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Unicast CEO Calls for Industry to Rethink Pop-Under Ads

The Internet advertising industry should rethink the growing use of “pop-under” ads because their negative perception will undermine advertisers' confidence in the industry, said Richard Hopple, chairman/CEO of online advertising services provider Unicast.

Pop-under ads are the opposite of pop-up ads. They appear underneath an open Web browser window so that when the user closes the browser or goes to another page, they see the ad. Pop-under ads have gained the ire of many users because of their ubiquity. X10 Home Solutions, a marketer of an inexpensive Web video camera, popularized them.

Unicast, New York, developed the Superstitial, a pop-up ad featuring rich media and streaming content.

According to Hopple, pop-under ads are not good for advertisers because they are offensive to consumers.

“Just at a time when the Internet advertising industry is starting to see some very valid and worthwhile experimentation in online ad formats and just as the medium is becoming more and more cognizant of the fact that the user should be top-of-mind, along comes a format which is causing almost universal outcry from consumers,” Hopple said. “Because it is so offensive to users, pop-under ads aren't good for advertisers and, despite the temptation of short-term revenue, consequently not good for publishers.”

Hopple likened pop-under ads to watching an entire television program without any commercials and then having to watch the commercials after the television set is turned off. He noted that the model is flawed because the approach of pop-under ads is confusing to users.

In addition to X10 Home Solutions, Half.com and iWon.com also employ pop-under ads on a number of Web sites, including NYTimes.com, MSNBC.com and AltaVista.

The pop-under ads employed by X10 Home Solutions to sell its wireless Web camera have caused such consternation among Web surfers that the company offers a link that can be used to turn them off for 30 days. Users can go to www.x10.com/home/optout.cgi?DAY=30&PAGE=http://www.x10.com/x10ads1.htm and the ads will not show up in their browsers.

In an effort to explain its controversial means of advertising, X10 Home Solutions publishes a frequently asked questions page on its site that makes a point of stating that pop-under ads are not illegal and will not harm a user's computer.

The FAQ section says: “This form of advertising is 100 percent safe and will not do anything or affect your computer in any manner. If the offer is not appealing to you, simply close the window. That's all. There's nothing else to do.” It notes that pop-under ads “help with your overall web viewing experience.”

The company said its use of pop-under ads is just another way of getting its product recognized on the Internet.

“In the last year many different sizes and styles of ads have been used to try to add more value to the advertiser,” the company said. “X10.com is simply using a new form of advertising. Please try to understand that this type of advertising is what keeps the Internet enjoyable, as it pays for operational costs behind the sites you enjoy visiting for free.”

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