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Do marketing spams and popup/popunder ads really work anymore?
March 15, 2008 9:09 PM   Subscribe

Do marketing spams and popup/popunder ads really work anymore?

I am just wondering why anyone still uses spam or popup/popunder ads anymore (other than as a scam.) I think everyone using the internet regularly anymore has universally agreed that these things suck and are annoying, so I don't understand why they are still used. Is there any study that someone could point me to about the effectiveness of these?
posted by slavlin to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It costs money and time to send spam. Everyone hates spammers and spam. Therefore, if spam is still being sent, it must be because it is still profitable.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:46 PM on March 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's a matter of cost/benefit ratio. The reason some people still use them is because the cost is negligible. Even if the response rate is 1 out of 1,000,000, it might still be worth doing.

I don't think reputable advertisers use spam or popunders any longer because customer backlash and the resultant soiling of the brand name is a big strike against it. But if you're in a seedy business anyway (e.g. selling sex drugs) then that doesn't matter.

A 419 scammer doesn't have to find many fools in order to make out. Each fool may yield thousands of dollars of ill-gotten gains. How many spams would you be willing to send in order to make $5,000? (Assuming your were unscrupulous?)

The problem is that it's absurdly cheap to do these things, so even if the effectiveness rate is abysmal in absolute terms, it could still be profitable.
posted by Class Goat at 9:46 PM on March 15, 2008

I have no links to studies, but a reasonable amount of consideration (in an economic fashion) tells us that they work at least well enough to continue using them.

That is, even though there is no per-mail cost to spam (for instance), there is time and effort required to prepare and send the spams, and a small monthly fee for connectivity in some cases. That, plus having to jump around from provided to provider, research and locate an ISP that will let you get away with it, or paying someone who's done that research to pump 'em out for you.

So, if the return rate were a flat goose egg, eventually the person would stop, because they'd be taking a loss (albeit a small one) on a regularly basis, in time and money. So either these methods are working, and returning at least enough to make them profitable, or (and this is my suspicion) there are still lots of people out there who believe these methods work, and so they're willing to pay companies to get the word out, as it were.

If we assume that the returns do not offset the cost, then this is the only other explanation; that is, since a rational person would stop doing it if money weren't coming in from the ads/send the spam, then the only reason to keep doing it is if money were coming in from the people who want you to run the ads/send the spam. Presumably as each of your customers realized the return wasn't there, they'd get out of the business...and be replaced by another idiot. Some of the idiots may eliminate the middleman, of course, but the churn would be the same.

In short:

- They do work, and return at least enough money to be consistently profitable; or

- They don't work, but a significant number of people still believe that they do.

The thing is, I'd actually assume both, but more #1 than #2, inasmuch as the costs really are very, very low, and even ten sales a month on an item with a profit margin of $10 net is more than enough to keep a person in the business.
posted by davejay at 9:50 PM on March 15, 2008

or in other words, what everyone else said, except with far too many words.
posted by davejay at 9:51 PM on March 15, 2008

I think everyone using the internet regularly

Well, not everyone who uses the 'net uses it regularly. And even many of those that do just aren't that savvy. So scams work, and popunder/popups work, because it might actually be new to some small segment of people. And like everyone else said, that segment can be really small and still be profitable.

Plus... there are certainly some people who want to try v!@gr@! (or even Viagra) and who could not get a prescription. With millions of people out there, some of them might think that email they just got might be a golden opportunity. (i.e., with a large enough sample, you can find at least one person who will do pretty much anything)
posted by SuperNova at 10:56 PM on March 15, 2008

Here's Phonebusters, the Canadian Anti-Fraud organization that started out covering phone fraud but now deals with spam and Internet scams as well. They have statistics on the site.
posted by loiseau at 11:07 PM on March 15, 2008

I know that although we don't serve advertising in pop-ups, we're under significant pressure to allow that our advertisers be able to run surveys to gauge their effectiveness and ask people to fill them out via pop-up. They apparently get much better response rates than what we do now, which is run the surveys in our normal ad blocks. I can't give you any numbers (I'm sure there are numbers, but I have no idea what they are), but that's one anecdotal bit of evidence that pop-ups, at least, are more effective than inline advertising at getting people to click.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:22 AM on March 16, 2008

As long as there are people who still read The Weekly World News, there will still be people available to be scammed by spam.
posted by Xurando at 5:42 AM on March 16, 2008

Netflix pulls in a billion dollars a year and is one of the biggest pop-under advertisers in the world. It seems to be working for them, in fact they are doubling their online advertising expenditures.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:05 AM on March 16, 2008

I work in online marketing.

These things do work, but the profit margin is much higher with more targeted and less intrusive advertising, such as sponsor-dedicated emails sent to opt-in email lists (e.g. you subscribe to the Epicurious recipe flash, and once in a while you get an email under the Epicurious header that is actually from a sponsor), or rich media banners.

The problem is that those things take more effort and intelligence to do properly than pop-ups and spam.
posted by bingo at 9:08 AM on March 16, 2008

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