I declined to comment on Blizzard's decision to put ads on their official forums back in December. They drew the expected quantity of commentary and satire, but I didn't really see a tie-in with either players or developers in having out-of-game forums plastered with ads.
However, I did think that it would only be a matter of time before:
A) Some gold seller ad wound up on the official forums or
My track record for things that I don't post publicly appears to be better than my track record on stuff that I actually post for people to read, cause today the official WoW forums had their first illicit gold seller ad.
The reason I was relatively sure this would happen is a simple question of demand. Who, exactly, wants adspace on WoW forums? Well, makers of competing games do - thanks to the miracle of tracking cookies, I get a lot of EQ2 ads on WoWhead. Presumably, whomever Blizzard is farming the ads out to knows better than to take that buy. So who else? Blogs? I like this blog, but I'm not spending that kind of money (read: ANY money) to promote it. Legitimate gaming news sites that are actually intended to turn a profit? They may actually have a promotional budget, but I can't imagine how that's an effective use of your ad dollars.
Basically the ONLY people who are left who really want to promote products specifically on the WoW forums are, well, gold sellers and other people attempting to sell directly WoW-related products. Because they are the folks who want the exposure the most, they'll be willing to pay the highest rates. Sooner or later, it is an absolute certainty that an ad that wasn't explicitly on the "do not approve" list will come across the desk of someone who isn't paying attention, and that's how we land in this situation.
Now that I'm posting this, I feel I need to amend my predictions to cover the other possibilities. What would really make the story of this senseless money grab complete would be:
C) Mark Jacobs taking out an ad on the official WoW forums that says "This is why official forums are a bad idea."