Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Dueling Keywords

Is it ethical? Is it legal? The president of an interactive marketing firm, Jonathan Trenn, has posted a pretty important question in one of my discussion groups. Since it involves brands and the Internet, I am repeating his post for you:

I’m contemplating spending a significant amount of a media buy on Google AdWord and I’d like some input or your take on something. The client is a mid-sized player in a niche market of a major industry. The product is a mix of a B2B (meaning small business) and B2C.

The client has several competitors, including a Major Player – a company you all have heard of and whose product line is almost synonymous with the product itself. On the keyword buys, we want to develop mini-sites that compare the client vs. competitors, so we’re thinking of purchasing competitor company names as keywords so it will look like:


Our client’s product is top-notch in quality but costs less than others. And we figure that a lot for people will be putting in competitor’s names – especially the major players in keyword opposed to the generic product category.

Yahoo! just banned purchasing copyrighted company names of competitors as keyword. Some think that doing so is “unethical.” I don’t. Especially in a direct comparison type of advertising scenario. I don't really agree with that. Your thoughts?

Keyword searches can yield attention and awareness, valuable leads, good sales. At the same time, using some kinds of keywords to help position a product competitively confronts potential ethical and legal issues. Advertising and marketing people should look at the thread he started here. You’ll get a good opinion sample from a range of industry professionals on brand offense/defense.

I defend the practice of competitive advertising, so I posted my opinions as well. I also recognize how many of my own clients would view this issue: there are situations/market considerations that militate against comparisons in marketing communications. You owe it to your brands to defend them against all comers…which may demand a more competitive stance. Where do you take that stance? In the trade magazines? In the courts?

You can let me know what you think, or plug yourself into Soflow and join the discussion. (Remember to read all the way to the bottom.) It’s good to stretch.

Photograph © Mailis Laos Agency:

1 comment:

Jonathan Trenn said...


I'm sorry it took me so long to comment here.

I couldn't agree more. Comparative advertising makes sense. My biggest concern in the end was 'click fraud'. Competitors, once they know a strategy, can take advantage of a situation and waste all your ad dollars.

The internet is a strange place.