Intrusiveness of Online Ads

Advertisements are a vital (and often the most vital) part of a problogger’s monetization strategies. Thus, the choice of which type of ads to serve on one’s blogs is always an important question. You might be interested in the results of a study conducted by McCoy, Everard, Polak, and Galletta that appeared in the article The Effects of Online Advertising (Communications of the ACM March 2007). Yeah I know, it’s May already – the copy arrived a month late 😉

The paper presents nothing new or radical; rather, it somewhat ‘formalizes’ what many web surfers have known/felt for long:

  • Intrusiveness: Pop-under ads are the most intrusive type of ads, closely followed by pop-ups; inline (often banner) ads are considerably less intrusive than the two
  • Return visits: More site visitors intend to revisit sites with inline ads than those with pop-unders and pop-ups (which are slightly worse than the pop-unders)
  • Content retention: Visitors exposed to inline ads remember more of the site’s content rather than those exposed to pop-ups and pop-unders.

Unfortunately, I can’t quote exact figures or an excerpt, as to republish part of the work requires prior permission and/or a fee. Suffice it to say, the figures for pop-up and pop-under ads are neck to neck; the article seems to suggest inline (e.g. banner) ads are the most user-friendly among the three.

(For those interested in dissecting the paper more, access to the magazine’s online version requires ACM membership.)

7 thoughts on “Intrusiveness of Online Ads

  1. @ifranky, those are great points. Thanks for tips. Now I’m thinking the study might’ve used pop-unders that didn’t follow those two rules you listed 😉

  2. OK, a confession. Years ago, I used to build German windows communities, jsut for the sake of promoting my ink cartridges shops in SERPs, and this was (we speak 2002-2003) highly efficient and I hardly needed to invest in advertising, except the standard affiliate programs.

    I also used popunders and they were highly efficient, without being directly annoying. But today’s popunders are annoying and highly inefficient, not only because we see way too many casalamedia crapola, stuff we already know.
    Popunders can be efficient, without being too annoying, if you follow 2 simple rules:
    Make them smaller than the average view port and try to make them open at top left of the screen. In that way they will open hidden to the user. Also force them to open a new window (not too hard to find the code to obtain this, but users who have FF and Opera, and configured their browser that everything opens in a new tab might block your site sooner or later, because new tabs catch the attention), so they will really open UNDER the browser window.
    600*450 (or anything smaller) is a nice size, fits on every screen.
    But NEVER resize anything from the main browser window. Hardly any js or anything needed, just set the size of the new window in the link attributes. 😉

    I also have ran many ad campaigns on those community sites (they all had at least 1500 windows tips, so were quite popular). Overlay ads are economically very interesting, but you need a good marketeer, and generate volume. If you have a good agency, most of time they will just call you and ask you if you can deliver fe. 25k impressions in only 10 days. If you do so (and 25k was my smallest campaign actually), you can expect a check around $5k.
    Just take into consideration everything you need to take care of : cookies for regulars, members aso, because the danger is high that you’ll turn of visitors/regulars, unless you really have that exclusive content. So basically you’ll need around 10k/uniques pro day before you can even consider a campaign, because you’ll only stick the code on some pages anyway.

  3. @Raj, I find those interstitials highly annoying, too 😉 But I guess the advertisers pay a lot for those, hehe!

    @J, unfortunately, most of the figures come in diagrams using a 7-item scale that’s easier understood visually. Off the top of my head, I think they mentioned that pop-ups were 24% and pop-unders were 33% more intrusive than inlines, respectively.

    @dgibson, yes, that’s the first thing I thought when I read the article. I myself am more annoyed by pop-ups than pop-unders However, if I’m to hazard a guess, I think the ‘intrusiveness’ can be attributed to readers (or at least the study’s respondents) being a bit desensitized already to pop-ups (which have been around longer, am I right?).

  4. @dgibson: True enough, though over two years of research, I’m finding that bloggers who do affiliate marketing and do it right are probably more likely to earn a full-time living than those that hope AdSense will come through. You need high volumes of traffic to earn good money from AdSense. Unless you have a really lucrative niche, in which case you can do fine with about 500-1000 pageviews per day. But those niches are tough to crack for a variety of reasons.

  5. Weren’t they invented because it was supposed to be less intrusive than a pop up that was in your way? I find it odd that a pop under would be more intrusive than a pop up ad. Anything that distracts from the task at hand is annoying though, so how is an advertiser supposed to get noticed? Keep buying banner ads and accept the incredibly low click through? Buy them PPC and accept a degree of click fraud? I’m not arguing for or against anything – advertising sucks, but we got make our money somehow 🙂

  6. Yes, Raj. As much as I don’t want to visit sites with popups and pop-unders (especially those that make your browser open a new tab, and resize the ENTIRE BROWSER or maximize everything, which I hate), some top news and magazine sites use popups and pop-unders. Sigh.

    Great points, Phillip. Maybe you can find a way to cite the study results here legally. Maybe you can’t quote, but perhap you can at least cite the figures.

  7. Good points, Phillip. I won’t even link to sites with popups/ unders, let alone want to return to them – unless I absolutely have to. Unfortunately, interstitials appear at a lot of top magazine and newspaper sites. They’re almost as annoying.

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