Morals, Integrity and Pop Ups

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Ask the Audience

Corbett Barr asked his readers at what they think of pop-ups. The overwhelming majority said that they hated them. There were a few who said that they got value out of them, either as a consumer, or more usually as a producer.

I engaged in a discussion with one commenter about my view on pop-ups and integrity; my view is that if you don’t like them, but you use them anyway that you have compromised your integrity.

I would rather make a living being 100% true to myself.

BUT if you like them, and wish to use them then that is of course consistent with your own personal morality, and entirely up to you!

What disturbed me somewhat was where people said that they couldn’t see how morality came in to it. These are grown men who are still unable to reconcile a personal morality which guides their day-to-day actions.

You see, what I think is wrong is not the people who like encountering pop ups and thus use them, it’s the people who don’t like them filling their screens, but use them anyway because “that’s marketing”.

That’s a really shitty attitude.

I don’t blame them entirely – our culture is not conducive to producing men of standards and rigour – and if they were aware of the implication that their actions has to their ethics I am sure they would develop a business model that was consistent with their morals. But I do want space to respond in a bit more depth, and where better than my blog.

A Question of Ethics

I am going to indulge myself a bit here, and just dissect a few choice quotes.

“I’m not sure how ethics play into it. You’re not killing anyone”

This statement is absurd at surface value, since it equates ethics with “not killing anyone”. I am willing to give the poster the benefit of the doubt, as surely this is not what he meant. Ethics play in to every decision you make in life; be it the kind of tea that you drink, the variety of transport you use to get around, or the toilet paper you use to wipe your shit.

“It IS marketing after all”

Marketing should not be exempt from integrity and ethics. Many have chosen to “sell their soul” for that extra 10% but it’s not a decision that everyone has to make or even should if they want to live the best kind of life.

I’m an idealist sure, but I also understand that I have to live with myself. And that means I have to be comfortable with every action I take. The only person judging me when I die will be myself – and I am the last person I would want to disappoint!

“I would never drink a Coke, but I have no moral problem with offering you one. Especially if I run a restaurant.

It’s simply a matter of context.”

The selling arena might be different, but the context is exactly the same; it is a decision about using/selling something that you do or don’t like and how that relates to your own personal stand.

If I ran a restaurant and didn’t like coke for more than just taste reasons (i.e. if I was opposed to the marketing practices or contents of coke) then I would not sell it.

I don’t plan on opening a restaurant any time soon, but there are others who have done this, and the truth of it is self-evident in their actions; vegan restaurants run by those who won’t eat meat, organic restaurants run by those who won’t eat artificial hormones, etc. etc.

The coke example is not only ridiculous but proves my point.

Clearly this comes as a revelation to some – the idea that you don’t have to do what everyone else does just to make a buck. But the greater revelation is that you don’t have to do what you disagree with just to make a buck.

A Natural Monopoly

Harry Brown often talks about finding your natural monopoly – this involves being true to yourself so that you can find like-minded people – people who like you for you.

“If you are willing to miss out on great content because there is a popup, then I think that you are the one missing out, not the host”

This post is in defense of pop-ups yet has gamely flailed around one of the best features of a pop-up; it is a natural selector of the right kind of audience. If your audience likes what you are doing, likes pop-ups then they will go ahead and use them/enjoy them and they are a better audience for you than those who would turn a website away for the use of them. Equally, those who close a site on the appearance of a pop-up are also able to be more selective and choose content-providers whose view more closely aligns with their own.

The simple fact is, that if you use a pop up, then you are likely a person who is different to me – not necessarily a bad thing in itself.

BUT If I were to go against my nature by perusing, using and consuming the content of someone whose take on life is that different to mine then I would be doing both of us a disservice.

Contrary to what some would have you believe there is an overabundance of information on the internet. This is why people pay for premium services because it narrows down all the shit that they might otherwise have to wade through. Your content may well be superb, perhaps the greatest! But there are other providers who can ably assist someone while ALSO providing a more favourable ethical framework.

The easiest example is that of food providers; the local organic greengrocer, versus a market which sells anything. You are able to choose and your choice will depend on a number of variables, one of which may well (should) be your ethical stance.

One commenter thought that I had misaligned the ideal of integrity with the function of pop-ups. He said;

“The pop is not there to steal your wallet and fleece your mother in law of her inheritance – it is there to offer value on top of what already exists”

Glossing over the unnecessarily emotive language and getting to the point, we see that the pop up only adds value to those who value it.

If you are like me and do not like pop ups then it detracts value.

Again this is a GOOD thing for both those who them and those who don’t, since it encourages the right choices to be made. In this way the pop up is not there to add value but to act as a funnel  in the same way that a squeeze page works. It is designed to filter through those people who like them, who are easily persuaded, and the less technologically savvy who assume that they must fill in any form they stumble across.

If YOU like pop ups and want to use them then that’s awesome. And you will meet more people who are like you and attract an audience who values the way you operate, which is also awesome.


It is evident from the response that the vast majority of individuals hate pop ups. This should be embraced as a GOOD THING for those who use them; it will help them to attract only those customers who will prove most valuable and congruent.

Marketers tell us all the time to narrow and specify our target audience, and pop ups are surely one incredibly efficient way of doing this – just as not using pop ups will attract those who appreciate the lack of interruptions.

I don’t plan on persuading anyone with this rant – and I am not trying to convince those who happily use pop ups that they are wrong, because I don’t think that they are – but I do plan on reassuring those out there who are like me, who have a developed personally morality that there are others out there like us – and you will know us by our actions.

If you liked what I have to say, or if this article pissed you off, then let me know in the comments. Anything goes.

16 thoughts on “Morals, Integrity and Pop Ups

  1. It’s a slippery road to start criticising others because of the morals or ethics. Who are you to judge people like this. You are perfectly free to have your own views on popups and see it as an issue of morals or ethics, if you like. But get off your high horse and leave others out of it.

    Now if you want to start talking about how and whether they work or not….

    1. This comment turned up in the spam box and I only just noticed it, hence the delay in approving. Your comments should be approved automatically from now.

      I appreciate your comment, but to be perfectly honest, I like the view from up high on this horse. I don’t think the road is slippery for me because I have a pretty well developed personal morality, and I know I can speak without hypocrisy. Anyway, I don’t think I criticised anyone directly about their morals (I don’t know those people, and like I said if they like pop ups + use them, then that’s all good), but I did choose several examples of what people said to inform a discussion of ethics and marketing.

      As to whether they work, I have seen a good deal of respected bloggers writing about their efficacy, but it is not something I have done a great deal of research in to otherwise.

      By the way, I like the angle of your blog.

      1. Andrew your implication is that people who use them are unethical.

        Nothing could be further from the truth.

        Some of your arguments are internally inconsistent.


  2. Spot on, pop ups are irritating and its mass marketing. It disrupts the consumer, plus the internet as a whole is missing genuine people.

    1. I wouldn’t say that genuine people are missing – but I do think they are very hard to find!

      1. True it just feels like it with so many snake oil merchants.

  3. Interesting.

    Thanks for engaging over profesionally and courteously with me over at the original post. Speaks volumes for who you are as a person and only gives credence to your view points, as so eloquently expressed here.

    I still (LOL) totally disagree with everything and think that using them is perfectly OK even if you do not agree with the why.

    Take the coke example. Even if I didnt like the taste, AND hated the marketing – disagreed with the moral standing of the company in question etc etc I would still sell it if I owned a restaurant.
    Why? Because I cannot polarise the market because of my own opinion. Even if a million others agree with me there are those that dont, and in the end I run a restaurant and need to turn a profit, and the books tell me that selling coke is good for my profits.
    SO I ignore the moral standing of the company for the good of my restaurant, but in this case the staff, the families of those staff and the suppliers of food to my establishment ALL benefit from this.

    It’s business man, I totally see what you are trying to say, but its Business – not personal.

    Anyway – thats my 2 cents and I thank you for the engaging and intelligent banter.

    Nice to meet you btw Andrew 🙂

    1. Nice to meet you too Alex, and I appreciate the comments and compliments.

      I think you know by now exactly how I would handle your extended coke example. 😉 I actually think there is benefit to be found in a polarised market, because those who like you, will LOVE you even more staunchly. This is why partisan politics is so effective – unfortunately. Any business I do will always have a personal element, and people will know what they are getting from something I support.

      I also agree that it is good to have a disagreement with someone who doesn’t get all huffy! So thank you for that.

  4. Interesting, and bizarrely I was talking to Nick about exactly this thing last night. Anyway, as someone who despises pop-ups no matter what form they take, I can’t help but be happy that you’ll never use them.
    However, I would always use them if they were guaranteed to make me more profit than not using them.
    Money > Morals
    And that’s maths xD

  5. James D Tickner says:

    Awesome article. I completely agree, going against morals even to make a profit is absurd. It is no better than the corporations and the industries that govern the very world we live in and look how we view them. But do they care? No. With what emotion do we view them? Anger. The correlation is identical and as a result, by using pop-ups, it makes the person doing them no better than the aforementioned corporations. Aimlessly and shamelessly waving products in the face of decent people who, if interested, would look for the product themselves. If someone is happy with that fact knowing that the extra profit is keeping them comfortable at night then more for them but i feel passionately towards the fact that you wouldn’t want it done to yourself, why do it to someone else..

    Andrew, i thoroughly enjoy your articles and feel your opinions and views expressed are of intelligence, fairness and complete validity.

  6. Pop ups are basically an advertisement. And unless it’s a false advertisement, then there’s no problem. You’re way over-analyzing it. People hate ads. Yet, every magazine, website, cable channel etc has them. Do people leave because of them? Hardly. They are there for content, and as long as the value of the content is what they expected, most people will not change the channel or click away. BTW, just like you can fast forward through ads on the shows you recorded, you can close the pop up window. There’s also an unsubscribe link in each email. So in a way, this type of ad is far less intrusive and much easier to simply ignore, than in any other medium. But if you want to make it into right vs wrong, or a moral issue, then that’s fine too. But the issue has nothing to do with neither.

    1. There’s a lot of truth in what you say. And somewhat paradoxically, as pop-ups have become ubiquitous, they also seem to have become less annoying. Strange! Thanks for commenting Pavol.

  7. Andrew, your father taught you well. I totally agree with you, and your views. It’s clear that Graham has no concept of what your talking about. Dont get spun up by this guy, he’s not worth it.

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