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No, Google Isn’t Selling Banner Ads

Charles Arthur is a prominent tech journalist in the UK with an impressive resume and a large, engaged following. He can be provocative, yes, but he’s generally correct, or at least fair, in his writing.

So I was surprised to see his misleading — I even would argue, flat-out incorrect — headline last week: “Google breaks 2005 promise never to show banner ads on search results.”

Google’s move toward more visual results for brands once again shows that Google is committed to matching consumer intent with user experience. 

As the article eventually makes clear, Google isn’t looking to display flashing banner ads inviting people to learn the five top secrets to weight loss or to talk to lonely co-eds now. And fans of Google’s clean design aesthetic needn’t worry that the site will be cluttered by auto-play video advertising.

What Arthur fails to note until five paragraphs in — and then continues to crow about — is that these so-called banner ads will in fact be images tied to specific brands and will only display within the results for branded queries.

So, for instance, in the example Arthur uses for Southwest Airlines, the (I think) very beautiful image of a Southwest airliner will only show up if someone searches for “Southwest Airlines.” That’s surely not like any banner ad I’ve ever encountered. Because it’s not a banner ad.

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