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When going to questions on SO there is a box above questions where it looks like there is meant to be an advert. There is still a like and dislike button to show that it was helpful but the box is empty.

enter image description here

Then when a question has been deleted some imitation clouds appear in the box instead.

enter image description here

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And I cannot reproduce this. Disable all extensions in your browser and try again, I suspect you have a ineffective advertisement blocker. – Martijn Pieters Jul 25 '13 at 11:11
This is the second time I've seen those puffy little clouds in a screenshot on Meta. Where are you getting them? – Cody Gray Jul 25 '13 at 11:11
Other question: Do you need to use Entity Framework to create a WCF Service does come with puffy clouds advertisement (browse with incognito / private mode in your browser if you have too high a rep to see banner ads above questions). – Martijn Pieters Jul 25 '13 at 11:12
@Martijn There's no way to try reproducing it on this particular question. Since it's been deleted, you need 10k to see it. But if you have 10k, you don't see these ads! – Cody Gray Jul 25 '13 at 11:12
@CodyGray: Ah, damn good point. – Martijn Pieters Jul 25 '13 at 11:13
There is nothing to do with deleted question here. I can reproduce this using incognito of Chrome on any random question. (Just open any SO question in incognito mode and refresh the page until you see it) – hims056 Jul 25 '13 at 11:14
It looks like a special ad using javascript; the clouds are individual elements in the DOM. – Martijn Pieters Jul 25 '13 at 11:15
In any case, the advertisement works for me, on the non-deleted question. Advertisements are also randomized, IIRC, so you will see different ads on different loads of a page. It looks like there is a random clouds ad going round, you'd have to click on it to see what that is all about. – Martijn Pieters Jul 25 '13 at 11:18
Also, there is no link in those advertisements. – hims056 Jul 25 '13 at 11:20
@MartijnPieters That particular cloud ad has no link. I wonder what it is all about. – Antony Jul 25 '13 at 11:22
Aaaaand... it is gone from rotation. – Martijn Pieters Jul 25 '13 at 11:26
For me, it's my ad blocker plugin for Chrome that causes the box to be empty. – Lix Jul 25 '13 at 11:39
@Sklivvz so the clouds are you doing or adzerk's? What cause them to appear? – Shadow Wizard Jul 25 '13 at 13:02
up vote 4 down vote accepted

This was part of a test for a new campaign, and was deliberate. The creative tags supplied by a client needed to be tested live on the site. We tried to limit the exposure as much as possible, but inevitably some of you saw them.

These creatives are no longer set to serve, and the updated tags that serve correctly are live on the site.

Sorry for the mystery!

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The advertisement works as... advertised. The clouds are generated by the ad's JavaScript code:

new function() {
this.rand = Math.floor((Math.random() + "") * 1000000000000);
this.dvparams = 'ctx=1842468&cmp=1844697&plc=451838907&sid=451838907';
this.dvregion = '0';
this.tagsrc = '<iframe src="" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" topmargin="0" leftmargin="0" allowtransparency="true" width="728" height="90">\
<scr'+'ipt language="Javascr'+'ipt" type="text/javascr'+'ipt">\
document.write(\'<a href="" target="_blank"><img src=""/></a>\');\
this.altsrc = '<style>\
    .container {\
        border: 1px solid #3b599e;\
        overflow: hidden;\
        filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient(startColorstr=\'#315d8c\', endColorstr=\'#84aace\'); /* for IE */\
        background: -webkit-gradient(linear, left top, left bottom, from(#315d8c), to(#84aace)); /* for webkit browsers */\
        background: -moz-linear-gradient(top,  #315d8c,  #84aace); /* for firefox 3.6+ */ \
    .cloud {\
        color: #fff;\
        position: relative;\
        font: 100% "Times New Roman", Times, serif;\
        text-shadow: 0px 0px 10px #fff;\
        line-height: 0;\
    <scr'+'ipt type="text/javascr'+'ipt">\
  function cloud(){\
  var b1 = "<div class=\\"cloud\\" style=\\"font-size: ";\
  var b2 = "px; position: absolute; top: ";\
  document.write(b1+"300px; width: 300px; height: 300"+b2+"34px; left: 28px;\\">.<\\/div>");\
  document.write(b1+"300px; width: 300px; height: 300"+b2+"46px; left: 10px;\\">.<\\/div>");\
  document.write(b1+"300px; width: 300px; height: 300"+b2+"46px; left: 50px;\\">.<\\/div>");\
  document.write(b1+"400px; width: 400px; height: 400"+b2+"24px; left: 20px;\\">.<\\/div>");\
  function clouds(){\
  var top = [\'-80\',\'80\',\'240\',\'400\'];\
  var left = -10;\
  var a1 = "<div style=\\"position: relative; top: ";\
  var a2 = "px; left: ";\
  var a3 = "px;\\"><scr'+'ipt type=\\"text/javascr'+'ipt\\">cloud();<\\/scr'+'ipt><\\/div>";\
  for(i=0; i<8; i++)\
   document.write(a1+top[3]+a2+left+a3); \
    left = -90;\
    top = [\'0\',\'160\',\'320\',\'480\'];\
   else left += 160;\
<div class="container" style="width: 728px; height: 90px;">\
 <scr'+'ipt type="text/javascr'+'ipt">clouds();</scr'+'ipt>\

this.callbackName = '__dvredirect_callback_' + this.rand;
var thisRedirect = this;
window[this.callbackName] = function () { return thisRedirect; };

var src = '' + this.callbackName;
document.write('<scr' + 'ipt src=' + src + '></scr' + 'ipt>');

There is no click target, otherwise.

Why there is an advertisement generating random clouds is anybody's guess; it could be part of a longer-term campaign where more will be revealed later, after piquing your interests.

My guess? I think it is the Adzerk placeholder pattern; if their backend is b0rken and cannot serve ads for whatever reason, the clouds are pushed instead.

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@Antony: that made such a big difference. :-P – Martijn Pieters Jul 25 '13 at 11:35
pffft, substantive edits ;-) – Cody Gray Jul 25 '13 at 11:41

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