WhenU Unveils Comparison Shopping Pop-Ups

Adware company WhenU Tuesday unveiled a new version of ad-serving software that sends consumers who shop online pop-ups that provide price comparisons and links to other sites.

The pop-ups display information about the precise products that consumers are researching. For example, if a Web user with the WhenU program, dubbed TrueRelevance, views a camera at Amazon.com, WhenU might send that user a pop-up from comparison service Shopping.com. The pop-up would contain pricing information and links for other retailers selling the same brand and model camera that the user was viewing at Amazon.

"In essence, what you're doing is giving the consumer ... the ability to change the search paradigm," said Ken Evans, WhenU executive vice president of advertising. Rather than consumers going to meta-search engines, the software brings the comparisons directly to them, he said.

The program serves pop-ups to consumers based on the Web sites they visited in the previous 48 hours. So, the consumer viewing a camera on Amazon.com might not receive the pop-up immediately.

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WhenU started using TrueRelevance with advertisers in the online travel category about 45 days ago, and in the last three weeks has been rolling out the program to other advertisers, Evans said. The company said that click-through rates have improved from 4 percent to 13.8 percent for the travel ads served with the new product.

Separately, last week, on Thanksgiving Day, adware researcher Eric Howes, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, notified WhenU that a distributor appeared to be bundling WhenU adware with an instant messaging program and distributing it to users who had not consented.

WhenU CEO Bill Day responded in a letter that was posted on the Spyware Warrior blog that the company would stop serving ads to any installs stemming from that instant messaging application. WhenU has taken aggressive steps to stop stealth installs--particularly in the last year, since About.com veteran Day joined the company.

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