There’s a war going on between people who want to put pop-up ads on
all of your computer screens and those who are determined to stop them.
The battle has just escalated to a new level, with the announcement on Jan. 20
of cutting-edge technology that pops up not just ads but 2 MB, 30-second,
full-motion videos that are designed to defeat today’s widely-used pop-up
Where Tomorrow’s Pop-Up Videos Will Come From
The source of the new pop-up ads is Unicast, a New York-based advertising
firm with additional offices in the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Brazil.
Acording to Unicast, the new format will be unlike any Web surfers are used
• Non-streaming full-screen video.
The full-motion ads will not be “streamed” to a user’s PC,
because the varying download speeds of individual
Internet connections can make real-time video seem jerky. Instead, Unicast’s
30-frame-per-second video files will be silently downloaded to PCs in the
background while the user is viewing a browser window that he or she
requested. Only when the entire video has downloaded will it start
playing, eliminating rough spots in the delivery.
• In your face.
Each commercial will have a way for users to click a spot on the screen to end
the video. But, this exit mechanism notwithstanding, the presentation will
automatically start playing, complete with sound, without the user taking
The company says it’s found a means by which it can circumvent software
in users’ PCs that automatically blocks pop-up windows that the user
didn’t specifically request (by clicking a link, for example).
Unicast’s video commercials utilize Microsoft’s Windows Media Player 9
technology, which is included in recent versions of the Redmond company’s
graphical operating system. The advertising firm says it has commitments
from such top-tier advertisers as Pepsi, Honda, and Warner Brothers,
and that the ads have been placed on high-traffic sites such as About.com,
ESPN, and MSN.
The Escalating Pop-Up Stopper War
“Only full-screen, broadcast-quality video is capable of delivering
the powerful online experience demanded by advertisers,” said Unicast
CEO Richard Hopple in a statement. If his company has succeeded in
developing technology that can fool today’s armada of pop-up stoppers
into allowing the unsolicited videos to run, your end users may
start spending a lot more time watching videos on their PC screens
than they do today.
Like many technologies, full-screen videos that run automatically are a
double-edged sword. On the one hand, your enterprise might find that this
new advertising medium is a perfect way to put your message in front of
millions of Web users worldwide. On the other hand, if you’re not a big
online advertiser, the draining effect on your company’s productivity as
your employees watch soft-drink commercials throughout the day
might give you pause.
In response to such concerns, the makers of pop-up-stopper programs
are already working on more effective means to control and prevent such
interruptions — whether it’s individual users or IT administrators
who want to take back control of their screens. I’ll devote next week’s
Executive Tech column to a look at the technical measures the pop-up
stoppers are throwing at Unicast’s ads.
Whether you’re excited by the promising new way you can advertise your products
online, or you’re horrified at the time that you’ll waste watching or
shutting down the new breed of ads, the technology can’t be ignored.
For more information on the new ad format, visit