Update: See this post for more updates.
TL;DR: Open Source (on SO) and Community Promotion (on the rest of the network) Ads are gonna happen in 2021, but not on the usual schedule. We will revisit these in Q2, and work with the community and our Ads team to figure out how the program can best serve the communities going forward.
First, some general thoughts about the project as a whole: the boilerplate text used in the posts for this program mentions ads being reset in December, and... I don't think I (or Grace Note before me) ever did that. In fact, last year I only got to refresh these in March, and refreshing Open Source Ads on SO for the second half of the year (as is usual) ended up completely slipping through the cracks. It's worth noting, though, that despite this slip up, no one seemed to notice (or at least no one asked about it, as far as I can tell). Furthermore, many sites show very little or no engagement with the initiative at all. I think all of that says something about the effectiveness of this project... Does the community still find the value we set out to provide when we launched this program back in 2009? As the program and its rules have stayed pretty much the same for 11 years, are there any bits that need to be adjusted? Are there ways we can change the program to provide more value to the community today, or should we replace it with some other program that brings that value? The program is currently not available to sites in Beta, but would it prove a good community building opportunity for sites as they're getting started? These are some of the questions we'd like to answer in Q2, when we do some discovery work around the program as a whole, before resetting the ads for 2021.
Now, to move on to some technical limitations: these ads are not served through the same mechanism the rest of the ads on the network are served, but instead through mechanisms the Ads team has been moving away from. Furthermore, the current mechanism is ruled by code no team currently owns or maintains, and that does not feed into the Ads team's current ad-serving systems. These mechanisms do not allow for reliable reporting either, which is bad for the Ads team and to you, neither of which can reliably measure the effectiveness of the ads the communities are putting up.
On to our current thinking to address all of the above: in Q2 we'll kick off discovery work around these ads (as well as Hot Network Question Ads1), and we're thinking of treating these (conceptually) as regular ad campaigns, where you (the community) are the client, the Community Management Team does any support needed, and our Ad Ops Team would be responsible for trafficking and monitoring performance. We'll need to figure out some stuff surrounding guidelines (using our current ad guidelines as a starting point) and reporting stats with you, and how some internal workflows are going to work before we're able to refresh ads in 2021. Ideally we’ll get to a place we’re all happy with, and we’ll continue giving back to the community by providing you with a space to highlight projects and pages of interest to your communities through this project.
All of that being said, the 2020 versions are still active and running, and we're not planning on taking those down until we refresh for 2021 in Q2.
1 Yes, they're a thing! In addition to the HNQ feature you might be familiar with, our system was picking some of those questions and generating an ad that was being displayed in a fashion similar to Community Promotion/Open Source Ads. We disabled these in late 2020 after getting some reports on some of the ads displayed, and it seems like folding these into this discovery work might be reasonable since we'd been struggling to get the ball moving on them again.