Study: Pop-Under Ads Can Backfire

Few who have seen X10’s nearly omnipresent pop-under ad question that the technique can build awareness — but a new study by Jupiter Media Metrix suggests that pop-unders do so at the expense of brand image.

Lately, the online ad community is doing a lot of thinking about the branding effects of online advertising. Leaders like the Interactive Advertising Bureau, DoubleClick and others have been funding market research into the medium, to show that Web ads can influence consumers’ brand affinity and purchase — in a bid to attract traditional advertisers.

But according to Jupiter, approaches such as that taken by X10 — which did not return requests for comment on this story — seem to be a step in the opposite direction.

“Looking only at reach, it would appear that has deployed an incredibly successful campaign,” said Marissa Gluck, a senior analyst at New York-based Jupiter. “However, consumer behavior tells a different story. As advertisers become increasingly intrusive online, consumers react just as they do with their TV remote control — they eliminate advertising they don’t find relevant or entertaining. That’s what’s happening with”

Indeed, data from Jupiter’s Media Metrix division indicates that while the X10 campaign reached about 32.8 percent of the Web’s entire audience — through buys on Yahoo!, The New York Times on the Web and MSN — it largely failed to convert browsers to buyers.

According to the study, 73 percent of those who view the ad or who are otherwise drawn to the site leave within 20 seconds. Only 4.2 percent of the site’s total 28 million monthly visitors and ad viewers spent more than three minutes on the site — the minimum amount of time that Jupiter feels indicates an “engaged shopper.” (Jupiter does not track the amount of time that the “pop-under” is hidden behind other windows.)

Blaming those steep drop-off rates on the extensiveness of the X10 media buy and a lack of frequency caps, Jupiter added that other, less pervasive pop-up and pop-under campaigns — such as those from and Unicast — see much smaller drop-off rates, of 37 and 64 percent, respectively.

“While pop-unders such as have achieved mass reach online, relevancy still matters more than format,” Gluck said. “The ubiquity of the ads, and consumers’ subsequent rejection of them, reinforces the notion that allowing consumers to exercise free will in their surfing and providing them with targeted, relevant offers are the keys to successful online marketing.”

Additionally, Jupiter suggests that whatever benefits accrue to X10 thanks to its massive media buy will become difficult to replicate in the future, given that the research firm predicts that “cheap and limitless inventory … will disappear at high-traffic sites within six to nine months.”

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