After initially rejecting three AdWords ads submitted by a major critic of its policies, Google has now approved the ads following a complaint by the advertiser.
Last week Consumer Watchdog--an intense and sometimes disingenuous Google critic--submitted three text ads to Google designed to promote the over-the-top video it created of Google CEO Eric Schmidt in order to criticize Google on privacy issues. The ads targeting keywords such as "Google CEO Eric Schmidt" were purchased on September 2, the same day Consumer Watchdog released the video, but Google rejected them the next day citing its policy on trademarks in the text of ads, according to John Simpson, a spokesman for the group.
On Thursday, Consumer Watchdog complained about the ad rejection in an open letter published on its site, and a Google representative confirmed Friday that Google had overturned the original decision but did not admit making any error.
"As the trademark owner, upon becoming aware of their letter, we decided--regardless of whether these particular ads violate our policies or not--to authorize them to run," a Google representative said.
Google's policy on trademarks in text of ads allows advertisers to use trademarks when "the primary purpose of the landing page of the ad must be to provide informative details about the goods or services corresponding to the trademark term." Consumer Watchdog's ads linked to a site called InsideGoogle.com, which is extremely critical of the company but is basically just a blog.
However, part of the policy says trademark use is prohibited if "using the trademark in the ad text in a manner which is competitive, critical, or negative," which seems to have been the initial justification for rejecting the ads. Three ads were submitted:
"Can You Trust Google? CEO Eric Schmidt is collecting your every move. www.insideGoogle.com"
"Trust Eric Schmidt? Google is collecting your private data and tracking your every move. www.insideGoogle.com"
"Is Google Tracking You? CEO Eric Schmidt is collecting your data and tracking your every move. www.insideGoogle.com"
There's little doubt that Consumer Watchdog's mission in life is to be critical and negative about seemingly everything Google does, and that few believe what the text of those ads imply: that Google and Schmidt are literally tracking every single online and offline activity on the planet.
Yet the rejection and subsequent approval of the ad make it difficult to understand exactly what Google's AdWords team considers to be "competitive, critical, and negative" language, especially since Google invoked its status as the trademark holder in question when authorizing the ads rather than ruling one way or another on the content.
One could easily understand why an ad saying "Google sucks and Eric Schmidt is a big jerk Try MySearchEngineIsBetter" would be rejected, but this involves several more shades of gray. There are lots of details about the kinds of text Google prohibits within AdWords ads, but less concerning this type of issue.
Google wouldn't comment further on the decision-making process involving the evaluation of text in AdWords ads. Advertisers who wish to appeal a rejection can do so through their AdWords account.