Pop ups and pop unders in Zeropark

Pop-Up and Pop-Under Ads Still Work. Here’s How.

858 600 Bartosz Bielecki

From this article you will learn:
What pop-ups and pop-unders are
How efficient pop ads are
What you need to know to start pop ad campaigns


Ethan Zuckerman once said “advertising is the original sin of the web”. Now, this might not sound too surprising until you come to the realization that Mr. Zuckerman is in fact the man who created pop advertising. You may dislike them, even fight them, but at the end of the day, you simply have to live with them. That’s because pop-ups and pop-unders are still undeniably efficient forms of advertising, commonly used by websites to help monetize their content. Even though some have pronounced them dead, pop ads are very much alive and well.

Pop ads first came to life in the 1990s from Zuckerman’s idea to implement an ad that would open in a separate browser window, rather than be displayed in the form of a banner on the page which could imply a connection between the page’s content and the advertiser’s brand. To this day, we call this form of advertising a pop-up. Another variant of this form of advertising is the pop-under. While pop-ups show up on top of the website you’re visiting, pop-unders are the windows that open in the background. You can see them when you close your current browser window.

pop ads

Both pop ad formats are quite cost-effective. Pop-ups garner users’ attention as soon as they are displayed, whereas pop-unders can (but don’t have to) serve as a kind of a remarketing tool. Users usually take notice of them when they leave the website or shut down their browser.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In an ever monopolized advertising market, pop ads provide a refreshing alternative to display ads, SEO, email and social advertising.

Even though pop ads constitute just about 2% of all online advertising, stats prove that they are a niche worth investing in. On average, pop ads’ CTR is 6 times higher than that of banner ads! This means that if an ad on the page gets clicked 5 times per 1000 impressions, a pop ad would score 30 clicks. That’s a world of difference.

To help explain the high efficiency of pop ads, it’s useful to revisit the term banner blindness. In a nutshell, with more and more ads being displayed online, our eyes subconsciously ignore banners and their lookalikes on websites. But it is difficult to miss an ad when it covers the content of the site. That’s why visibility is the key advantage when it comes to pop advertising.

Another advantage of pop ads is their versatility. They can be programmed to trigger depending on a user’s activity on a website. They can pop out when users attempt to leave a website, switch pages, or when they click on a designated area of a page. Pop-up and pop-under ads can be utilized both for desktop and mobile browsers. Such flexibility and smart mixing of pop-ups with pop-unders give great opportunities for both publishers and advertisers to increase their profits. Pop ads have proven to convert much better than other ad types, sometimes boosting the ROI by as much as 250%.

The travel ecommerce giant Booking.com can serve as a good example of the thoughtful use of pop-under advertising. When you select and proceed with a hotel reservation, but ultimately don’t make the booking, a new window may appear beneath your main browser screen with accommodation offers for the exact same dates and a similar pricing range you were interested in with your original search.

Obviously, there are some drawbacks to pop advertising too. For starters, they require a financial investment in the beginning, to see what campaign configuration brings the best results. In the long run, however, pop ads prove to be more cost-effective than banners.

Some publishers believe implementing pop ads might lead to the potential loss of visitors. But that’s not necessarily true.

Remember all these sites filled with display ads, using flash or other rich media or distracting autoplaying video ads? Not only do they slow down the speed of the website, they are super annoying for visitors too. So, in defense of pop ads, some traditional ad types can be even more intrusive and distracting. But as with any ad type, the implementation of pop-ups has to begin with a test phase to determine what frequency is optimal and what activity on the website should trigger the pop-up.

There is no denying that as a visitor, you would rather not have website content obscured by ads. On the other hand, thousands, if not millions of streaming sites wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for pop ads being their key source of income. Pop ads are there, so you can watch your team’s games or catch up on your favorite show for free.

But if you still fear that your visitors might lose interest in your website because of the ads popping out at them, pop-unders can prove to be a great alternative.

Research by Webglide shows that pop-unders don’t really affect the user experience. The number of sessions, pageviews, and visit duration is all pretty much the same when a pop-under window is issued compared to when it isn’t.

The most significant obstacle in pop advertising, however, are developments in browsers. Since around 70% of internet users complain about pop-ups, browser developers have taken steps to block them. The first one to introduce such a solution by default was Opera, but their competitors, like Firefox and Chrome, soon followed suit. This doesn’t mean, though, that the browsers have completely stopped publishers from displaying pop ads.

The Reinvention of Pop Ads

Pop-ups have come a long way since their inception in the ‘90s. Nowadays, most of the pop-ups you encounter are interstitials or hover ads. Both ad types expand over the majority of a website but do not open in a separate window. This makes it difficult for browsers to block them, hence their popularity among advertisers. In the ongoing development of browsers and pop ad formats, traditional pop-ups and pop-unders have become an underrated form of advertising.

Traditional pop ads still appear on certain, high traffic kinds of websites (like video streaming or adult sites) as well as on mobile devices. Don’t be surprised seeing some big brands, like Porsche, Uber or Facebook, advertising this way.

Moreover, there are some well-known companies (like Orbitz, to name just one) for which pop advertising has been the cornerstone of their marketing and the fundamental of their online business. Finally, promoting offers that are relevant to the content of the website (like betting offers on sports streaming sites) makes those ads more interesting for the visitors.

What’s more, mobile pop ads are growing more popular. These are not only pop-ups and pop-unders that show up in the browser on your phone or tablet but also in-app ads. Usually, the idea behind those ads is to promote and invite the user to install an app. The conversion ratio of such campaigns is usually very high, and usually there’s no need to create a landing page.

Pop Advertising 101

When opening the gates to pop ads, publishers should remember to partner with secure ad exchanges that monitor their campaigns both automatically and manually.

Zeropark, for instance, has a dedicated team of people to additionally control the content of campaigns to block anything harmful, malicious or aggressive. It is of utmost importance to cooperate with ad networks/exchanges that are strict in regard to scams, malware, ransomware, auto-downloads, inappropriate and other harmful content.

No matter if you’re an advertiser or a publisher, when you have already chosen your partner, it’s useful to know the basics of pop advertising mechanisms.

When setting up a pop ad campaign, you will see some settings that should look familiar if you have done other online advertising before. Some factors may require some extra attention, though.

First of all, the pricing. Different ad exchanges may rely on different models. Whether it’s CPM (Cost Per Mile), CPV (Cost Per View), CPA (Cost Per Action) or any other, make sure you know how they differ and take this into consideration when providing your bid rate.

Secondly, targeting. Understanding your audience is the key to effective ad targeting, relevancy & future campaign cost efficiency. Specifying a geo, connection type, OS, browser and device type all make your campaign more precisely targeted, which may lead to more conversions and obviously limits the advertising spend.

Remember about testing different traffic sources, and optimize your campaign by pausing the traffic from the sources that don’t convert well. For publishers, it’s important to properly describe the contents of your website with keywords. Additionally, draft guidelines for ad exchanges to help them deliver ads you’re okay with.

Thirdly, frequency capping. Since pop ads (especially those irrelevant to their context) can be annoying for the visitors, it’s best not risk turning the audience away from your product. So when setting up your campaign, you should tool around with capping the impressions served to the same visitor at – let’s say – 2 or 3 times per day. This serves not only the recipients but also yourself, as it will prevent you from throwing your money away on users who won’t interact with your ad.

And last, but not least, it’s important to note that if a pop-up gets triggered, but the recipient doesn’t see it because it is blocked by the browser, proper platforms will not count it as an impression, ultimately eliminating advertisers’ risk and waste of budgets.

Luckily, gone are the days of just hiring a bunch of people to handle advertising manually for you. Nowadays, there are self-serve platforms on which you can set up your campaign and costs. The rest is done automatically, based on RTB.

RTB, short for real-time bidding, is a quick auction, allowing advertisers to bid for an impression of an ad. It starts as soon as a visitor attempts to load a website, and the process ends within just about 70 milliseconds, which is significantly faster than a blink of an eye.

Such a form of advertising allows advertisers to spend their money more wisely, as they are bidding for a specific impression, rather than a package of random recipients of an ad. This way, they can make sure that each impression of their ad aligns with their target.

From the publisher’s point of view, RTB is also beneficial as it allows them to sell otherwise unsold inventory, while also setting up a price floor. Traditional pop ads are an excellent opportunity to expand inventory, as, contrary to banners, they do not take up any space on the website.

If you use them wisely, pop ads are proven to be an immensely effective way to boost your business. Still influenced by the experience from 15 years ago, performance marketers may be skeptical about pop-ups, and that’s why this form has become quite a niche in online advertising. But can you really afford not to take advantage of it?

Want to get started with pop ads? Sign up on Zeropark.