Behind Your Browser, Advertisers Wait For You to Close Up

If you’ve visited sites like MSN, Alta Vista, the L.A. Times and the N.Y. Times over the past few weeks, you’ve been exposed to the pop-under ad. Taking a cue from the porn industry (windows opened behind a browser don’t feel as intrusive), is using the campaign to skyrocket traffic ratings and uncover new buyers for its web cameras.

Can blanketing the web with your message be too much? spoke with an insider working on the campaign that said requested that its media buying agencies purchase every available space for advertising they could find. Not content to target specific users, they wanted to reach as much of the web as possible. is using the pop-under ad to increase the number of “unique visitors” to its web site. In March, the first month of the ad campaign, jumped from relative obscurity to ranking #30 on the Media Metrix Top 50 visited web sites. In April, they jumped to #14.

This is a very deceptive number. is counting every time the ad is delivered as a unique visit to their web site. The ad’s address refers a visit to the web site, even without the user ever visiting the site.

On certain days over the past few months, my own surfing probably accounted for about 20 unique visits a day as the ad opened underneath my web browser. Think about the number of times you have closed the window over the past few months and it really begins to add up.

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One thing is clear, new metrics must be put in place that properly define web traffic and what constitutes a “unique visitor”. can use the skewed Media Metrix rating to attract investors and publicity due to the great story that their new traffic numbers tell.

A web property jumping so much due to one ad plastered everywhere, throws the entire tracking industry into a loop. If any bit of information served to a user counts as traffic, there are far more properties delivering “unique” visitors than X10.

The response from the audience is mixed. Some users feel worn down by the ads. Others find it subtler than ads that pop-over the web browser and distract from the task at hand.

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Keith is an Internet Strategist and Co-Founder of MarketLeap