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Google is toying with the idea of allowing big banner ads to run at the top of its search results pages - in a move that apparently breaks an eight-year-old promise.

The Mountain View web goliath is, we're told, "running a very limited, US-only test" of the billboards.

A Google spokesman confirmed to the AFP news agency today that "advertisers can include an image as part of the search ads that show in response to certain branded queries". He added:

Advertisers have long been able to add informative visual elements to their search ads, with features like Media Ads, Product Listing Ads and Image Extensions.

In 2004, then top Google exec Marissa Mayer - who is now the boss of Yahoo! - proclaimed that the advertising giant would never allow "crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever".< More pointedly she had also said: "There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage of web results pages."

But eight years is a long time in ad world, and Google is clearly seeking new revenue sources by agreeing to let admen experiment with intrusive commercials that, significantly, push search results further down the page and grab the eye better than text.

Google's video-sharing property YouTube added banner ads to the mobile version of that service in 2010.

The Register asked Google to comment on this story, but the enormous advertising brokerage had not got back to us at time of writing. ®

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