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Pop-Ups Win Another Unpopularity Contest

Pop-up ads can't catch a break. Researcher Gartner Group's GartnerG2 unit released the results of a survey done this summer that found Internet users pegged pop-ups as the most irritating form of advertising on the Net.

In GartnerG2's poll of 2,667 Internet users, 78.3 percent of respondents tagged pop-up advertisements as "very annoying." Likewise, a slightly smaller amount, 75 percent, found pop-under ads quite bothersome. In contrast, conventional Internet ad units fared quite well, bugging just 49 percent of respondents.

"The biggest thing is that despite the consumers' annoyance with them, publishers continue to serve them," said Denise Garcia, an analyst with GartnerG2. "Their click-through rate is generally higher and their prices are higher. That will eventually catch up with them or people will start to go to other sites."

So far, though, despite the well-publicized moves by Internet service providers like AOL and EarthLink to block at least some pop-up ads, the most hated Internet ad format remains robust. According to figures compiled by Nielsen//NetRatings' AdRelevance unit pop-up impressions more than quadrupled from 1.2 billion impressions in January 2002 to 4.9 billion in September.

Garcia predicted pop-ups have already seen their best days, however, as Internet users become more savvy and click-through rates recede.

The ad format that garnered the lowest annoyance rating, 43 percent, was an interstitial that appears between Web pages and disappears unless clicked on. Despite their similarity with pop-under ads, Garcia said consumers were not as bothered by them, probably because they have an easy option to click out of the ad.

GartnerG2 highlighted Unicast, which makes the "superstitial" format that serves rich media advertising clips to Web users as they go from one page to another.

"We see this as a much-needed third-party reinforcement that there's a difference among these type of formats," said Allie Savarino, Unicast's senior vice president of global marketing and partner services. She said consumers were more than willing to trade access to free content for viewing advertising, so long as the advertising was delivered creatively and at a time when it did not interfere with their surfing.

Researcher: Online Strategy Drives Shopper to Stores

Nielsen//NetRatings says that retailers with a strong online presence are likely to drive more customers to their physical stores.

In a study released Tuesday at the National Retail Federation's annual conference, the researcher concluded that brands need to integrate their virtual and physical presences to drive multi-channel sales. For instance, Nielsen//NetRatings said consumers visiting Coach's Web site were 27 percent more likely to visit a Coach outlet; for Neiman Marcus, they were 18 times more inclined; and for J. Crew, they were 10 times more likely.

"As retailers plan for 2003, the successful integration of the Internet into a retailer's sales channel strategy will play a pivotal role in helping many underachieving merchants drive higher revenues," said Patrick Thomas, an analyst Nielsen//NetRatings.

The researcher came up with each retailer's ranking by using figures culled from its @Plan service.

Aptimus Sees Positive Q4

Online direct marketing network Aptimus issued guidance for its upcoming fourth-quarter financial report, expecting its losses to be trimmed on the way to pro forma profitability in the first quarter of 2003.

Aptimus said it expects quarterly net loss to be between $775,000 and $825,000, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) loss will come in between $500,000 and $550,000. In the first quarter of 2003, Aptimus forecasts it will achieve EBITDA profitability.

"While Google and Overture are proving the ultimate potential of results-based online marketing, Aptimus is leading the field in applying results-based dynamic optimization to Web advertising and e-mail approaches," said Tim Choate, Aptimus' president and chief executive.