Tribal Fusion Advertising

Since early in 2002, we have been using an ad network called Tribal Fusion that serves banner and popup ads to our web site. And since 2002, I have hated these popup ads. Dave would regularly bother me to kill the popup ads, but we just could not afford to do it. Advertisers are willing to pay a significant premium for pop up ads, and at times they have been a significant portion of our revenues. Although XP Service Pack 2 initially provided a respite to users with its built-in popup blocker, nearly all the ad networks have found ways around popup blockers, which makes the popups even more annoying.

As of June 1, 2005, we have eliminated all forms of popup advertising from our site. We will still be supported by traditional advertising such as banner,
medallion and sponsorship ads, but popup ads are gone. This was certainly not an easy decision to make, and our revenue loss is still substantial, but changes in the web advertising market have made it almost impossible for us to endorse popup ads of any kind.

Why Did We Do This?

Perhaps our largest reason for eliminating popups is the continued growth of spyware and adware. These software packages deliver advertising in much the same form as Tribal Fusion, as popup ads. This single point has sometimes caused confusion with our users, advertisers, and the issue even came up in our lawsuit with Gator. Popup advertising–whether served from a web site you visit or served by adware–can be annoying at best; at worst it’s plain deceptive. The popup ad below was being served from Tribal Fusion in May 2005, and it’s hard to argue that it isn’t trying to confuse the user.

PC Pitstop bids farewell to pop up ads such as these.

The line gets a lot more shady when it comes to adware companies. The pop up ad below was served on one of the PC Tools web site, by an adware company called 180 Solutions. PC Tools is the maker of Spyware Doctor, which we sell on our site. PestBot, on the other hand, has earned a place on on SpywareWarrior’s rogue antispyware list for its tactics.

Click the image above to get the full impact of the deception waged by 180 Solutions on our partner, Spyware Doctor.

If you click the image and view both the PC Tools site and the popup, it sure looks like the two windows belong to the same web site. Notice the fine attention to detail; colors, fonts, and other design elements match up almost perfectly with the site they are popping over. The two pages even sport the same green “Start spyware scan now” button! We have seen cases where the same product is advertised, but the popup takes on a different design to match the site that it covers. This appears to be a well-considered strategy of doing popup ads that look almost indistinguishable from the site they are popping over, with the intention of confusing the site visitors.

No More Popups

Although it was certainly not an easy decision, we have to vote “No” to popup ads. They have too much potential to be deceptive, and do not have the consumers best interest in mind. Now, if you are visiting PC Pitstop and see a popup ad appear, it most certainly means you have spyware or adware. Your next step should probably be to remove it if you want your PC’s performance and reliability to improve.

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