So much for no flashy ads in Google search results. NBC Olympics Partners With Google, ESPN from MediaPost covers how NBC effectively has an image/video ad running in Google's results.
See for yourself. Search for olympics. At the top of the page is a big, big AdWords-style box saying "Video results for 2006 Torino Games," followed by the ability to actually play a video clip and a credit on the right hand side saying, "In collaboration with NBC Olympics."
MediaPost reports that NBC is providing Google the clips in return for promotion. A screenshot is below:
OK, technically I suppose you could argue it's not an ad, since search engines have long promoted their own content above regular results in this type of way. Google OneBox results are an example of this. Here's a somewhat similar Yahoo Shortcuts example.
But the Olympic promo isn't a OneBox result or certainly doesn't follow how they've looked before. The promo is contained within a blue box that Google uses almost exclusively for ads. The only non-ad exception I know of is to warn why some results might be offensive, as you'll see here (though oddly, even that still says "Sponsored Link").
A third party credit is pretty unusual, as well. Google's travel OneBox results like here do credit third parties, but I'm pretty sure those aren't through paid deals. Plus, the links with travel are more designed to give you search options rather than promotion of the companies.
In contrast, NBC's pulled off what I think is a first, getting Google to hold its hand within an ad AND to make that ad more graphical than anything Google's had before. Remember, we've been told that everything in those blue boxes (even house ads) is paid for. So the promo feels pretty much in ad territory to me.
As for the ad/promo itself, it's nice. I think it's pretty cool for the user. It should also be noted that the video doesn't actually play, and the small video still image doesn't slow things down much.
For more on Google's thoughts about graphical ads in search results, see my past article, Revisiting The "No Banners On Google" Declaration.