Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Gmail's got ads

I don't know exactly when it happened, but those much-talked-about contextual ads are now showing up in Gmail (look for the story on Slashdot around October).

I figured it might be fun to open back up some of my messages and see what kind of ads my conversations attract. Here's what I got:

- The email I got from Anne McCue (mmm ... Anne McCue) yesterday thanking me for signing up for her mailing list out in L.A. is displaying two ads for "Cheap Dave Matthews tix". Good targeting, but sorry, not interested.

- The purchase confirmation sent to me from Alton Brown's store has two ads for "Salt Cellars" and one for "Canadian Gift Baskets". Good work placing a Salt Celler ad there, but that's what I just bought!

- The confirmation mail for my United frequent flyer account has two travel-related ads (good targeting) and one "Increase Gas Mileage" ad.

- The email string between my sister and me when I gave her a Gmail account has ads for computer system monitoring ("Detect Instant Messaging").

- One of the many instances of people sending me links to Jib-Jab displayed ads for "Funny & Unique T-Shirts" and "Meatandcheese Clothing", apparently because the word "funny" appeared in the message.

- The offer letter from my new employer has three ads for data acquisition solutions, apparently because the recruiters here are called "talent acquisition", which was in the signature.

All in all, I think the Gmail targeting system leaves something to be desired. I'm not sure what advertisers are paying in CPC rates, but there's a big difference in relevance between "Anne McCue concert = Dave Matthews tickets" and "Word in email sig = Data Acquisition Solutions".

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