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Pop-up ads few and far between?

So says a new survey by Nielsen/NetRatings, which reports that the seemingly omnipresent messages account for only a small portion of online advertisements.

Pop-up ads may seem like they're everywhere, but they account for only a small portion of online advertisements, according to a new study.

During the first seven months of this year, pop-up and pop-under ads amounted to just 2 percent of all online advertising impressions, according to a study released Wednesday by Nielsen/NetRatings. However, more than 9 percent of all companies that advertise online are now using such ads, including household names such as Dell Computer, Morgan Stanley and Providian Financial.

Online advertisers served 11.3 billion pop-up and pop-under ad impressions in the first seven months of 2002, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. About 58 percent of those impressions were used to drive traffic to a particular Web site, while 26 percent were aimed at boosting sales through use of incentives. Just 13 percent of pop-up and pop-under advertisements were used to build brand awareness.

With the effectiveness of the once-standard banner ad being questioned, advertisers have been experimenting with increasingly eye-catching online ads, among them pop-ups. Once known only on fringe and porn sites, pop-ups--unsolicited Web advertisements that launch a new browser window--have been gaining popularity among mainstream advertisers.

But at the same time, pop-ups have drawn the ire of many Web users who are annoyed by their intrusiveness. Software makers have come out with a slew of programs to block pop-up ads. Meanwhile, the latest browser from open-source project Mozilla can block pop-ups, and a number of Web sites have pledged to curb them.

Despite their notoriety, pop-ups are here to stay, and growing numbers of advertisers will likely use them, financial analyst Safa Rashtchy with USBancorp Piper Jaffray, said in a report on Tuesday.

"We believe that as the online audience expands and becomes more mainstream, there will be higher tolerance of the pop-ups. We believe most consumers would rather see advertising than pay for content, as many studies have shown," Rashtchy wrote in his report. "Pop-ups are not for everyone, but we believe they are for the majority."

X10, the Web camera maker whose use of pop-up ads catapulted it into the top 10 list of Web traffic last year, continues to dominate the list of top pop-up advertisers, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. The company served up more than a billion pop-up impressions from January to July 2002, which was nearly 50 percent more than online travel company Orbitz, the next biggest user of such ads.

Rounding out the top 10 users of pop-up advertisements during that time period were Providian, Cendant, Cassava Enterprises, Dell, Bonzi Software, Morgan Stanley, Columbia House and