I just realized something: when you start up Steam, you're shown a couple pages of ads. Occasionally there are news updates in there. But it just recently occurred to me that these are ads. I just somehow never saw them as ads, even though they're promotional materials to get me to try to buy new games. Somehow, Valve has managed to present them in such a way that they feel like a sort of status update that I want to see upon logging in, rather than ads. Not only is the rest of the service and software ad-free (unless you count the highlighted games in the online store ads, which I don't really), but what ads there are don't annoy me, which is exceedingly uncommon. I'm generally even willing to pay a site a small sum of money on an annual basis to not have to see ads.
This makes me wonder how this happened. What is it about these ads that is so special? You only see each ad once, and if there are multiple ones, you only see the first one at all unless you voluntarily click Next to get to the next ad. Once you're done, you'll never see those ads again. Also, interspersed with the ads are what are essentially short blog posts explaining what's new with Steam, what games are coming out soon, what's on sale, and so forth. Can this apparently very non-intrusive (at least to me) sort of ad work in other areas? I hate ads, but I do also enjoy getting free stuff. If I could see more ads like these and get more free stuff, bonus.