Google began testing targeted ad placement in AdWords accounts to those spending more than $500,000 or $6 million annually for products other than AdWords tools. The first ads began to appear for one marketer in late December, after spending $1 million in paid-search ads on behalf of a client.
Calling it a notification, rather than product ad, a Google spokesperson said the company communicates with its AdWords clients through in-product notices. "We have recently informed them, via an in-AdWords notice, of the newly rebuilt DoubleClick Search, which is helping many clients run their search campaigns on Google and elsewhere, even more effectively."
Some marketers don't see it that way. The text -- whether ad or notification -- running at the top of the page provides information about a 90-day free trial for DoubleClick Search V3, aimed at advertisers that meet the minimum ad-spend requirement. Marketers, calling it an "unfair playing ground," said the DoubleClick ad only showed up in accounts with "sizable spending."
It appears that Google uses what it knows about a company to promote the product with targeted ads, which is not an unusual practice for any company.
It's the first time that marketers have begun to see cross-promotional notifications or ads for other Google tools in the AdWords user interface. Some marketers that are familiar with the text ads seem a bit uneasy about being served the notices because it appears that account information and spend levels trigger the ads.
Rivals Acquisio, Kenshoo and Marin Software were not offered the same option to run similar messages in AdWords, according to several marketers from companies other than those that provide tools from competing platform providers.
The "notifications" appearing in AdWords might not be any different from when someone logs into their search account on Google to query information and social signals tied into search results. Google relies on the keywords to serve up search ads. Cross-selling services are akin to the electric company sending notifications about ways to lower heating costs during winter months through a variety of their services.
As the information age matures online, there is confusion in the market between privacy and secondary uses of information, said Joseph Rosenbaum, partner and global chair, Advertising Technology & Media Law Practice at Reed Smith LLP. "It's not so much about who owns the information, but who has access to it, and how it's used and controlled," he said. 'The normal principles related to privacy and who knows what about who continue to undergo a radical change."
Google will become more aggressive in its advertising push this year as it attempts to hold onto its No. 1 global market position. Across the Web, searchers can now see the words: "This post is sponsored by Google Chrome." The campaign, first spotted by SEOBook.com's Aaron Wall, points to several blog posts late last month that appeared to violate Google's guidelines. Now the search results are full of the notation.
Earlier this week, The New York Times also described Google's change by focusing ads more on emotions, pointing to a national television campaign, Google-themed conferences and online videos.