Dynamic Keyword Insertion and Trademark Infringement

by on July 09, 2010

Share |
Confluence on Facebook

Recently two of our clients became “victims” of trademark infringement by direct competitors. We noticed competitive ads on Google and Display Network partners Business.com and Alexa.com that followed the following format:

clienttrademark

This ad format features the use of a trademarked term in a competitive manner, a practice Google explicitly forbids:

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.

The ad is also potentially misleading to users who may not notice that the headline and destination URL do not match until after the click they land on the competitor’s website. They may be mistaken into thinking that the competitor is the owner or reseller of the trademarked product.

In both instances we dispatched polite, yet firm “cease and desist” requests directly to the marketing departments of both companies, and in both cases the matter was immediately resolved.

So why (and how) did this happen? In mid-2009 Google revised its policy on the use of trademarked terms as keywords and in ad text. The company essentially espoused a universal policy on non-involvement in disputes over the use of trademarked terms as keywords and, under specific circumstances, authorized the displaying of trademarked terms in ad text. Naturally, many advertisers took advantage of the policy shift, and judging just by the number of Google AdWords forum posts reporting a similar scenario to the one I described above, “mistakes were made”.

While it would be easy to assume that all those advertisers were purposefully behaving in an unethical manner, the more plausible explanation is that the culprit was Google’s handy Dynamic Keyword Insertion feature. When used correctly, Dynamic Keyword Insertion is a very useful tool that helps AdWords advertisers make their text ads more relevant to searchers. To activate the feature, the advertiser simply needs to place a snipped of code in the ad text. Each time the ad is shown in search results, AdWords inserts the exact query that triggered the ad in its place.

The tool offers great flexibility. The keyword can be inserted into the headline, the first or second line of text, post “slash” in the display URL and at the end of the destination URL and even appear more than once in the same ad (for e.g., headline and destination URL).

So let’s say you’re selling women’s shoes and you want to move your summer inventory, you could create an ad group with the following group of keywords:
women’s sandals, women’s flip-flops, women’s peep-toes, women’s clogs, women’s espadrilles, women’s summer shoe styles, brand women’s summer shoes, etc. and configure your ad as follows:

Buy {KeyWord: Women’s Summer Shoes}
We Carry All Your Favorite Brands.
Satisfaction Guaranteed!

www.Example.com
destination URL: http://www.Example.com/?kw={keyword:nil}

The default display term is Women’s Summer Shoes, and it will be shown in case the keyword that triggers the causes the line of text to go over character limit (25 in headline, 35 in first, second and display URL).

Advertisers can even select various capitalization options by modifying the code, for e.g.:

DKItable

In the trademark infringement case, the ad format was most likely as follows:

{Keyword:default text}
It does it all. It’s cool. Get it here.
www.CompetitiveURL.com

Bidding on your competitor’s trademarks is a great way to ensure your ads are displayed alongside your competitor’s and if you’re an authorized reseller of a brand, it makes sense for you to say so in your ad copy. Both those uses of trademarked terms are allowed under Google’s revised AdWords policy. So in order to stay within the limits of what’s allowed (and play nice), if you’re bidding on competitive trademarks, stick to straightforward ad copy and leave them out of the keyword list for your Dynamic Keyword Insertion ads.

Share |
  • http://BrandVerity.com/ BrandVerity

    “in both cases the matter was immediately resolved” — have you seen similar successes since this post? I know it’s been a while, but it would be interesting to hear your perspective on this.

    Thanks for any additional insight you can provide. Very useful post!

  • Contact Us

  • shopOrganic logo

     

     

    "We've been working with Confluence Digital for about 9 months now. We've seen a strong increase in our website visitors, search results and overall revenue. Not only are we getting great results, our CD team is a creative, dedicated crew of subject matter experts who consistently exceed our expectations. There are a lot of companies out there that make big promises, but CD actually delivers. My only regret is not signing on with CD years ago."

    Susan Snedaker, Co-Founder, shopOrganic.com & shopGMOfree.com

    Read more client testimonials...