I can’t say that I really notice the Google ads when I’ve got my Gmail inbox open, but if there was another option I’d certainly get rid of them. But wait! Now there’s a better way! Firefox and Chrome plugin Rapportive replaces those ads with the social media contacts of the person you’re emailing, so rather than looking at a bunch of text links for bondage and domination services or sausage factories, you get a nice picture of your friend and some links to their online presence. You obviously need a Gmail account to make this work, but Rapportive doesn’t record your password or other info, so you can set those privacy concerns aside.
I get a lot of business emails in my Gmail account, which often comes from email addresses tied to no social networking accounts, so in those cases Rapportive tends to come up empty. But even a blank space is nicer to look at than a bunch of ugly text links.