On March 27, 2017, Bing’s update to their policy on using trademarks as keywords went live. This means advertisers and marketers are now free to use trademarks in their ads, with a number of restrictions of course. The new changes applied to 10 countries. These countries are Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, France, Italy, UK, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore.
In Bing’s official announcement made by their Program Manager of Search Demand Policy, Melissa Alsoszatai-Petheo, the company made it clear that they would continue to disallow the use of trademarks in ad copy. They mentioned that fair use of a trademark in ad copy will continue to be allowed specifically for:
- Informational websites such as product reviews.
- Resellers of an authentic good or service.
- Ordinary dictionary use of a term.
- Comparative advertising, but onlywhen supported by independent research.
One of the factors the company seems to have considered before making the change is it will make it easier for advertisers to transfer their campaigns between the major search engines without having to optimise as much. The benefits are not restricted to the advertisers as the company expects that consumers will have a better experience. According to the official announcement, Bing had found that consumers often search for trademarked terms expecting to receive broader results.
Bing has always been stern with piracy, phishing, scams, scareware, misleading content, and other unethical practices. For instance, in 2016, their ad quality review reported that 130 million ads were rejected with 175,000 advertisers blocked. This is nowhere near Google’s 1.7 billion bad ads blocked in the same year but the company does its part. Bing’s decision to update their policy restricting the use of trademarks in keywords could place them on a level playing field with Google’s AdWords. However, Google is certainly way ahead of them, having allowed trademarks in keywords since 2014.
On the advantages of Bing’s update, Paul Smith of Search Creative points out that:
- Advertisers will be able to optimise search engine results to their advantage by leveraging on trademarks that do not belong to them.
- Enforcement of trademarks will become more consistent globally.
- Advertisers will be able to transfer campaigns between search engines without having to tweak optimisation as much.
- Consumers will benefit as they would begin to get a wider range of results, presenting them with more choices and improving the overall search experience.
Smith insists that while more advertising campaigns may be annoying, making searches broader can only yield better results. He advises that brand owners be aware of the development and consider focusing their efforts on retaining a strong online presence, especially through multiple search engines.