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Those of you who read The Times , Guardian , FT or the Telegraph this week probably heard about the campaign against Marks & Spencer by Britain's biggest union, Unite.

Anybody who knows about internet marketing probably wondered why a story about somebody using Google Adwords to bid on a brand name was such big news, myself included.

Google has a strict trademark policy and the ads were swiftly removed from terms such as "marks & spencers" and "m&s".

Here is what Google says about trademarks:

"When we receive a complaint from a trademark owner, our review is limited to ensuring that the advertisements at issue are not using a term corresponding to the trademarked term in the ad text or as a keyword trigger.

"If they are, we will require the advertiser to remove the trademarked term from the ad text or keyword list and will prevent the advertiser from using the trademarked term in the future."

This campaign was doomed to failure from the start and yet four major newspapers covered the story.

Unite is claiming the ads had "12,000 hits" in six hours but the number of people who actually clicked on the ads must be tiny.

Anybody searching for Marks & Spencer is probably a loyal follower wanting to visit the website and isn't likely to click on somebody else's advert.

It's clear that the Adwords campaign was a waste but the resulting publicity is priceless.


Published 28 February, 2008 by Patrick Altoft

55 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Er, Patrick,
When you say; "It's clear that the Adwords campaign was a waste but the resulting publicity is priceless."

Isn't that a contradiction in terms within your sentence?
It seems they achieved even more than what they set out to do, so not a wasted effor at all.

about 9 years ago


Robin Gillyon, New Media Consultant at massio limited

I'm 50:50 on this - a seasoned pro will know that they will get lots of views and very few clicks... which would feel like to me a great success (as lots of loyal customers may be seeing their message, kinda like picketing) - but then i can't quite bring myself to believe that's what was planned all along... (using language like 'hits' feels like an amateur - surely they mean views or clicks).

Def the publicity was a huge success though.

about 9 years ago


Patrick Altoft, Director of Search at Branded3

Vincent I agree totally. The Adwords campaign was always going to be useless. The clever thing here was how they got all the papers to cover the story.

about 9 years ago


Kaya PPC, Internet Marketing Manager at Optimised Media

This wasn't about Pay Per Click (PPC) at all, it was about great PR. It's a shame none of the papers mentioned Adwords or PPC at all. Might have generated some interest. Also its not "12,000 hits" it should be "12,000 impressions".

Kaya, Optimised Media

about 9 years ago

Richard Hartigan

Richard Hartigan, Industry Manager at Google

Google has a strict trademark policy?!?

about 9 years ago

Alan Charlesworth

Alan Charlesworth, lecturer / researcher at University of Sunderland

Hmmmm ... shoddy PPC or great PR is debatable [I fall on the side of the former] - but it was certainly poor journalism on the part of the 'reputable' newspapapers.

Oh, and I agree, 'hits' is normally a sign of ignorance on all things 'Internet'.

about 9 years ago

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