"There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results page. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever." Google said that in a 2005 blog post, to ease fears about a partnership deal with AOL. But it seems the search giant has a unique definition of "ever," because it is now testing ads that look a whole lot like banners, the New York Times reports.
The test has been running on US desktop computers for about a week. Searches for about 30 big advertisers (among them, Southwest Airlines) on the included systems will bring up a box of results taking up much of the screen, and including a long, banner-like image on the top. (See an example here.) But Google argues that despite being banner-shaped, these aren't actually banner ads. "Advertisers have long been able to add informative visual elements to their search ads," a spokesman tells the Guardian. Fun trivia fact: The author of that 2005 post? Yahoo head Marissa Mayer, who was then Google's VP of Search.