Thursday, April 12, 2007

A "First" in Ad Creative Trademark Violations

Once again a search engine has dumbfounded me by rejecting some of my ads after I make minor changes.

As part of a new campaign I'm launching, I needed to change one character on about 1000 of my Google Adwords ads. It was as simple as changing one three digit number to another three digit number.

One version of these ads contained the phrase "$x off your first month". The ads have been running for many months now with no problems. On this most recent update the only change I made to the versions with "$x off your first month" was changing that three digit number to another three digit number.

The ads were subsequently rejected because the word "first" was considered a trademark violation. Forget the fact that the ads were already running with the word "first" in them, the thing that bugs me the most is that a common English word would work it's way into Google trademark filtering.

Please keep in mind that there is no company in our market with the registered trademark of "first" so I'm sure this isn't the cause was. Furthermore I was using it a way that in no way would violate anyone's trademark.

I understand the need to filter ad creative for trademarks, but I would hope that Google were smart enough to differentiate between actual trademark violations and the use of common English phrases.

One way to go about this would be to associate trademarks with a list of key phrases. For example if I'm advertising on airline related terms the word "united" should trigger a trademark error message (needs human review), but if I'm advertising for a political campaign I should be able to use the phrase"united" with impunity.

We know Google can easily do keyword association for trademark filtering because of their keyword suggestion and broad match capabilities. I'm just hoping I won't see the day when every word is trademarked and I have to prove to Google I'm not using common English words to violate someone else's trademark.

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