Not a good practice, said the Internet Advertising Bureau, the nonprofit association of marketers that makes the general rules for Internet advertising. The group said Tuesday that it was going to federal agencies to try to put an end to Gator.com's new practice because it infringed on the copyright, trademark, and intellectual property rights of Web publishers and advertisers, and because it doesn't protect consumers from unauthorized content. "They're doing a disservice to the industry and its members," says Robin Webster, president and CEO of the IAB. "How do you think marketers feel to buy an ad and have it covered up by their competitors?"
Gator.com responded to the IAB's accusation by filing a lawsuit asking a federal court to rule that the IAB's complaints are unfounded. According to Gator.com, the pop-up software merely addresses the issue that online advertising doesn't work and is giving marketers an opportunity to better-target consumers and get a higher response rate.
The company also defended its practice of downloading the software that creates the advertisements onto a consumer's desktop as an "add-on" to another free download, such as The Weatherbug, a desktop weather service. Gator.com says it always gets permission from the consumer before loading software onto the desktop and presents a screen that clearly describes the service the consumer will receive, such as remembering passwords, shopping discounts, and occasional pop-up advertisements. Consumers must say they 'accept' to complete the download, according to Gator.com. The company maintains that the Gator.com ad will only appear after the publisher's ad, giving the consumer a choice between two competing offers as well as the right to close-out the Gator screen. That "consumer empowerment" is a double-edged sword, according to Gator.com CEO Jim McFadden, because Gator.com must keep the customers happy with relevant offers so they don't uninstall the software.
The IAB says it has received complaints that Gator software had just appeared on the desktop and was difficult to remove. The IAB has received support from the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the national trade organization representing the offline advertising agency business.