Adwords Trademark Changes on

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We’ll just leave this policy change here…

Last month, Google had an important high court case ruled in their favour. In short, this case means that Google is no longer responsible or obliged to prevent advertisers from directly targeting branded keywords, bringing the Australian market in line with other English-speaking markets such as the UK and USA.

This case was brought by the ACCC and accused Google of “misleading or deceptive conduct” by allowing advertisers to appear for other brands’ names and to use these in their ad copy. The court ruled that Google was an intermediary and as such:

…Google search engine is only a means of communication between advertisers and consumers.

This effectively means that any responsibility regarding misleading or deceptive conduct rests with the advertisers. Some commentators have said that it seems that the advertisers are only likely to run into issues on this should they use their competitors’ brands in their own ad copy. But not if an ad appears for a search on these kinds of keywords.

The Expected Policy Change

Unsurprisingly this rule is finally reflected in Google’s policy towards brand terms. In an update from this week affecting Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea, and Brazil:

Google will no longer prevent advertisers from selecting a third party’s trademark as a keyword in ads targeting these regions.

In their policy update, Google stated that for these regions they will only respond to trademark complaints regarding advertisers using brands in their copy. However, Google was careful to clearly state that they are in not a position to make recommendations regarding the use of trademarks, as you would expect.

Picking the Change in the Market

While other markets such as the USA and UK have had this policy for a while now, it is still to come into effect for many other countries, including Australia. As a result we cannot be certain of how this will change the way the market behaves around brand terms. Not without looking to the USA and the UK as an example of what to expect. Or waiting for the change to take effect in Australia from the 23rd April.

However it is not hard to predict that this change will certainly lead to some advertising activity across competitors’ brand traffic, and depending how a campaign is implemented, it could in some cases negatively affect organic click through rates. Even though the brand itself should be more efficient than its competition, the cost of traffic will probably rise too and with it the account’s cost per acquisition.

Due to their position there is a strong incentive for the brand to ensure they are covering searches on their name with paid as well as organic listings.This policy change will probably also allow paid search advertisers to employ ambush marketing style tactics on a brand’s own navigational search traffic in interesting ways.

No More Google Brand Police

The decision from last month and this week’s update to their policy means Google is no longer responsible for enforcing rules regarding the use of trademarks in paid search or for how their advertisers use these tools. This ruling appears to let them pass this responsibility on to their advertisers, which is, when you consider how other media platforms work, where it really should lie. It is just fortunate for Google that this should also lead to increased competition and added incentive to advertise for a certain class of keywords.

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