Yesterday night I went through all my adwords listings and increased the maximum bid I was willing to pay to about $5 or $6. When I tried searching for one of my criteria targets, I was surprised to see my ad show up as one of the pastel-colored horizontal strips reserved for "premium sponsorships" -- not one of the rectangular ads on the right side of the screen. I tried a couple more criteria and saw the same phenomena. The next morning I tried again and most of my ads had been demoted to the right side rectangles, but there were still a few (and still some right now) that appeared as horizontal "premium sponsorships". I've never actually signed up for the premium package.
Is this a new thing, or have people known about it before?
On a related, but different topic, I had contacted Google about the premium sponsorships before and was sent a form email about them costing a minimum of $5000/month and suggesting I contact a representative at Google. I never emailed them, and despite the fact that I had expressed interest in this expensive service, they never followed up with a sales call. Does this strike you as not very business-savvy? Perhaps they can afford it... for now.