September 20, 2002

A Little Something About Basic Web Effectiveness

Not that anyone cares a lot about this, but ... I went to a site and, waiting for it to load, I see it's also loading a popup ad. Tiresome, annoying but not unusual these days. But here's the thing: Suddenly a window pops up and asks if I want to run Flash 6. Apparently I don't have the latest version. But here's the question ... why would I update just so I can see an ad?

I said no and now I had a popup window (the ad itself) which, except for a blank yellow box in the centre, was empty. It didn't even have text saying who the company was or the name of the product. Nothing.

So ... why did these guys spend money creating and running this ad? Yes, there are loads of people on the Web with more recent versions of Flash and capable of running the popup. But there are many more who don't. Why run an ad when half the audience can't see it? It's not that it's in Flash; it's that it's in a version of Flash that isn't ubiquitous on the Web yet. It's like making a television ad and then running it in only some markets. Why exclude half your potential audience when you don't need to?

And this doesn't even touch on the question of how effective a popup is to begin with. Yes, there are all sorts of marketing guys who will throw numbers at you about the effectiveness of popup ads but very rarely do they have numbers that show a relationship between how many people click on an ad and how many actually ending up buying a product or service. Return On Investment (ROI) is the only stat that matters and this is the one they can't show.

Anyway ... it seems a huge waste of everyone's time and money. This popup was similar to grabbing someone, harrassing them by yelling, "Listen to me! Listen to me!" and when they, irritated, finally say, "What on earth do you want?" the answer is, "Uh ... I don't know."

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