On May 14, Google announced an adjustment to their “trademark policy in the U.S.” which has been changed “to allow some ads to use trademarks in the ad text.” The reasoning behind loosening up on trademarks was reported in light of aiming “to improve ad quality and user experience.” Just as generic newspaper ads, which do not communicate specifically what brand product they are advertising/selling, carry little value for the reader, so Google believes it is with paid search ads which cannot list the exact brands they are associated with. More on Google AdWords official blog.
Meghan Keane (@keanesian on Twitter) believes that this change “is likely to spark more lawsuits against Google” as not only companies are now able to directly mention the brands that they sell “but also, they can refer to their competitors, and bid on key words so that their ads show up first on searches for their competition’s products” [more here]. McDougall, in his turn, wrote that whether Google’s advertisers and partners are going to love or hate this decision, “Google should benefit from the sale of more relevant – and more expensive advertising.”
But what implications does this change have for the affiliate marketing channel?
Before the change, brand name owners had to specify to Google which affiliates may reference their trademarks in their ad text, while others couldn’t. Now, on the other hand, any affiliate “who sells a brand on its website can use that brand name in the text of their Google ads.” The “cumbersome white-listing process” has now been deleted from the procedural sequence of getting an authorization to use a trademark in the ad text [source].
Is this a good change for affiliates? It definitely is. Obviously the change is going to have a positive effect on affiliate CTR’s, and revenues.
What about merchants that run affiliate programs? Should they prohibit using their trademarks in the ad texts, or should they have an open policy for affiliates (because their competitors are likely to take advantage of this change as well)? These questions leave us with some food for thought.