The history of pop advertising began in the 1990s when a young web developer by the name of Ethan Zuckerman came up with a code to develop a window that was needed for a ‘fire-fighting’ operation of an automobile manufacturer whose online ad campaign came under malicious manipulation.
The ads of the automobile maker had begun appearing on a porn site, which the advertiser hadn’t planned for or approved, and was anxious to neutralize. Zuckerman, who worked for a web developing company named Tripod, was part of the team that was working on the solution to the problem, and eventually came up with the code that is sometimes compared with the discovery of the nuclear bomb with all its nuisance value in addition to its normal uses. It was the first pop up window and it was for a good intent – to cover the ads of the automobile maker every time it appeared on the porn site.
Users’ worry; marketers’ joy
Much like Albert Einstein, who is credited with developing the formula to make the atom bomb, Zuckerman, also realized that he had created a Frankenstein’s monster which has gone out of control. In 2014, he apologized in a post he had written for The Atlantic – “I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good. It’s obvious now that what we did was a fiasco, so let me remind you that what we wanted to do was something brave and noble.” It’s quite another thing that today, if there’s anything a user dreads other than his device malfunctioning, or his internet connection running out, is a pop advertising window ambushing him every now and then.
For the marketers, it has never been better as more and more sophisticated ways of grabbing the attention of consumers are developed by marketing automation companies. For instance, when a consumer goes to a shopping portal to buy a red shirt, she would be bombarded with pop advertising right through her purchase journey, offering her not just shirts of other colors that she prefers, along with trousers or jeans from brands that she likes, or any other thing that she has shown her preference for. Online shoppers have come to accept it as a way of life but it is also true that this has turned the entire online shopping environment into that of a flea market with sellers hollering all over.
Technology comes to the rescue
Internet users have always lived in the most interesting of times, with advancements and innovations in the use of the technology taking place like nowhere else. In fact, every aspect of life is now connected to the internet in some way or the other. If it is not, it’s not what has come to be known as “smart” – smart phone, smart watch, smart TV, smart microwave oven, etc. In other words, if you’re not using devices or appliances that are not connected to the internet in some degree, you’re not smart. Similarly, for the smart internet user, there is now a tool available, called pop up window blocker.
So, it’s not only the marketer who’s having all the fun. The consumer too has been blessed with some of these tools that can help him outsmart the marketer at times. However, it’s not always that pop advertising windows can be blocked by the consumer. For instance, there may be sites that are designed to outsmart the popup window blockers of the user. In fact, these websites invest huge amounts of money on marketing automation technology that can overcome these barriers – yes, for the marketers, these popup window blockers are barriers on their way to getting closer to the consumers.
Marketers would surely like a good return on their investment and their technology providers are only too happy to provide them the ‘solutions’ that help them overcome these barriers. On the other hand, there are another set of technology providers who ‘specialize’ in developing these barriers to pop advertising, like pop up blockers. Of course, like so many other things in the internet, there are also ‘free’ pop up blockers that users can install on their devices, but understandably, they’re not really effective. For the consumer using free services, even 25-40% effectiveness of the popup blockers would be considered quite good.
The way pop advertising windows are used by businesses to upsell their products is not something the online shopper likes because it is nothing less than annoyance for him. But in a fiercely competitive world, privacy comes with a premium price tag attached, which the common consumer can’t afford. In the meantime, marketers bring ever more powerful technology to break through the popup blockers that many smart consumers employ. It’s a tug of war which the consumer is not winning right now but who knows, there could be a time when pop advertising can be regulated better.