Yes – it’s true. From the 5th of May, on Adwords, you will be allowed to bid on a competitor’s trademarked keyword in the UK and Ireland. Be careful you don’t get sued by the trademark owners if you try.
Adwords trademark bidding has been possible in the US for a while, but will remain impossible in most of Europe after the 5th of May.
When the news came through to the office that this change was going to take place, a very interesting discussion developed as to whether it we should be advising our clients or whether they should be advising us on how this might affect their on PPC strategy. My instinct was to tell all our clients the facts and then ask our clients to consider how they wanted to deal with 1. people bidding on their trademarked word and 2. them using competitor trademarks as keywords. I thought I had written an article that did this quite well, but two of my team pulled me up on in, saying that we should not be giving out legal advice to our clients on IP and trademark law. Clearly whatever I had written had not struck the intended tone, because perception is reality and the reality is that if my team felt I was saying “bidding on a competitor’s trademark is fine and dandy” then I was clearly advocating something that was not always a safe bet! I think we’ll settle on fixing the typos and putting a disclaimer on the article when it comes out, but it got meto thinking. If we had not put out the article at all and kept our clients in the dark about this change in Google’s Adwords policies in the UK and Ireland, I wonder how many calls we would have received in mid May when clients suddenly see their competitors advertising when users type in our clients’ trademarked word? That will be the call, as the MD gets all hot and bothered doing his vanity checks. The actual COST though, is much more sinister. We have many clients that bid on their own trademark. We recommend it even when they are number 1 because it gives you twice as much exposure on the serps above the fold and knocks some other website below the fold. the cost is minimal. We have a client on a near six figure monthly spend and brand is by far the biggest converter. The brand keyword costs about £20 a day… £600 a month out of a near six figure monthly spend. Peanuts in other words. That is because nobody else can bid on the trademark (hell… most competitors can’t even spell the trademark) the quality score and relevency is through the roof, putting the CPC through the floor. But what happens when competitors start to bid on the term? Obviously they will be at a disdvantage, because they cannot say the same things as the trademark owner and cannot be seen to be passing off. But they CAN disrupt the low quality score on the advert. If the CPC goes from 2 pence per click to 20 pence per click, a trademark owner suddenly finds themselves paying a 900% increase in costs for the very same traffic that they had before ay 5th.
As consultants, don’t we also have a duty of care to forewarn our clients about this possibility? Our clients, then, have a duty of care to their shareholders to give us the best advice to us as consultants as to how we handle this new front on PPC advertising campaign management. But if anyone gets lawyers in to stop us all reaching a concensus, then the only winners will be the lawyers.
Dixon (I am NOT a lawyer) Jones.