It all began a few days ago when web information retrieval specialist Antonio Gulli posted this simple message on Twitter.
Ads in GMAIL – sent as normal emails. Anyone else saw this? pic.twitter.com/oAgaT1mcAJ
— antonio.gulli (@gulliantonio) July 18, 2013
The attached imaged shows what looks like a normal email in Antonio’s Gmail box but a closer look reveals the truth. It’s actually an advertisement (as denoted by the small ad symbol under the sender’s name) that was slipped into his Promotion Tab stream.
For those of you who don’t live on Gmail, Google recently updated the service to include three organizational tabs; primary, social and promotional.
The promotional tab is supposed to be the repository for all the branded emails, newsletters and coupons that you have sent to Gmail so they don’t clutter up your real email. In other words, Google is neatening up on your behalf, so its easy to find the “important” emails. When it happened, marketers were upset. Some even sent out emails to customers asking them to move their branded message from promotions to the primary tab to stop the filtering.
“The promotions tab is keeping customers from seeing our message”, they cried. But here’s what’s odd. If that was Google’s intention, then why would they slip their own ads into the promotions stream? Google gets paid when advertisers get clicks. If the new system results in lower clickthroughs, advertisers will stop buying and Google loses in the end.
No, Google must think that the promotions tab is a good thing for marketers. And they must think that people will be okay with finding random ads in their personal email stream.
Really? Could they be that naive?
Cnet asked Google why they would risk the wrath of so many customers. They replied,
As always, advertising keeps Google and Gmail free to use. We work hard to make ads safe, unobtrusive, and relevant. Instead of ads always appearing at the top of your inbox, they’ve been relegated to a more appropriate place in your Promotions tab to create a better overall experience.
Did they actually say they work hard to make ads “unobtrusive?” They might make customers happy but I can’t imagine too many advertisers would be happy to hear that. Isn’t the whole point of advertising to get noticed?
So now every tech site on the internet is a blaze with ways to stop Google in its tracks. They’re all about deleting the promotions tab or teaching Gmail to respect you by deleting every ad email when it comes in.
Here’s an easier way. Stop using Gmail and pay for an email address through a hosting company.
Gmail is free and it’s a whole lot of free. Incredible storage, pick your email up from anywhere, free phone calls and IMing. It’s ALL FREE and all they ask in return is that you look at a couple of ads and click on one now and then.
Seriously, folks. This is no big deal.
If you’re an advertiser and you pay to promote your wares on Google, just watch your numbers. If the backlash gets too bad, you might see a drop in your clicks. But you probably won’t, because even if your count up all the angry journalists and outraged Tweeters, it’s just a tiny portion of the flotsam the Gmail user pool.