Who killed popup ads?

New York Times writer Randall Stross said in an article that he believes that Google’s Text Ads solved the problem of popup ads littering the web (makes a mention of X10, the most annoying and popular of that era). I think the article is rather misguided as to say Google’s Text Ads got rid of the popup problem.

I’ll make the bold statement that the problem was solved by popup blockers from Mozilla, IE, Google Bar, and the many ISP solutions that popped up (pun intended) to help customers deal with the problem. Look at the number 1 reason to use Firefox. It’s Microsoft’s Number 4 and it’s on Google Toolbar’s page (when browsing in IE as they serve up different pages for Firefox) has it listed too. When so many became blocked, the effectiveness of these ads diminished. Earthlink, AOL, and friends all advertised they had popup blockers as their killer feature.

Google was the one bright enough to realize that users got so annoyed with the ads they started to ignore them. Google then realized that if Ads were to abide with their “do no evil” mantra, perhaps users wouldn’t be bothered by them. And so Google’s Text ads comes into the equation. Advertisers now have a way of reaching customers again, and popups start to die off. Most people don’t seem bothered by Google Text Ads. Personally I like them, it’s easy to support a site and doesn’t feel distracting. No Java applet ads (the worst of all, especially those video ones we saw for a while), Flash, or animated GIF’s. Just a simple line of text that’s about what I’m reading.

Why doesn’t Google push image ads more (they do offer them)? Because text blends in better. The human eye can scan a rather quickly and pick out what the brain wants to see. When you visit a website, you want to see the site’s contents. Having banner ads in predictable sizes just help the brain to ignore things quicker. Text ads blend in much more, hence may be seen within page. If I were to put a flashy animated GIF in this page, you would simply read the text around it, ignoring the ad as unwanted information. If I put a text ad there, you’ll likely read a few words. If it’s a relevant text ad, you may read it all, and perhaps click on it. text is less invasive. It doesn’t bother people nearly as much as a “punch the monkey and win a prize” style ads. Some will still ignore it, but I think the majority of people don’t really mind text ads, provided they don’t take up to much of the page. Context is so important. Why do you think beer commercials rule sporting events? Why don’t they appear as often on daytime TV? I don’t think an answer is needed there. It’s really the same thing. When an ad blends into it’s surroundings it does better. Many beer ads are well designed to integrate well into a sports broadcast by featuring either action or comedy, both entertaining values attractive to their target audience. When an ad stands out to much, you ignore it as an ad. Look at the superbowl. People watch the game just to see the ads. Why? “Entertainment”, they blend in with the theme of the evening “entertainment”. They are all made to entertain you.

Popups definitely didn’t die because of text ads. No way. It just doesn’t make sense They were too effective, hence the high commissions for sites who displayed them. Text Ads are essentially the compromise brokered by Google to help solve the battle over advertising between web surfers and content providers.

Perhaps we should send Google to the middle east?