Why doesn't Gmail understand what kind of spam to advertise?
November 21, 2006 2:27 PM   Subscribe

How advanced are Google Ads, really? I thought we were all frightened of Google mining our GMail accounts to serve targeted ads. But when I check the spam folder of my GMail account, all I get is adverts for recipes ("Ginger Spam Salad - serves 1, refrigerate overnight") using the food product Spam!

Spam Quiche - makes 4 servings; Creamy Spam Broccoli Casserole - makes 8 servings; French Fry Spam Casserole - Bake 30-40 minutes; Spam Skillet Casserole - Broil until golden; Spam Breakfast Burritos - bake 5-10 minutes, serve with salsa.... the list goes on.

Is this serious? Or is it an ingenious, if comical, guerilla marketing technique?

Isn't spam a valuable ad word? Is it just me, or has this company bought up all references to spam within Gmail spam folder (at least in the UK, where I'm based)...? And surely if Google is so clever it can figure out that spam as used in recipes has nothing to do with the kind of spam that ends up in their junk mail folders.

Please, fellow Metafilter users, explain my folly and show me what I'm misunderstanding here.
posted by skylar to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's a joke, by those comedians at Google.
posted by matthewr at 2:28 PM on November 21, 2006

Seriously, Google has just designed the spam page on Gmail to not to use its Google Ads system, and instead randomise spam recipes. Similarly, when you type the answer to life, the universe and everything into Google, it suggests '42', as a reference to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.
posted by matthewr at 2:52 PM on November 21, 2006

Google has a sense of humor. :)
posted by cmyers at 3:04 PM on November 21, 2006

Which is not, on post, to imply that you don't. But it's rare for a company to have one, which is why I emphasized it.
posted by cmyers at 3:05 PM on November 21, 2006

Just don't heckle google or you'll get an awkward response.
posted by geoff. at 3:19 PM on November 21, 2006

Response by poster: Isn't this valuable ad space, though? Can't they make money by putting proper ads in this section?

Do you think the recipe site pays money to get all that coverage?
posted by skylar at 3:32 PM on November 21, 2006

How many people look at their spam folder?
posted by smackfu at 3:41 PM on November 21, 2006

I would imagine that they don't put real ads in the spam folder because it might then be possible for spammers to game the system. I don't know how exactly someone would do that but it seems like it might be possible.
posted by grex at 3:43 PM on November 21, 2006

I empty out my spam folder all the time. I've always assumed it was a joke.
posted by redheadeb at 4:18 PM on November 21, 2006

Uh, are you talking about the bar above "Delete Forever" and "Not Spam?" That's not ad space, it's the Web Clip feature. It's still funny I think. You can turn it off in settings.

Looking at a couple of identified spam messages I get just the sort of ads one would expect given the content of the messages.
posted by grouse at 4:50 PM on November 21, 2006

What advertiser would want to be associated with spam?
posted by curtm at 4:54 PM on November 21, 2006

Response by poster: Presumably a company that sells spam blocking software might want to be associated with spam.

I guess I failed to see that it was the "web clip" function. It kind of looks like an ad to me.
posted by skylar at 4:59 PM on November 21, 2006

As others have said, that's a 'feature' / joke, not actual ads.

Isn't this valuable ad space, though?

Not really, for several reasons:
- If it were based on content of the messages like the other ads, it would just display ads for Cialis, Viagra, and sorts of porn I don't want to begin to describe.
- If it were just generic ads, it wouldn't make a lot of sense to advertise there. The only relevant ad would be anti-spam software, but the whole point is that GMail already caught the spam for me, so it's kind of advertising a useless product to me.
- If your ad doesn't fit one of the above categories, I'm probably going overlook the fact that it's an ad, and just assume you're part of the many, many spam messages I delete daily. In other words, advertising there might cause me to assume you're a spammer.

I guess I failed to see that it was the "web clip" function. It kind of looks like an ad to me.

I can't fault you for that, though. On the Inbox page, the "Web Clip" seems to display a "Sponsored Link" quite often. (It's definitely based on trends in my Inbox, BTW, as most of the ads I get are about niche things that show up in my inbox.)
posted by fogster at 5:37 PM on November 21, 2006

They also have "sponsored links" in the web clips, so there actually are ads in there now.

I always thought the spam recipes were a rather amusing touch.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 6:01 PM on November 21, 2006

Awww... I only get Viagra messages in my gmail spam folder. :( Spam recipes would be so much cooler!
posted by youngergirl44 at 9:26 AM on November 22, 2006

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