Big players want to avoid TM bidding (but that’s no surprise)

So we are now into our first week of the new regime. Google is now allowing UK advertisers to bid on trademark-protected keywords. Although there might be a few teething troubles, it is definitely up and running.

Last week one of our clients (who sells, among other things, a CD and DVD that includes performances from a number of high-profile artists) had a campaign ready to go with keywords including "famous artist" whose name is a trademark. Before the weekend, those ads were not running due to "trademark restrictions" but this morning, they are displaying fine. The teething troubles I have seen include there still being warnings in the account that keywords include trademarked terms and hence are not triggering adverts - so the warning messages appear to be a bit behind the times compared to the actual ad display mechanism.

This policy change has broken out into the mainstream media - with coverage in at least The Times on Saturday (no quote for Distilled, unfortunately). They covered an angle that I thought was quite interesting. Tesco have apparently come out to say that they do not intend to bid on their competitors' trademarked terms - quoted in The Times as them "taking the moral high ground":

> The move is already unsettling some big-name advertisers, with Tesco pledging to take the “moral high ground” and not bid against rival brands on Google...

I'm not sure it's anything of the sort.

##Morality when it suits

The largest players in the online world have huge volumes of what is known as branded search - i.e. people looking for them by name and including their (normally trademarked) business names in the search query. An example would be searching apple store before buying a computer online directly from Apple.

The largest names in the business typically have the largest volumes of branded search. Their smaller competitors have much fewer people searching for them directly (unsurprisingly). With Tesco being one of the largest brands in the UK, they must be right at the top of the tree in terms of volume of branded search.

If Tesco can persuade their competitors that the "moral high ground" includes not bidding on each others' trademarks, they will definitely come off best. They will lose a relatively small opportunity, while their competitors lose much bigger opportunities.

Note that the legal situation is not completely cleared up yet - Google may yet face legal challenges (as reported by Channel 4).

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About the author
Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. For the...   read more