Once You Pop . . .

Can the marketing strength of pop-ups overcome their weaselly image?

We've all encountered those ads that pop up in front of or behind the browser window when we're trying to open a Web page. While consumers generally find these aggressive online advertising formats to be disruptive and even annoying, online marketers are using them more and more. Why?

According to Panos Anastassiadis, president and CEO of Cyveillance, an Arlington, Virginia, company that uses proprietary technology to analyze Web sites, "When the economy is down, businesses will go to great lengths to wring more out of their marketing dollars. It's no surprise to see these tactics emerge into the mainstream."

By 2007,
of Net surfers will be accessing the Web via wireless connections.
SOURCE: Computer Industry Almanac

Advertisers are seeking new ad formats that demonstrate better effectiveness than the static banner ad, which has been the subject of criticism for several years. Analysts report that intrusive tactics are growing in popularity because they usually result in more site visits. "Most evidence we see is that pop-up ads are giving advertisers response rates and a connection that they haven't seen in a long time," says Charles Buchwalter, vice president of media research at Jupiter Media Metrix.

Consider X10 Wireless Technology Inc., based in Seattle, which blanketed the Internet with pop-under ads for its wireless cameras last year. "For better or worse, X10 took the bull by the horns very early on and differentiated itself from competitors in the electronic component business," says Buchwalter.

A study from Cyveillance that analyzed the 100 most popular Internet sites and a representative sample of 100,000 sites last year found 30 percent of the top sites in the United States employ pop-up ads. In fact, 12 percent of all sites on the Internet employ these ads.

Some companies can get away with it. Travel site Orbitz LLC uses pop-up ads offering attractive rates on travel packages. "It's interesting that Orbitz actually doesn't come up on lists of Web sites that show people being offended by pop-up ads," says Buchwalter. "X10's ads, on the other hand, irritate people because of the frequency with which they pop up, and because the ads themselves can be considered a bit racy."

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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at mcampanelli@earthlink.net.

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This article was originally published in the June 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Once You Pop . . ..

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