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Brand Name Ppc Competition


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12 replies to this topic

#1 Michael-F

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Posted 25 August 2009 - 03:00 PM

My company's site has built up a decent brand-name over the last few years, and we get a decent amount of traffic (and unbelievable conversion rates) from Google searches for our site. Recently, one of our competitors started running a PPC ad on our brand-named searches. When someone searches for mysite.com, the organic searches all point to us, but there's a big ugly PPC ad for them.

The ad is clearly labeled as (competitor.com), so they aren't really tricking people into going to their site, but they're still leeching sales by taking away customers who were looking for our site.

Is there any recourse for this? Can we get that ad taken down, or do we just have to deal with the consequences?

#2 Jill

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Posted 25 August 2009 - 03:38 PM

I think Google allows this as long as they don't use your name in their ads.

I personally think it's sucks, but it's apparently legal.

#3 Randy

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Posted 25 August 2009 - 03:59 PM

Contact Google's Adwords team.

The answer as to whether they'll do anything about it or not depends upon several details you've not covered. Starting with if your brand is a legal trademark that your company owns. It also depends upon how the other guys have written their ad and what their landing page says. In that if they're using the ad to lead people to believe they can get your product brand at their site and they can't, they're giving false information to users via Google.

In the US at least it's a ticklish question that ends up putting Google on an extremely flimsy tightrope. Their policy has been (and still was when I last checked several months ago) to allow bidding on another company's brand name, as long as said brand name did not actually appear in the ad text. Basically meaning someone could bid on pretty much any brand and get their ad to show up, but couldn't mention that brand name in their ad text if they didn't have the legal right to use it.

That said, this stuff is always in a constant state of flux. And there are constantly legal actions in process that may change the rules or the implementation of those rules. I believe right now Google are being sued by the Rosetta Stone folks, mainly because of some changes Google made to their brand bidding policy earlier this year that opened things up more than had been the case before.

As to the Display of trademarks in competitors ads, you'll want to start here. Which says in part:

QUOTE(Google Policy)
In the U.S., we allow some ads to show with a trademark in ad text if the ad is from a reseller or from an informational site. However, if our investigation finds that the advertiser is using the trademark in the ad text in a manner which is competitive, critical, or negative, we will require the advertiser to remove the trademark and prevent them from using it in similar ad text in the future.


But this only applies when the branded term is in the ad. It doesn't stop them from bidding on it.

Note also that none of the Google policies keep you from filing suit directly against the other company to attempt to protect your brand trademark. And a court injunction would keep them from being able to do it anywhere, not just on Google's PPC.

#4 Michael-F

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Posted 25 August 2009 - 04:04 PM

QUOTE(Jill @ Aug 25 2009, 02:38 PM) View Post
I think Google allows this as long as they don't use your name in their ads.

I personally think it's sucks, but it's apparently legal.

That's unfortunate. Oh well.

We set up an ad of our own to push it down already, so we'll see how much that helps. I'll be blown away if this has much impact on us either way; we're just frustrated with them because it's not the first time they've done something below-the-belt when trying to compete with us.

Edited by Michael-F, 25 August 2009 - 04:12 PM.


#5 Michael-F

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Posted 25 August 2009 - 04:09 PM

QUOTE(Randy @ Aug 25 2009, 02:59 PM) View Post
Stuff

The ad is pretty standard - there's no reference to us or our name anywhere in the ad, so it doesn't sound like there's much we can do about it.

#6 nethy

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Posted 26 August 2009 - 01:52 AM

QUOTE(Jill @ Aug 26 2009, 06:38 AM) View Post
I think Google allows this as long as they don't use your name in their ads.
I personally think it's sucks, but it's apparently legal.


Why do you think it sucks? Trademark is not about preventing competition or about preventing your name from being uttered. It's about keeping other from pretending to be you or affiliated with you. If you want to present yourself as 'like CNN but in Russian,' you shouldn't be stopped as long as no one thinks you are affiliated with CNN.

It may such if companies use this kind of marketing because it's uncreative. But it's good for a vibrant market.

#7 Michael-F

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 02:06 PM

QUOTE(nethy @ Aug 26 2009, 12:52 AM) View Post
Why do you think it sucks? Trademark is not about preventing competition or about preventing your name from being uttered. It's about keeping other from pretending to be you or affiliated with you. If you want to present yourself as 'like CNN but in Russian,' you shouldn't be stopped as long as no one thinks you are affiliated with CNN.

It may such if companies use this kind of marketing because it's uncreative. But it's good for a vibrant market.

The goal isn't so much to prevent competition, and it's certainly not to prevent our name from being uttered. It just strikes me as dirty to specifically target customers who are looking for our site in particular.

If this had been our big competitor who fights fair by having a genuinely useful site and good SEO, I wouldn't have bat an eye. I would have just done the same thing to theirs and been done with it because they're not a frustrating company to deal with.

The company doing this, however, has a subpar site and a history of doing shady things regarding their competition, including some content theft that we had a pay a lawyer over. It's frustrating dealing with a competitor who, instead of trying to improve their own services, just finds any way they can to leech off your success.

In all honesty, it should be legal to do what they're doing. That doesn't mean it's not below-the-belt. On the bright side, maybe a few people will see their site and go, "Oh wow, oursite.com is really good!"

#8 Randy

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 06:04 PM

QUOTE
The company doing this, however, has a subpar site and a history of doing shady things regarding their competition, including some content theft that we had a pay a lawyer over.


If you got a court judgement against them, or even a written agreement/settlement, you might want to look to it to see if their bidding on your brand violates the agreement or judgement. Too often the scum forget what they've agreed or been ordered to do and not do.

If that's not the case, you may still have a case if you wanted to pursue it. Especially given the apparently established fact that they've already attempted to hurt your business via unethical means. That certainly helps in this type of situation if you choose to go after them.

#9 nethy

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 08:36 PM

Randy,

I'm still not sure why everyone is convinced unethical behaviour has been exhibited. I liken bidding on competitor names to standing outside your competitors store. Cheeky. But not unethical. If OpenOffice.org runs ads on searches for MS Office, is that unethical? I have seen Abiword do this. They are a viable & fair alternative. That is their purpose, a free alternative to MS. There is nothing (I think) wrong with positioning oneself as an alternative to something. It's a little dull & unremarkable. I couldn't imagine Apple doing it, but it is not shady, deceptive or unethical.


*Michael, I am not referring to the company in general. Just the case you mention. They may be shady in general with this behaviour part of the whole. I am just mostly responding to the response, which seems to be attacking a practice which is not that bad, certainly not illegal.
** In some place you can block keywords from triggering ads. I think Google have country specific policies in this regard.

#10 Randy

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 09:17 PM

The problem I have with it and why I consider it of dubious ethics is more in how it's implemented more than anything else nethy. And the fact that what actual terms are being bid on is hidden from the general public.

Per Google's (US) policy you can bid on someone's brand, but you cannot mention that brand in your ad. And you shouldn't mention the competitor brand in your adwords landing page either because if they notice it you can also get your ad.

While I understand why they have this policy (it gets Google in hot water on the trademark infringement front quickly) it makes no sense. Because if (using your example) Open Office wanted to do a comparative type of thing with MS Office they should have that in their ad, and in the copy of their landing page.

Open Office
Works better than Microsoft Office
without the cost.
www.openoffice.org

Again, I understand why Google doesn't do this because it would be legal nightmare to administer. But since they've chosen to take the easier path and not allow it, it's my opinion they should also not allow someone to bid on a trademark they do not own. The fact that the bidding process is hidden not only makes no difference, but in fact makes it worse because there is no truth at all in the advertising.

Definitely a catch-22 to Google. I just happen not to agree with their approach.

Which makes me wonder... Every time I've ever searched for say, Google only one adwords ad shows up. The one for www.Google.com. Why is that?

Are you seriously going to try to convince me that nobody anywhere has ever bid on that brand/word/trademark? If you are, I'm going to have to tell you you're wrong because I have in fact bid on it more than once just to see what would happen. My Google ad was always disallowed, and rightly so. And that's my point exactly. What's good for the google should be good for the gangler.

I guess the better question is why none of those high priced lawyers have never run this very simple test and then asked this simple question of every Google employee in every deposition and in each persons testimony when they file one of these suits on the subject? angel_not.gif

#11 gsimerlink

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Posted 28 August 2009 - 10:25 AM

We had a similar sitution about two years ago. A competitor was bidding on our name, but not mentioning us. So our owner got upset and had us start bidding on their name. The result? A very poorly performing keyword that we took down within a month. They took theirs down too, I imagine for the same reason.

Regardless of how you feel about the situation your customers are the ultimate deciders and most do not want to be landing somewhere they did not really want to be.

#12 draymond

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 03:13 PM

I tend to agree with Nethy - I fail to see how this is unethical - though it may be unproductive. This is why Target opens stores next to Walmart. Divert the people looking for their brand to try my brand instead.

To determine Google's real position on this, just do a search for "Coke". Google has designed their algorithm to scour the internet, search for Coke's largest competitor, and regardless of whether the competitor has bid on ads, place an explicit encouragement right in the results column to search for "Pepsi"...

Searches related to: coke
Pepsi

If I'm Coke, I expect competitors to target my customers. I don't expect an ad channel to use my brand as a trigger to divert my customers to my largest competitor by essentially saying, "Hey, I know you're looking for Coke, but don't forget about Pepsi!" (And by the way, if I'm Snapple, I'm a little miffed that Google isn't cutting me in on the free redirect.)

Why worry about competitors misappropriating my brand when Google bakes this right into their product?

Edited by draymond, 02 September 2009 - 03:59 PM.


#13 Randy

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 08:35 AM

I wouldn't necessarily disagree with you or nethy draymond, if and only if Google allows people to start bidding on their brand.

Failing that though, Google has one position for its own brand and a different position, one that is the polar opposite, for everybody else's brand. I see no way they could argue this is remotely fair since they control the system.




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