Graphical Gmail ads? Offensive

Dear Google:

Thank you for including me as one of the early adopters in your upcoming changes to Gmail advertisements.  I first noticed a change on 6 April 2011.  The change was dramatic, and gave me quite a shock.  I’ve decided to write this open letter in response.

I logged in to Gmail on Wednesday, and saw my first graphical Gmail ad.  I was disgusted.  To use Facebook’s old rating of image ads, I found it “offensive.”  I have always enjoyed text-only ads in Gmail and elsewhere in the Google-verse: they are usually relevant and appropriate.  Even when off-topic, they are mildly amusing at best and easily ignored at worst.  I know that the Gmail team is working to serve “better ads.”  However, the image ad I received was contrary to the nature of the email I was viewing.

What is to be done? According to Gmail help:

If you don’t want to see ads in Gmail you have the option of using the HTML interface, or POP or IMAP. We’re also committed to data liberation: if you decide to switch to a new email provider, it’s easy to set up automatic forwarding for all new messages that arrive in your Gmail account.
SourceAds in Gmail and your personal data | Gmail help

I have written here in the past my opinion of Google’s claims to be “amoral.”  I invite you to reread that post.  Regarding this recent development, here is how I am responding.

  1. I set basic HTML view as my default view (it’s faster anyway).
  2. I have published this open letter on my blog, with links from my other social media streams.

Looking forward, if Google continues to present offensive ads as part of the Gmail experience, I will have no practical option except to discontinue using the Gmail client and switch to another email platform.

I believe that ads can be effective without being offensive.  Effective ads are related to the surrounding content and most often are similar, not opposed to the surrounding content.  Google executives, I ask that you please reconsider the roll-out of image ads in Gmail.  I use Gmail because it’s better in significant ways; the addition of irrelevant, offensive, graphical ads is too much for me this little frog to take.  If the ads are relevant and appropriate, I will reconsider my decision.  Until then, I will be opting out of Gmail advertisements.

JF Carroll