An Angel In Devil's Shoes
Join Date: Jan 2001
Local Time: 11:30 AM
political pop up advertising...
just what we need, more pop up ads
Political pop-up ads: new windows of opportunity
10:22 PM CST on Thursday, March 11, 2004
By COLLEEN McCAIN NELSON / The Dallas Morning News
Candidates have already commandeered the airwaves, made their way into your mailbox and finagled your phone number.
Now, they're popping up – literally – on your computer screen.
The Republican National Committee is testing out two Internet pop-up ads – those unsolicited sales pitches that obscure your view of the score you're seeking or the article you're reading online.
GOP officials say the pro-Bush advertisements are just another way to reach voters. But research suggests that people may recoil rather than point and click when politicians pop in unannounced. A recent study by Jupiter Research, an international market-research firm, deemed pop-up ads to be the most annoying form of online advertising, even less appealing than the oft-disparaged spam.
Democrats – who haven't ruled out trying their own pop-up ads – call the GOP's online ads proof that the party has more money than good ideas.
"The last question on their minds is whether the ads they're buying are effective," said Tony Welch, press secretary for the Democratic National Committee. "Clearly, if they wanted to, they could rent ad space on all the cows in Texas. They have hundreds of millions of dollars."
The GOP decided to give pop-up ads a try and launched a limited online campaign a few weeks ago, said Lindsay Taylor, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
"The Internet obviously is where everybody is," she said. "It's certainly a very useful and helpful tool in communicating with people."
A shot in the dark
Internet experts said that Republicans have entered a new realm of campaigning. Pop-up and pop-under ads of any variety haven't been around long, and little data exist to suggest how voters might respond to uninvited interruptions.
"We're in a period of trial and error," said Michael Cornfield, research director for George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet.
Ms. Taylor declined to disclose details of the party's Internet ad strategy, including how much the GOP has spent on the Web. She said only that the Republican National Committee's message is popping up on various Web sites.
Those roaming the Internet could run across President Bush's picture in an ad crediting the commander-in-chief with lowering taxes, creating jobs and reining in interest rates. One move of the mouse delivers more information about the president's record.
A second ad shows a perplexed John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, with the message: "Democrats can't decide. The economy is improving; but the Democrats are voting against tax cuts."
Testing out commercial appeals online is a reasonably inexpensive experiment, Dr. Cornfield said.
The question, he said, is whether voters view online ads as just one more sales pitch in a world filled with billboards and brand names. But Internet users usually have a destination in mind and might not want to be sidetracked by a political pop-up ad, Dr. Cornfield said.
"The risk is whether you get a backlash," he said.
Insight from Internet users suggests that's a possibility.
Jupiter Research, which specializes in business and technology market research, found in a recent study that 40 percent of computer users consider pop-up ads the "most aggravating" type of online advertising, ahead of four other kinds of ads, including spam, which was cited by 29 percent of respondents.
Ads click with many
Still, the same study found that pop-up ads could be effective. Although most major Internet providers now offer pop-up blockers, Web surfers click on them for more information at a relatively high rate. Many Web sites continue to sell pop-up ads, which automatically appear when a particular page is opened.
A study of young people – generally considered the most computer-savvy demographic group – found that unsolicited political pitches are a turnoff. Young voters are seeking interactive information sources online, according to the study, which was sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government's Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the University of Maryland's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
"At least with young people, pop-up ads probably aren't going to be a rousing success," said Adam Anthony, project director for the center's Campaign for Young Voters. "The Internet is a relatively inexpensive way to communicate with young people. But just because it's cheap doesn't mean it's effective."
In the wake of former presidential candidate Howard Dean's online fund-raising success, politicians are looking for the next big thing on the Internet, said Stephen Ansolabehere, a political science professor at MIT. Pop-up ads are a "novel strategy," he said.
"The campaigns are still figuring out how to use this technology," he said. "And they're learning that there are limits to the technology."
Room for error
Spring, still considered the early stages of the presidential campaign, is a safe time to experiment, as missteps likely will be forgotten by the November election, Dr. Ansolabehere said.
Mr. Welch, the Democrats' press secretary, said the fact that Republicans are advertising online is evidence that they're running scared.
"With the news on the economy getting worse and the president's falling poll numbers, they clearly decided they needed to begin the campaign," he said. "They have money to burn, and they're very nervous."
Ms. Taylor, the RNC spokeswoman, said the party is simply trying to expand its reach. She's heard the knocks on pop-up ads but said they need not be an annoyance.
"If people don't want to read it, they'll just click the little 'x' " to close the ad, she said.
She said it's too soon to say whether pop-up politicians have been effective.