Cites User Complaints for Move

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Web site iVillage said today it would eliminate pop-up ads from its online network by the end of the third quarter in response to feedback from its primarily female audience.

The popular women's site said a small number of pop-up-style ad placements may continue on the site but they'll be mostly tied to research and in-house subscription offerings. An iVillage/Vividence survey found that 92.5% of iVillage women found pop-up advertising to be the most frustrating feature of the Web.

Better regulation?
The decision to scrap pop-ups from iVillage isn't likely to make the format disappear from other Web sites, but the pesky ads may become better regulated, said Nick Nyhan, president of Dynamic Logic, an independent research firm

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"I think it's part of the overall industry reconciliation between the needs of the consumer and the needs of the advertiser, and that's good because it's a sign of a healthy debate," Mr. Nyhan said. "Clearly intrusive advertising benefits adertisers, but not if it's at the expense of the consumer."

Digital camera
Ads for X10 digital cameras are the most prominent example of the frequency and intrusiveness of pop-up advertising. "X10 [pop-up advertising] was effective in raising awareness of X10 and it sold a lot of cameras, but the company's brand favorability was probably not very high," Mr. Nyhan said.

So will other Web publishers follow iVillage's lead? Mr. Nyhan doesn't necessarily think so.

"What the industry has to grapple with is how to control the frequency of an intrusive ad unit. ... Consumers are actually very reasonable about this. I think they're willing to tolerate an appropriate amount of advertising but they don't want to feel abused."

Packaged-goods giant Unilever, which advertises iVillage's properties, supported the pop-up ban: "By replacing pop-up advertising with ad formats that can break through the clutter in a way consumers respond to more positively, iVillage has taken a leadership role as a marketer," said Edward Kim, interactive media manager for Unilever U.S.

AOL moves against pop-ups
IVillage is not alone in banning pop-ups. Recently, America Online said it would eliminate the ad format in the subscription portions of its network. Pop-ups slow down service for AOL's dial-up Internet subscribers, which constitute the overwhelming majority of its 34 million customers.

"Pop-ups have been banned in the [business-to-business] arena already, especially the tech Web sites," said Denise Garcia, media research director for GartnerG2, a research tech strategy firm.

Ms. Garcia said she believes more consumer Web publishers will move to follow the lead of iVillage.

"It will happen incrementally as [publishers] get to know their audience better," she said.

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