Gator Proposing 'Rules of Engagement' Governing Pop-Up Ads

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Online marketer Gator Corp., best known for its controversial Companion Pop-Up banner advertisements, is calling on the online advertising industry to define standards -- or what it calls "rules of Engagement" -- governing the use of pop-up ads.


Noting that more and more Web sites are displaying an increasing number of anonymous pop-up and pop-under ads without consumers' permission, Gator is calling for publishers to obtain consent to display pop-ups, provide clear attribution and give consumers opt-out capabilities. Gator's proposal has the blessing of the Interactive Advertising Bureau.


"Consumers want control of their PCs," said Jeff McFadden, president/CEO of Gator Corp., Redwood City, CA. "They're confused as to who is responsible for displaying these high volumes of uninvited pop-ups and pop-unders and they are becoming frustrated. This is hurting the responsiveness and is giving a black eye to the online advertising industry."


McFadden said Gator's proposal includes collaborating with the IAB to help define a set of guidelines for industry self-regulation, helping advertisers understand how to select ad vehicles that protect their brand and encourages third-party, free software providers to support their software with advertising applications that adhere to the guidelines.


Greg Stuart, CEO of the IAB, said all parties have an obligation to support industry standards if the online advertising market is to continue growing.


"As new advertising technologies vie for consumers' attention, the industry clearly needs some basic ground rules that serve the needs of both advertisers and consumers," Stuart said.


However, it was not long ago that the IAB thought Gator was part of the industry's problem, not part of the solution.


Established in June 1999, Gator's first product was a virtual "smart companion" that automatically filled out order forms, speeding shoppers through online checkouts. Gator users also could opt into OfferCompanion, a service that delivers offers based on registration information and user behavior.


Gator's Companion Pop-Up Banner, which obscured existing banners with ads from Gator's own network of advertising partners, led the IAB early last year to threaten a lawsuit for infringement of trademark, copyright and intellectual property rights.


Gator countered in August 2001 with a federal lawsuit against the IAB to protect its right to use its Companion Pop-Up banner ad-covering technology.


"The suit was brought in response to the IAB's unfounded accusations regarding the legality of this new advertising vehicle and their threats of legal action against Gator," the company said when it filed its lawsuit.


In November, Gator said it stopped selling its Companion Pop-Up Banner at the behest of the IAB and that it was working to develop a product that satisfies the IAB's concerns.


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