January 14, 2003 11:06 AM PST

Pop-ups, the ads we love to hate

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Pop-up ads seem to be the Internet equivalent of supermarket tabloids: Everyone claims to hate them, but somebody keeps reading.

According to a study conducted by GartnerG2, 78 percent of respondents claimed they found pop-up ads "very annoying." In contrast, only 49 percent of participants applied the same rating to banner ads.

Yet pop-ups had click-through rates almost twice as high as those of banner ads, meaning they're probably going to stick around for a while. Indeed, Nielsen/NetRatings' online-advertising rating, AdRelevance, found that pop-up impressions jumped from 1.2 billion to 4.9 billion between January 2002 and September 2002.

And companies are looking for ways to make pop-ups perform better. One new type of ad clicks through to the advertiser's site even if Web surfers simply move their mouse over the ad.

But there may be some relief on the way. Several companies have decided that no matter what the possible gains, the possibility of annoying customers makes pop-ups a risk. Sites including iVillage and Ask Jeeves have banished the ads, and browser companies and Internet service providers have released technology to block them.

And as consumers get more annoyed with the ads--and more used to them--their effectiveness should wane, Gartner analyst Denise Garcia said.

"Current click-through rates are inflated because many Internet users are not familiar with how to close the pop-up window," Garcia said in the Gartner report. "The rates will decrease as users gain experience."


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