I don’t spend much time looking at the advertising in Gmail, but when I do, it’s usually for laughs. For example, I just sent myself a test email about my trip to New York City next month, which Google used as an excuse to show me ads about NYC cruises (no thanks, but I can see why I’m getting that ad), NYC restaurant week (now we’re talking), and … ROR/LAMP enthusiasts. Um,what?
Now, I’m not going to pretend Gmail whiffs so hilariously all that often, but it’s not rare experience either. I see plenty of jokes over email and Twitter from friends who spot similarly ridiculous ads. Now Google says it’s taking steps to improve the situation — in cases where it can’t find ads relevant to the email you’re reading, it will pull ads that match other emails in your inbox, rather than just dredging the bottom of the barrel. So the ads you see may not be a logical fit for the email you’re reading, but they should have some relevance to your interests.
Google isn’t just being nice, of course. More relevant advertising means that you’re more likely to click, which means more money for the giant. Google also uses the blog post to remind users that the advertising is automated, so no one is reading your email in the process.