Many users are not surprised and are happy with the findings:
The more it blends into your site, the better...
Not everyone feels that way. One even considered this a deceptive practice:
This seems disturbingly close to misdirection, if you ask me.
Basically, my understanding is that the more you disguise the ad so that it looks like the content that the readers trust, the more likely they are to click on it.
I see that as a violation of trust, not smart marketing, sorry. Ad Cloaking, if you will.
If I went to a site that I thought was trustworthy and began to find myself on ads (and being redirected off the site in the process) I'd stop going back.
While the information proved useful, there are still missing pieces of the puzzle:
Do the same people click the ads in both case, i.e. is it all the same people + more, or different people? Which group converted better?
1)What was the conversion rate after the click? If you've just been tricked there, I suspect it's low. 2)Did the visitor return to the site again after clicking on the ad, and if so, did their behaviour change afterward? 3)What is the visitors perceived trust of the site before and after the advertsment click? I doubt it changes much for visible ads, I'd like to see the data on camoflaged ones.
I think that the missing data would be pretty important for the clearest picture. Regardless, the information is useful when planning an ad campaign. What do you think?
Forum discussion continues at High Rankings.
Note: Ben wrote about this the other day under the title Banner Blindness Becoming Worse: Users Getting More Savvy Identifying Ads In Content.