Google AdSense is moving beyond the traditional text and graphical advertising to rich media, including interstitials, expanding ads and floating ads. AdSense began contacting publishers last week to be involved in the rich media limited beta test.
The campaigns will likely be site targeted, rather than contextual, but details on the actual implementation of these new ads are still under wraps. With these kind of top-secret beta tests, NDAs are often requirements before being accepted into it.
Floating ads are ads that either stay on top as the page is scrolled, or ones that "float in" from the side of the page to the center of the page. Expanding ads are those that require user interaction to expand, either with a mouseover or a click. Interstitials are perhaps the most interesting addition to this rich media beta, because they are a format that people love to hate, and that are often more annoying than pop-ups. You have likely stumbled across an interstitial ad - they appear when you click through to read a page, and before they will show you the page, you are bypassed through to a full page ad that you must view before seeing the actual content you were wanting, often by having to click a link on the interstitial ad page.
No further details are known about the new rich media beta test, but I will see what I can find out. I can probably safely say that this is an invite-only beta test to which only a small number of publishers were invited to. So emailing the AdSense team for an invite to this beta probably wouldn't work. But the good news is that often beta tests are turned into features that all publishers can utilize, so if you are interested in implementing rich media through AdSense, keep your fingers crossed and it may be added in the future.
This is definitely a departure from the usual text ads as well as the image and Flash ads in standard ad unit sizes that AdSense usually runs. Rich media ads are usually associated with companies such as Fastclick, PointRoll and Falk eSolutions, so the fact that AdSense is making inroads on this territory is quite significant. If AdSense offered rich media to all publishers, it could really hurt competitor companies offering similar rich media ad formats because of the vast number of publishers that AdSense has.
And if AdSense did offer rich media to all publishers, they could easily add a new clause that would mean companies such as Fastclick and PointRoll would suddenly be competitive ads and not be permitted on the same pages as AdSense. Many AdSense publishers implement rich media ads to compliment AdSense, and as non-contextual, most of these ad products are well within the AdSense terms. But if AdSense decided to not permit rich media ads on pages also running AdSense or AdSense rich media style ads, this could mean that many publishers would drop competitor's ads and just show AdSense... as well as those advertisers flocking to AdWords to get their rich media creatives showing through the AdSense program.
In terms of dominating the online advertising market, AdSense rich media could seal the deal to make AdSense the force to be reckoned with, by not only dominating the online text ad and graphical banner-style advertising, but in the entire online advertising market. Definitely a story to watch.