If you hate pop-up ads with a burning passion, you’re far from alone. In fact, Ethan Zuckerman, the man who created the pop-up ad while working for hosting site Tripod.com in the mid-1990s, hates them just as much as everyone else. And in a recent article he wrote for The Atlantic, he blatantly apologizes for creating this internet nightmare at all.
According to Zuckerman, Tripod.com struggled for a while as it tried to create marketed content in a way that would reach consumers and result in a share of the revenue. Companies began complaining that their banner ads, which are placed directly on a webpage, could make it seem as though the company supported that particular page’s content. After years of experimenting with different platforms, Tripod.com eventually settled on a model where user homepages are analyzed so that consumers can be grouped into target audience groups. Along the way, Tripod.com also started incorporating separate window advertising — now known as the pop-up ad. And the man who created the code for these ads was none other than Zuckerman himself.
20 years into the pop-up-addled internet, even Zuckerman can see how annoying and invasive this method of advertising is; to use his own words, this method of online marketing is “bad, broken, and corrosive.” A slew of anti-ad and anti-virus programs have capitalized on the pop-up ad industry, and it’s no secret that internet users vehemently despise the ads, but it may surprise some business owners just how little their business benefits from obtrusive advertising like pop-ups.
“There is no question that pop up ads are universally annoying, in spite of that they are widely used to get people to sign up to get more information,” says Steven M Smith, CEO of S&S Pro Services, LLC. “It is my viewpoint that the effectiveness of pop up ads is questionable. You may gain some new people to add to your database, but the offsetting factor of how many people are turned off by the ads overrides the benefits.”
Although there doesn’t seem to be any large-scale movement to eradicate the pop-up advertising phenomenon, this problem may eventually sort itself out as companies are able to see numbers that prove that the pop-up ad has no place in future marketing campaigns.