Re: Hah! @Doctor Syntax
"Or, to put it another way, surely we can do better than this?"
As I said - "until someone comes up with a better (and fraud-resistant) way for micropayments to propagate from content users to content providers, ads are probably here to stay."
An alternative would be great, but I don't know what it is - whoever comes up with it will probably do well for themselves. If you think you know how to do better than this, go ahead and do it!
As things stand, content providers have little control over the particular ads that get served - they just say 'insert ad here' and get whatever google (or whoever) serve up.
Personally I think the googles of the world should start taking more responsibility and vetting all ads they serve, giving them a list of characteristics (uses flash, autorunning video, sound, adult content, animation, text-only, static images, etc). Content providers could then specify which type of ads they would permit on their site. Undoubtedly the less wholesome ones would generate more revenue per impression, but it would be up to the content providers to trade off their earnings against their willingness to offend. As things stand at the moment, that degree of control doesn't really exist - google/adsense lets you choose between ads featuring a list of links, or text-only ads, or basically everything else. No way to choose between static images or jiggly animations, etc.