Google Is Now Showing Gmail Users Email-Like Messages From Advertisers

Chris CrumBusiness

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Back in May, Google revealed a new inbox interface for Gmail, separating the experience into tabs like: Primary, Social, Promotions, and Updates (Forums is also an option). Last week, a lot of people starting getting the redesign, which is still rolling out. If you use Gmail, and you don't already have it, you will soon. If you're not a fan of the tabbed format, you can make some adjustments in the settings and get a similar experience to the old version.

The Promotions tab, as you might have guessed, is where the bulk of the marketing messages you receive will go. One very interesting part about this, however, is that Google itself is adding some email-style marketing messages under this tab. In other words, there are new ads in Gmail, and they come in the form of emails.

Here's what they look like from the inbox:

Ads in Gmail

Sure enough, when you click to open it the ad is totally an email marketing message:

Gmail marketing

In a "What's this?" section in the sidebar once you open the email, Gmail explains, "It's a new type of ad which you can forward to a friend, or star to save it to your inbox. If you dismiss this ad, you won't see it again."

As you can see from the screen cap, there is also a standard Publishers Clearing House Gmail ad in the right column.

Google says the ads are based on information from your Google account, and reminds users that they can control what they see under Ad Settings.

VentureBeat got a statement from Google about the new ads:

Instead of ads always appearing at the top of your inbox, they’ve been relegated to a more appropriate place in your Promotions category. In addition, we’ve raised the quality of these ads and won’t show you an ad unless it’s relevant — which means you may sometimes see no ads at all in your Promotions tab. You can also dismiss the ads you see in your Promotions tab by clicking the “X” button on the right-hand side.

I have to say, I'm not entirely sure how this Publishers Clearing House ad is relevant, but if they're potentially looking at everything I've ever done with my Google account, who knows how far the scope of relevancy stretches? I was in the market for a new house a few years ago.

It's worth noting that the ads show up as new items in the tabs, when it notifies you of new messages. I just saw that I had 2 new messages in the Promotions tab, and they were both ads from Google. This is certainly a bit more intrusive than the Gmail ads of old.

Update: I'm leaving the above paragraph for reference, because this is what I believe I saw. I can't verify it unless it happens again, as it was a day ago, and I've since cleared the ads, but Google tells me, "We do not show notifications for ads. I'm not sure what you saw, but we definitely don't do that."

Google also wishes to emphasize that the ads are not actual email messages, and they do not provide advertisers with users' email addresses. They also don't count against the user's storage quota like email messages do.

Chris Crum

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.