Nine out of ten people who click onto pop-up adverts are actually trying to close them down, according to new research by web behaviour analysts Bunnyfoot Universality.
In a test involving 60 people, Bunnyfoot Universality found that one award-winning Umbro advert, which hit computer screens during Euro 2004, took users nearly a minute to close because they could not find the close button.
Umbro claimed that 20 per cent of users who saw the advert clicked onto the website. But Bunnyfoot found the real figure was more like two per cent because the remaining 18 per cent had actually been trying to close the ad down.
Rob Stevens, head of business behaviour at Bunnyfoot said: "Trickery and confusing design in pop-over adverts is becoming an alarmingly increasing trend. Achieving an over-inflated click-through rate might help brands to justify their spend, but they are only deceiving themselves."
"Lots of brands are doing it. They are not just wasting money, they are undoubtedly undermining the integrity of their brand," he said.
Mr Stevens called for the close button to be uniform and in the same position every time.
"The close button should be visible from the very beginning," he added.
Mr Stevens said the Internet Advertising Bureau, the trade association for interactive advertising, electronic commerce and online marketing, had not developed adequate audience measurement devices.
The research follows the publication of Bunnyfoot's white paper 'The efficacy of pop-ups and the resulting effect on brands', which showed that Internet users had an overwhelmingly negative reaction to pop-up ads.
The report follows rumours that MSN is set to introduce a new version of its Internet Explorer in the next few weeks, which will limit pop-ads to 'specific areas'.
Sources: BBC Online, Digital Bulletin, E-consultancy
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