tedster - 3:04 am on Sep 16, 2011 (gmt 0)
And why on some searchs the ads are only in the right-hand column rather than at the top - confused
It's always been that way. An Adwords ad needs to be performing very well in order to be promoted to that top position.
About that background color for the ad block - it's now #FFF8E7. I've got a record some place of the last time I checked it, but I can't find it right now. However, I starting noticing at least a week ago that, subjectively at least, the color had nudged even closer to white.