Picture the scene. You type your company’s name into Google and the top two results are competitors who have taken ads out in your name.

What would you do next? 

This is exactly the scenario I was faced with recently and I was pretty shocked.

I mean yes, we all had a good chuckle when Samsung took out its cheeky ‘Awkward You Obviously Mean’ ads on ‘iPhone 6’ a little while back (in fact, I remember forwarding it round the office, and I love Apple!). But that was different. They are the really big boys! We’re in a ‘relatively’ niche B2B market and it just didn’t feel right.  

Of course, the competitors in question had done absolutely nothing wrong legally.

Google lifted the ban on bidding on competitor brand terms way back in 2008 and since then it’s been completely fair game to bid on a competitors name providing you don’t also mention them in your ad content itself (for grey areas read up on the fun M&S and Interflora are still having).

But just because it’s legal, does that mean you should do it? 

I’d love some opinion from Econsultancy readers on how we should respond. So, let me bring you up to speed as to where we’re at… 

I’m a big believer in communication (read my last blog) and I was pretty confident I could clean up the situation without having to go all ‘eye-for-an-eye’ with our PPC strategy.  

So I emailed both of the competitors in question to see if they’d be willing to take the ads down ‘in the interest of fair play’ and to avoid us having to respond in kind. 

The responses I received (and to be fair, both did reply on the same day) were pretty different. 

Let’s start with Competitor A. I’ll call them BFF Comp. BFF Comp replied back saying:  

Hi there Chris, 

As so happens, I couldn’t agree more. I have had our SEM team turn off that keyword as of immediately.

Have a good weekend, and don’t hesitate to reach out direct if any other shared-space conflicts arise.

Best, 

BFF Comp

Well isn’t that nice – I knew our industry was lovely. Sure enough, the ad was taken down right away. I replied with my thanks, mentioned catching-up over a coffee (beer) next time we crossed paths at an event and wished them well.

This was good I thought to myself; I like our little marketing community. 

However, minutes later, I had a reply from the other competitor. We’ll call them Aggy Comp. Aggy Comp had a different approach and responded back saying: 

Hi Chris,

To tie in with our ambitious growth plans our search strategy has been formalised and laid out for the next year. In the short term we will not be changing these. 

Aggy Comp

Whoa! This is not how it was meant to be. My fuzzy feeling now thoroughly diluted, I went into military mode… “Get the PPC budget and slam it all on Aggy Comp” I demanded.

“We’ll show them. Do one of those clever ‘Didn’t you mean ads’ and come up with something else too. Something better. Go, go, go!”  

Cartoon - Revenge is Best Served Hot 

Then I stopped myself. We’ve got a marketing strategy. We’ve got a PPC strategy. And this is isn’t part of it. Should one competitor be able to influence our spend that easily? Shouldn’t we continue to do what we believe is right? Or would it be foolish to allow a competitor to bid on our term without responding in kind? 

So far, all we’ve done in response is to increase the spend on our own brand term (‘SaleCycle’) to ensure we’re well represented when searched for, but I’d love the thoughts of Econsultancy community as to what you think we should do next?

Respond in kind? Take the moral high ground? Do something smarter that I’ve not thought of yet…?