Google appears to be testing display ads in Gmail. I discovered the following image ad in my own Gmail account this morning, and Google has since confirmed a test.
Image ads have made their way into paid search on Google.com and various other properties on Google. But this was really jarring for me to encounter. It’s the only such ad I saw (next to an email from a clothing retailer in my inbox) after purposely looking for others.
I’m sure it’s a test to see how users react and what the response rates are. Gmail is formally a part of the “Google Display Network“:Your text, image, rich media, and video ads can appear across YouTube, Google properties such as Google Finance, Gmail, Google Maps, Blogger, as well as over one million Web, video, gaming, and mobile display partners.
I’m not sure how long this test has been running; it’s the first time I’ve seen it and I use Gmail as my primary email address.
Postscript: A Google spokesperson provided the following comment:We’re always trying out new ad formats and placements in Gmail, and we recently started experimenting with image ads on messages with heavy image content.