Software programs with names like AdWiper (www.webwiper.com), Internet JunkBuster (www.junkbuster.com) and WebEarly (www.webearly.com) detect advertising (or other material considered intrusive) and prevent it from being downloaded to the user's browser.
Usually the software can also block "cookies," the small undetected files downloaded to a hard drive that let advertisers track and collect user information.
Although some of the software has been out for several years, advertisers and agencies aren't overly worried about the effect the programs have on their advertising messages.
'NOT GOOD TARGETS'
"Those people who use the software because they're aggravated by advertising are not really good targets anyway," said J.G. Sandom, senior partner of OgilvyOne Interactive, New York, which handles clients including IBM Corp., GTE Corp. and Jaguar Cars North America.
He expects the number of people who go to the trouble of downloading and/or buying the software is minimal. "Most people don't even turn off the default on their browsers," he said.
The software makers usually pitch the added benefit of faster downloading of pages without the advertisement files. Mr. Sandom said it's only a matter of time before the technology matures with new compression techniques and other advances, and then the speed advantage will also dissipate.
Barry Jaspin, Internet Mute founder, said, "interMute is not just about blocking ads. Yes, it does do that, but it's really a program about filtering annoyances.
"I'm not on a crusade against Web advertising. I plan to do some, in fact," he added.
USERS BECOMING IMMUNE TO ADS
However, analysts said, an even bigger concern for advertisers may be that users on the Internet are becoming immune to advertising, much as TV watchers and magazine readers flip channels or turn past print messages.
Gary Arlen, president of Internet consultancy Arlen Communications, said, "Frequent Web users have the mental and ocular facilities to wipe out advertising on their own without special software. . . . Somehow, your field of vision has already narrowed to cut off the top or bottom of the screen."
Lynn Brannigan, managing partner of interactive agency Multimedia Resources, which handles clients such as MasterCard International and Time Warner, said her clients are not focused on the ad-wiping software; instead, they're still learning how to make the Web an effective medium overall.
Some of the responsibility for creating an advertiser-friendly atmosphere lies with the content sites, she said.
"These independent software moves are just sort of flies in the ointment, I guess," Ms. Brannigan said. "Advertisers count on individual sites as being responsible and guaranteeing that the advertisers are only paying for what users are actually seeing."