March 31, 2004
Pop ups???

I first saw this in a Kos diary, but without a link I was not willing to believe it. Now that I've done a little Googling, I can see for myself that it's true: The GOP's Internet "strategy" is ludicrous.

In a possible harbinger of future e-campaigns, visitors to websites such as, and in recent days have been greeted by one of the year's first online political attacks.

The banner and pop-up ads placed by the Republican National Committee on about 1,400 sites starting March 19 attacked presumptive Democratic nominee John F. Kerry for his vote last year against spending $87 billion for military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Pop-up ads? POP-UP ADS? Are they on crack? Have they never heard of the X10 camera and the violent hatred those ads inspired? Are they not at all familiar with the range of popup blocking technologies, from Mozilla to Google's Toolbar, from AdSubtract to Earthlink? I was going to make a snarky comment about the GOP's support for Microsoft throughout its antitrust trial, but it turns out that even Internet Explorer will soon have the ability to kill the accursed things. What century are these guys living in?

Of course, as a good Democrat, I heartily cheer this effort. You go, guys! Spread those popups like kudzu!

"It's one more way to reach out to voters, but it's a very new medium," said RNC spokeswoman Christine Iverson. "We're on the frontier right now of figuring out how to use the Internet effectively for political communications."

Take your time. No rush.

UPDATE: Rob Booth and WhiteHouseForSale have various nits to pick with me, which I address in the comments.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 31, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

I'm so glad that I can kill pop-up ads in multiple ways so I don't have to see the Republican ad more than once. If anything, this could alienate some independent voters leaning torwards Bush, since I have never known anyone that enjoys pop-up ads.

I'd like to meet the strategist that thought this was a good idea.

Posted by: William Hughes on March 31, 2004 10:35 AM

I'm with William here. I don't really think many people who mostly have their mind made up are going to be swayed one way or another...but for those who are *really* on the fence -- it doesn't take much wind to blow an egg off of the top of the fence, and this might be that tiny little thing that alienates a few people who *can't stand* pop-ups.

That may not be a big deal -- but if the race is as close as current polls are indicating, this could turn a state or two. Who knows...maybe even (dare I say it) Florida?

Just the same, I don't see people who are leaning one way being turned to the other by it. Compared to real issues, this is an annoyance but not enough of one to justify voting for "the other guy."

Posted by: Tim on March 31, 2004 10:53 AM

Democrats use popups as well.

Posted by: Rob Booth (Slightly Rough) on March 31, 2004 11:48 AM

The GOP is likely to win influence with pop-ups. They exist for a reason. Probably no one here even bothers to read them (if they haven't already blocked them), but obviously, some not-so-bright folks do.....and actually manage to spend money through them. The GOP has long targeted the "can't think for themselves if their life depended on it" demographic for a long time. They're nailing their demographic on the head now.

Posted by: taco cabana on March 31, 2004 12:25 PM

I've seen that, Rob, but I believe it's different. For one thing, it's not a paid advertisement on a third-party site. It's presumably only going to annoy people who visit the site, and I think we can assume that most of them are not swing voters. The people who see those ads have already visited the Democrats' site, unlike the unsuspecting reader who's now being pitched for his eyeballs and discretionary cash.

Bottom line: if I surf over to using Mozilla and I suppress their popup, the Democrats haven't missed out on a chance to give me their message. If I'm on some nonpolitical site and the GOP popup gets canned, the Republicans have missed out on a chance to woo me. Annoyance or not, basing a strategy on a technology that's clearly in decline seems like a bad choice to me.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 31, 2004 12:32 PM

OK, Chuck, there's no gentle way to put this. (I mentioned this on the blog, but because I can't seem to convince our IT guy that XML and RSS are important, you won't get alerted to it. I HATE working with controlling IT directors...)

You're a member of the digeratti. There's no shame in that, but there is a measure of elitism that creeps through. Most people don't use pop-up stoppers. VERY few use Mozilla. And few enough will switch to the new IE before the vote this November.

Is this technology in decline, with a new one replacing it? Of course. But that doesn't mean that, in 1952, I wouldn't advertise on radio.

The marginal cost of pop-up advertising remains cheap as hell. I think it's a very smart move that can generate much better bang for the buck than a TV ad, and that targets a different democgraphic. I may not like it, but I think it's a smart campaign move.

(And since I linked to our NON-PARTISAN -- really, we're not joking, we don't care who wins, not us, nope, no way, down the middle, non-partisan -- web site, I won't go farther than that...

Posted by: Ron Zucker on March 31, 2004 1:07 PM

I hear what you're saying, Ron, but Earthlink and AOL are advertising pop-up blocker services. That's as mainstream as it gets.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 31, 2004 2:11 PM


I don't know if you've got any pull down at the DNC, but now that you're on the subject . . .

When I go to the DNC site to find out something about the DNC, and first thing I'm interrupted by the DNC's own pop-up, my mind boggles.

It's annoying as hell and it demonstrates to me that these people need to be right-clicked into oblivion. Why the heck do you want to annoy your own people? Astounding.

Posted by: bittern on March 31, 2004 2:15 PM

Point of information: if you use Yahoo/SBC dialup or DSL, you get a Yahoo browser which automatically has pop-ups (mostly) blocked. It might be the only worthwhile feature the whole experience has given me.

Posted by: Linkmeister on March 31, 2004 5:50 PM

I'm not sure how this will play, but I do believe that any web effort with former poliblogger Patrick Ruffini involved in it has thought long and hard about the costs/benefits of going with these ads.

If people who really hate popups have figured out how to eliminate them (thank you very much Mozilla Firefox, the best browser going), IF the ads are compelling and vary (the X10 ads failed in that regard), and IF independents are yearning for more information on John Kerry (which is probably the case, given the funding limitations of his campaign and a quick primary that didn't define him very well to folks outside the Dem party), then why not use popups to do just that?

I haven't seen the popups (thank you again, Mozilla Firefox), but if they feature the junior senator from MA, really annoyed folks might even assume HE had something to do with them. Sneaky.

Anyway, I'm certain the campaign didn't jump into this without thinking about it (however fun the "Bush is clueless" meme may be). They have a smart, well-honed web operation.

Posted by: kevin whited on April 1, 2004 8:18 AM

I haven't seen the popups (thank you again, Mozilla Firefox), but if they feature the junior senator from MA, really annoyed folks might even assume HE had something to do with them. Sneaky.

I admit that possibility hadn't occurred to me. If so, that's craftier than I'd given them credit for.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on April 1, 2004 8:37 AM