Building a Better Pop-Up Ad

As the use of pop-up and pop-under advertising has proliferated across the Web over the past year, many Web surfers and the browsers that serve them have taken a stance against this often annoying form of advertising that can clutter a desktop faster than a spray of locusts.

In recent months, the movement to oppose pop-up ads and their brethren has made significant progress, and pop-up blocking software has created an entirely new and prosperous market niche.

Based on overwhelming demand from subscribers, Earthlink now includes a pop-up blocker in its browser software, and the newest version of Netscape Navigator comes with a pop-up blocking option.

To an even greater extreme, iVillage , a New York based publisher, and AOL have decided affirmatively to no longer sell pop-up advertising so that users won’t have to be visually inconvenienced while browsing their sites.

But despite a general dislike for this form of online advertising, which accounted for 11.3 billion pop-up advertisements in the first half of this year, advertisers continue to be pleased with the results these pesky little ads render.

Discount travel site Orbitz, the second largest pop-under and pop-up advertiser on the Internet, recently began using humor as its main weapon against pop-up haters. Just by interacting with an ad that offers up gimmicks such as plucking a chicken or kicking field goals, many of these ads transport a user to the Orbitz site without a voluntary click-through.

And while Orbitz often gets complaints about its ads, which in the first half of the year totaled 667 million, it still sees a very high conversion rate for individuals who click on a pop ad and make a purchase, compared with other forms of advertising, the company said.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, those 11.3 billion pop-up ads account for just 2 percent of total online ad inventory.

But as the revolt against pop-up advertising gains clout among Internet Service Providers, Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based FPBA Group went to market in early 2002 with a patent-pending solution that might finally make users feel less offended by online advertising, and will consequently bolster the hopes of many advertisers who are still enamored with pop-ups as a way of delivering a message directly to a user, like it or not.

With statistics claiming that an estimated 20 percent of all users delete pop-up windows before they even get a chance to display their wares, FPBA’s new CommFlash technology was designed to transcend the basic concept behind pop-ups into a more traditional advertising vehicle.

Similar to television advertising where the time and space in between content is used to display ads, CommFlash enables advertisers to create pop-up commercials. Instead of obstructing page content, advertorial content is slipped into the 6-10 second time slot when a user clicks through from site to site. However, that downtime can vary dramatically for high-speed Internet connections and dial-up users.

In effect, while the user is looking at the content page, CommFlash technology supports the download of the advertisement in the background, so that when the user exits the page, the ad is immediately launched in the same browser session, assuming the same size of the browser. And since CommFlash advertisements are viewed in the same browser session, pop-zappers have no effect, the company claims.

“CommFlash takes advantage of user downtime,” said FPBA CEO Jonathan Barsade. “When a user clicks on a link there is a certain downtime while he waits for the next page to be downloaded. Instead of just staring at the screen waiting for the download, we take advantage of that time period.”

And while CommFlash delivers advertorial content in the same browser, it does not use layering and it doesn’t cover content.

“We open up the space in between Web pages,” said Barsade. But how exactly CommFlash works is a trade secret its maker would not reveal.

Having already won accounts with online heavyweights such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Business Week, and TV Guide just a year and a half after launching the company, FPBA has been warmly received by the advertorial community as a fresh alternative to a form of advertising that is beginning to raise the ire of many users.

“What we’ve seen is that users don’t view our technology as negatively as pop-ups or pop-unders,” Barsade continued. “End users understand the necessity of advertising. As long as it doesn’t assault them, they will accept it. We’ve taken traditional advertising principals and brought them online.”

FPBA recently released the results of a study that compared the use of banners, pop-ups, and pop-under advertisements, compared with integrating these forms of advertising together with CommeFlash technology.

According to the study, the effectiveness of CommFlash-enhanced pop-unders was improved by 21 percent and pop-up advertisements was doubly improved, the company said.

Even the New York Times and its somewhat finicky following of online readers, said Barsade, have made fewer objections to this relatively new form of advertising.

The Times has used CommFlash for its Oracle and Microsoft advertisements.

FPBA’s study also claims that CommFlash enhanced regular 468×60 banner-ads and improved CTA rates by 6 percent.

“We’re trying to minimize user revolt,” said Barsade, “CommFlash improves the staying power of pop-ups and consequently the return on investment for advertisers.”

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