As I get was getting increasingly annoyed by large flashing display ads in my feedreader this morning, the thought suddenly occurred to me: could Google serve me ads on third party sites based on my unread Gmail emails?
That is, as I check my feeds before my email in a morning, could I be seeing ads that foreshadow the content of the email I’ve been ignoring for way too long? Or could I receive ads that flag the content of my Priority Inbox messages?
Rules regarding sensitivity and privacy would have to be carefully thought through,m of course. Here’s how they currently stand regarding contextual ads delivered in Gmail (More on Gmail and privacy: Targeted ads in Gmail):
By offering Gmail users relevant ads and information related to the content of their messages, we aim to offer users a better webmail experience. For example, if you and your friends are planning a vacation, you may want to see news items or travel ads about the destination you’re considering.
To ensure a quality user experience for all Gmail users, we avoid showing ads reflecting sensitive or inappropriate content by only showing ads that have been classified as “Family-Safe.” We also avoid targeting ads to messages about catastrophic events or tragedies. [Google’s emphasis]
Not quite as future predictive as gDay™ with MATE™ that lets you “search tomorrow’s web today” and “[discover] content on the internet before it is created”, but almost…!
It’s also a step on the road to Eric Schmidt’s dream of providing you with results even before you search for them. (For a more recent interview, see Google’s Eric Schmidt predicts the future of computing – and he plans to be involved.)
Here’s another, more practical(?!) thought – suppose Google served me headers of Priority Inbox email messages that were also marked as urgent through Adwords ads, in a full-on attempt to try to attract my attention to “really important” messages?! “Flashmail” messages delivered through the Adwords network… (I can imagine at least one course manager who I suspect would try to contact me via ads when I don’t pick up my email! ;-)
Searching the internet of things may still be a little way off though….
PS thinking email address targeted ads (mailads?) through a bit more, here are a couple of ways of doing it that immediately come to mind. Suppose I want to target an ad at email@example.com:
1) Adwords could place that ad in my GMail sidebar; (I think they’d be unlikely to place ads within emails, even if clearly marked, because this approach has been hugely unpopular in the past (it also p****s me off in feeds ); that said, Google has apparently started experimenting with (image based) display ads in gmail;
2) Adwords could place the ad on a third party site if the Goog spots me via a cookie and sees I’m currently logged in to Google, for example, with the firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
As Facebook gets into the universal messaging game, email address based ad targeting would also work there?
PPS interesting – the best ads act as content, so maybe ads could be used to deliver linked content? Twitter promoted tweets – the AdWords for live news?. Which reminds me, I need to work up my bid for using something like AdWords to deliver targeted educational content.