EarthLink to Block Pop-Ups, Promote Tool in New Ads

EarthLink is taking aim at pop-up ads by providing users with free software to prevent the ad formats — a feature that it will promote in its newest advertising campaign.

The Atlanta-based ISP plans to begin offering users Pop-Up Blocker, an application that runs within Internet Explorer and stops pop-up or pop-under ads from rendering.

If they wish, users can review thumbnail images of the ads blocked by the software, and can customize the tool to allow for pop-up windows to be displayed by specific sites — such as e-commerce sites, which often use pop-ups to display product information.

EarthLink, which licensed Salt Lake City-based FailSafe Technologies’ Guard-IE application for use in Pop-Up Blocker, currently offers a pre-release version of the software to users, and said it plans to bundle the tool with its Internet software beginning next year.

The offering is the latest ease-of-use feature added to EarthLink’s Internet access software; last year, the company began offering “Spaminator,” an anti-spam tool powered by Brightmail, as part of its service. As Spaminator had done in earlier advertising campaigns, Pop-Up Blocker is expected play a major role in the ISP’s marketing, which for years has sought to position EarthLink as more consumer-friendly than competitors.

As with earlier television campaigns, the firm’s new “Why Wait? Move to EarthLink” effort, which begins this week, describes the annoying login delays, disconnects and spam that often plague Internet subscribers, especially dialup users.

The campaign’s three different 30-second ads show people becoming annoyed at having to wait — for elevators, for instance — and likens the experience to frustrating Internet access. It’s expected that one ad in particular will focus on Pop-Up Blocker.

“We believe that by offering the Pop-Up Blocker service to our subscribers, we are once again setting ourselves apart from the competition,” said Rob Kaiser, vice president of narrowband marketing for EarthLink. “More than two years ago we were one of the earliest major ISPs to launch a spam-fighting product … Now, we’re taking the lead with Pop-Up Blocker to provide our customers with a more enjoyable, less intrusive Internet experience.”

EarthLink’s new advertising effort also include radio, national magazine and online executions. The ads were designed by Chicago-based LBWorks, a chiefly tech-focused unit of Bcom3’s Leo Burnett that won the account in April from TBWA/Chiat/Day. Campaigns developed during the past two years by Chiat/Day, which handled the work from its Playa Del Rey office, focused on EarthLink’s privacy policies and customer service.

“Our intent is to be the ISP solution for an impatient world,” said Karen Gough, executive vice president of marketing at EarthLink. “EarthLink wants consumers to know that they shouldn’t have to put up with temperamental service, slow Internet connections, random connection failures, or annoying intrusions like excessive spam and pop-up ads. This campaign underscores the message that EarthLink delivers fast and reliable Internet connections, and we provide the tools and resources that give people a personalized, productive experience every time they log-on.”

In any event, EarthLink’s move to institute a pop-up blocking application among its members could encourage the online advertising and publishing industry to rethink its stance on ad blockers. So far, Web advertising companies and industry groups haven’t paid much heed to software like Pop-Up Blocker because their user bases have remained relatively small.

However, EarthLink serves about 4.9 million subscribers in the U.S., according to internetnews.com sister site ISP-Planet — a fact that naturally could serve as a source of worry for sellers of Web advertising, especially if competing ISPs are pressured into doing the same.

Additionally, EarthLink said it is considering adding other features from FailSafe’s Guard-IE to Pop-Up Blocker, including blocking some forms of rich media — such as drop-down and Macromedia Flash ads — as well as cookies and Web beacons , which are used by marketers to track ad effectiveness and consumers’ activity.

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