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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 X10.com pop-under ad. Taking a cue from the porn industry (windows opened behind a browser don’t feel as intrusive), X10.com 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? Inside.com spoke with an insider working on the campaign that said X10.com 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.

X10.com 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, X10.com 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. X10.com 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 X10.com 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”. X10.com 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.

Advertisers are attracted to the format because pop-unders typically have a more effective conversion rate than other types of web ads. The ad, if unnoticed when it opens, is like many of the impulse items you’ll find in a check out line.

As you close down your connection, you see the ad as the last window to close. Your mind isn’t distracted; you are more likely to gain interest and decide to visit the site.

Pop-under ads are bringing in high numbers now because they are a relatively new technique in the mainstream. But to survive and provide long-term value to advertisers, web media must find the psychological path that other ad forms have discovered in their mediums and bring action into the model. Television and radio tell a good story. The web is still determining what types of stories users are looking for. Value, relevance and intrigue must be tied together into highly visible, simple-to-use, action-prompting ads.

Streaming, rich media, and other types of ads must prompt the user for a response that leads to a purchase or request if the web is ever going to outpace other forms of advertising for return on investment. Pop-under, over or out – none of it matters if web advertisers don’t play to the web’s strengths and demonstrate the capabilities and value it can truly deliver.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Keith is an Internet Strategist and Co-Founder of MarketLeap