the fact that I'M LEAVING YOUR SITE that's difficult to understand?
posted by mediareport at 7:45 AM on September 17, 2002


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