Taking AdWords personally?
August 20, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

As an artist or small business owner, how would you feel if someone used your name to keyword their Google AdWords ad?

I work in an industry that is all about the artists. People's names are their brand. It is an odd mix of the personal with the commercial. For big commercial jobs, the artists bid against each other. I thought about running a Google ad for an artist, using as a keyword the name of someone who does similar work for similar clients.

I asked around informally how people would feel about this, and no one had even considered it enough to give a reasoned answer. Most artists said it would feel 'icky' if it were them, but clients seemed to not really care. There wasn't really a consensus.

In this industry, reputation matters, so even simple feelings about something one way or another can have an effect. So I'd love to hear from anyone who has experienced this situation, from either side.

If you are an artist or small business, how would you feel if someone used your name as a keyword?

If you are a client, how would you feel if you searched for one artist and another name came up in the sidebar?

This previous question didn't delve into that aspect of competition and reputation that I'd like to focus on. Thanks so much!
posted by infinitefloatingbrains to Computers & Internet (20 answers total)
 
1. Flattered
2. Indifferent
posted by rhizome at 5:54 PM on August 20, 2010


My company's main competitor did this. We weren't very happy about it - they were banking on our good name. Legally, there's nothing we could have done (at the time. I haven't kept up with keyword law lately) but we did mention it to them at some point and they removed it.

It's not the nicest thing, but it's smart. That said, if this is an industry that relies on personal relationships, you may not want to use other people in this way, both because someday you may want some work from them, and word could get around.
posted by punchtothehead at 5:57 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


When this first happened to me, I was sharply annoyed.

Eventually, I got over it.
posted by darth_tedious at 6:42 PM on August 20, 2010


I think it's kind of sleazy, actually. I'm extrapolating a little bit in order to get around the lack of specificity about your industry, but if I were the artist I would be both flattered and mildly annoyed, and if I were a client I would never in a million years hire you. The general attitude it puts forth seems to be "Pepsi: For when they don't have Coke." In other words, you should building your/the artist's reputation, NOT piggybacking on someone else's reputation as a sort of low-rent alternative.
posted by EL-O-ESS at 7:01 PM on August 20, 2010


Of course the clients don't care, it's not their name being traded upon. Ask them how they would react if a direct competitor keyworded their own company name.

It's an icky practice. And it's trading a short term gain for long term animosity.
posted by jamaro at 7:01 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Emotionally, if I were a small business in that situation, I'd feel like they had put their fliers all over my parking lot. Dirty pool, off come the gloves, etc. etc.

As a client, I would be mercenary and really only care about getting the best stuff, cheapest, quickest.

Punchtothehead gets a big +1 for advice given.
posted by Several Unnamed Sources at 7:01 PM on August 20, 2010


Response by poster: The industry is photography - just want to address a couple points.

you may not want to use other people in this way, both because someday you may want some work from them, and word could get around

The artists in question are all at a pretty high level so they would never get work from each other per se. Yes, see them at around parties. But not ever rely on them directly for work.

you should building your/the artist's reputation, NOT piggybacking on someone else's reputation as a sort of low-rent alternative

I definitely agree with the former, but reputation doesn't exist without recognition. You could be the most talented artist on the planet but if your name isn't out there, especially to people you've never met, you have no reputation. I do feel like you can't really piggyback unless the work advertised is actually good. Especially since it will be directly compared to that of the artist who was used as a keyword.

Also, for advertising projects, most clients are required to do a triple bid, even if they have just one artist in mind. So searching for one artist and seeing another's name as an adword might give them another person to consider, even make the client's job easier.

So one artist is icked out, I definitely can relate because I imagine being on the other side. But does that feeling of ickiness really translate into 'long term animosity?'
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 7:40 PM on August 20, 2010


Also, for advertising projects, most clients are required to do a triple bid...seeing another's name as an adword might give them another person to consider.

That right there is a decent mitigating factor... But speaking as someone who occasionally has to hire photographers (without the triple bid scenario), if I googled a name and saw a google ad for someone else, my general impression of that someone else would be "ugh...no."
posted by EL-O-ESS at 11:49 PM on August 20, 2010


And on preview, let me make one thing clear(er): it's not just that I wouldn't hire that "someone else" because I think the practice is mildly icky. It's more that it gives me the impression that "someone else" doesn't have the skills or experience to succeed on the basis of their portfolio (which at this point I haven't seen, but I probably *will* click on the google ad, glance at the portfolio and pretend it confirms my suspicions).

Sorry to over-participate. Just wanted to give the most honest answer I can as someone in a tangential industry.
posted by EL-O-ESS at 11:57 PM on August 20, 2010


Best answer: I believe its unethical and akin to piggy backing on someone else's hard work. They have built a brand and a reputation and then to take that name (which is a brand) as a keyword for search results for a competing or comparable service is stealing google juice.

This happened to me about three years ago. I discussed it with my lawyer and also wrote to Google (who of course said that they only protect trademarked brands being used by third parties but brought it down after I pointed out it was my good name, on my passport and birth certificate (i.e. not "trademarked" per se but establishing ownership) and even offered they talk to my mother ;p)

I also screen captured the side bar text ad and blogged it with a throwaway laughline hinting at desperate people who needed to ride on other's coat tails...

My opinion and response may be stronger than those who have already commented but I also know the hard work and effort that went into establishing a reputation, a good name and thus a brand online (and off) and then to see someone get a free ride was [insert suitable feelings here]

But does that feeling of ickiness really translate into 'long term animosity?'


Animosity is too strong a word and too much effort to waste on random people but long term "I have no respect for this guy" - yes, certainly.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 4:00 AM on August 21, 2010


I actually run AdWords campaigns for clients. This practice is extremely common for business names. (I'm not so sure about personal names for a personality-driven sector like photography.)

In terms of how it's perceived, that really depends on how your adverts are written. For example, you might bid on your competitor's name "Jim's Stereo Shop" and offer an aggressive sale price, thus presenting your business as an honest alternative. This is very common, effective, and I dare say fair competition.

Where it does get really hinky is when businesses use the name of their competitor in the advert text. A search for "Joe's Stereo Shop" could trigger an advert that says...

Joe's Stereo Shop
Better deals online here
Order now, free delivery
www.YOURstore.com

... that's not cool, and blatantly trading on another company's name and reputation. This is less common, but sadly not unheard of.

One thing to note though if you see this in the wild: it may not be entirely intentional. Competitors may simply be bidding on "stereo shop" and having their adverts triggered for "joe's stereo shop".

Alternatively, if an artist's name is heavily associated with photography it's entirety possible that Google's algo could be matching a competitor's bid on a generic term like "photography services" to the artist's name. (Broad Match is named so for a terrifying reason.)

Combine this with some lazy use of the keyword insertion featre in the advert text and it can give the appearance of hinky brand bidding when simple incompetence is the real explanation.
posted by generichuman at 7:52 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: I discussed it with my lawyer and also wrote to Google (who of course said that they only protect trademarked brands being used by third parties but brought it down after I pointed out it was my good name)

Thanks for your answer, that's really helpful. It's interesting... they took down the ad because it was based on your actual name. Did the ad mention your name? Or just the competitor's ad with only their info that came up when someone searched for you?

Like you said generichuman, I do see it all the time for business names, and there are ways to keep it above board and not so shady. I just don't know if it is still considered taboo for personal names, and what real-world consequences there might be. Doing another search I found an example of this, searching for Nadav Kander, a guy named Steven Wohlwender clearly runs an ad on Nadav's name.

Still not sure how I feel about all this - but thank you everyone for answers so far. Much appreciated.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 11:09 AM on August 21, 2010


Best answer: It's interesting... they took down the ad because it was based on your actual name.

Not quite. Google stated that since the two keywords (my firstname lastname) were not trademarked, anyone could buy them and use them even if they happened to be my very unique given name. It was when we ended up debating trademark/copyright/rightful ownership and I guess me being very outraged and insistent and it not being worth the Google customer service guy on the other end of the email's time, he took it down. However, I have noted in the three years since that it has never happened again. Now when I google my name, only text ads for a metal alloy that have my first name as its chemical composition (go figure ;p) come up...

Did the ad mention your name?

No.

Or just the competitor's ad with only their info that came up when someone searched for you?

Not quite.

When my name was googled, their text ad saying something to effect of "for better service/leadership come to us" came up. sneaky - If you want, I'll dig around my external hard drives for the screenshot of their usage
posted by The Lady is a designer at 11:21 AM on August 21, 2010


Response by poster: for better service/leadership come to us

That's definitely sneaky, and feels underhanded. If they had simply put their company name with no commentary, I wonder if it would have made a difference in how you feel.. since the way they did it was definitely a personal affront. No need for a screenshot - thanks again for your answers.

it gives me the impression that "someone else" doesn't have the skills or experience to succeed on the basis of their portfolio

EL-O-ESS, I know what you mean, but shouldn't the work speak for itself? Running a text ad in a visual business confers no advantage, at least not in creative terms. It is more about getting your name in front of relevant people who don't know your work. Talent doesn't always equal success - there are so many other factors involved.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 11:44 AM on August 21, 2010


That's definitely sneaky, and feels underhanded. If they had simply put their company name with no commentary, I wonder if it would have made a difference in how you feel.. since the way they did it was definitely a personal affront

Yes and to be honest, until then I didn't even think of them as competition per se. It wasn't quite the case of "photographer one vs photographer two" so much as "imho design's future" vs "other guy's opinion" so it wasn't till the google thing happened that I even realized that they considered my own work a threat or competition. In fact, it took my lawyer to point out the compliment embedded in what they'd done.

Regarding your point,

t is more about getting your name in front of relevant people who don't know your work. Talent doesn't always equal success - there are so many other factors involved.

Just my two cents worth, that while text ads and such may be a faster way to achieve this, a longer lasting way is to share the work on as many platforms as possible, build portfolios in every site that lets you and perhaps even start writing on photography or doing some kind of personal project online that brings you notice. It is harder and will take longer but the subsequent social capital and brand recognition will be indubitably all yours based on the quality of your work etc
posted by The Lady is a designer at 12:01 PM on August 21, 2010


I think it's fine if you're an underdog competitor to a major name -- for example -- Buying up Microsoft Office to advertise Open Office.

Not very cool if it's the reverse situation.
posted by empath at 12:58 PM on August 21, 2010


I get that this is how things are done by some people, and I get that it can be a leg up, but I wouldn't be cool with it, and I'd continue not being cool with it long term. "Animosity" is a strong term, yes. How about "low opinion" and "dislike"?
posted by moira at 2:22 PM on August 21, 2010


You could be the most talented artist on the planet but if your name isn't out there, especially to people you've never met, you have no reputation.

That's the crux of the problem. You need to go about building a reputation for yourself through:

a) taking whatever clients you can get & doing amazing work for them.

b) doing "artistic" work with or without sponsorship and putting together books, gallery shows, etc. to generate interest in your work.

These two things feed off of each other and you begin to build a reputation through that kind of activity. To me, this sounds like you don't want to pay your dues.

I thought about running a Google ad for an artist, using as a keyword the name of someone who does similar work for similar clients.

If you do similar work & have similar clients, why would they bother with you. Let's replace the word "similar" with "derivative". You do derivative work for similar clients. That makes you the poor man's (big name artist), and the reputation of the companies that hire you will suffer because they're buying the knockoff. Why would Bloomingdales put the knockoff purses in their ads when they have access to the real thing?
posted by MesoFilter at 2:45 PM on August 21, 2010


Response by poster: while text ads and such may be a faster way to achieve this, a longer lasting way is to share the work on as many platforms as possible

These two things feed off of each other and you begin to build a reputation through that kind of activity. To me, this sounds like you don't want to pay your dues.

If you don't advertise your services in some way or another, you're dead. This takes many, many forms, from the long-term things you both mentioned all the way down to taking out ads in different places. I'm only focusing on AdWords because it is one more thing we could be doing. The question is not AdWords or no, that is a given. The question is, is this form of AdWords in poor taste?

You do derivative work for similar clients. That makes you the poor man's (big name artist), and the reputation of the companies that hire you will suffer because they're buying the knockoff.

Are you saying that running an AdWord campaign on another person's name gives off an impression of being the knockoff artist? I can understand that concept, but that is much less of an issue than obscurity. The section of the industry I work in (not as a photographer mind you) is so hyperspecialzed that even the biggest names are for the most part unknown outside New York. 99% of commercial work outside of magazines isn't credited - no one knows who is shooting what.

I guess the consensus is that there are negative implications to using someone else's name as a keyword, it just comes down to how much of those you'd be willing to accept in order to get clicks from potential clients who either did not know you, or had forgotten to consider you for a specific project. It is an aggressive tactic for sure, but these days...

Still not sure where I stand on actually doing something like this.
posted by infinitefloatingbrains at 6:16 AM on August 22, 2010


Are you saying that running an AdWord campaign on another person's name gives off an impression of being the knockoff artist? I can understand that concept, but that is much less of an issue than obscurity.

I'd say in a hyperspecialized field restricted to the confines of one city it then becomes even more important to consider the trade off you are making on your reputation. Its a small world/small industry and what if the guy whose name you've used as an AdWord - however "ethically" and "as simply as just your details" ends up feeling the way I did and then bitches about it to his friends and clients and people?

It is an aggressive tactic for sure, but these days...

Aggressive tactics need not even consider the other guys tbh. Here's some ideas if you're not already doing them:-

Facebook page of your stuff with emails on whenever you upload a big set of portfolio shots or news about work or whatever (I have had people get very aggressive about joining groups, becoming a fan or whatever of their work)

Twitter the same (easy to do with autospray out to everyone type software)

Flickr set linking to above

Tumblr and following all the competition you can find and then blogging and reblogging accordingly

MeFi Projects

Anything but that which might say you are thinking more about the other guy and his work than your own
posted by The Lady is a designer at 7:38 AM on August 22, 2010


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