Pop-ups annoy, but do they work?


25/08/2003

They create as much clutter as those slippery advertising inserts that fatten a Sunday newspaper and are as inescapable as humidity in August. But just how annoying are those pop-up ads that appear unwanted on your computer screen as you cruise the Internet? How effective are they at selling stuff? And do they raise privacy issues in the same way that unsolicited e-mail does?

E-commerce experts at Wharton and elsewhere assert that pop-ups are not universally loathed and irrevocably worthless. But collectively, they can indeed be a nuisance. Pop-ups are a lot like other forms of advertising: If they are presented to a consumer at the wrong time and in the wrong way, they can be a big turn-off. But if a consumer sees them at the right time, they can provide useful information or at least be entertaining and nonoffensive.

Wharton marketing professor Patricia Williams, who teaches a course on electronic commerce, says there is not enough research to measure the effectiveness of pop-ups. She adds that some research she has seen asserts that consumers think pop-ups are actually worse than telemarketing calls. This would be something of an achievement, since telemarketing calls have attained the distinction of being perhaps the most unwanted and intrusive sales attempts in marketing history.

But Williams says she does not necessarily believe those studies. “My intuition tells me that ads that have more a traditional advertising format are viewed differently than telemarketing or spam,” she says. “Consumers feel that when they watch television, ads will appear. It’s part of the consumer process. My intuition is that pop-up ads are more like television ads that we’re used to.” (segue)

From KnowledgeWharton
Special to CNET News.com

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