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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Google Says It’s a Promotion, Not an Ad

As previously reported, Google started showing a blue box result promoting their iGoogle homepage which received a game for the Bourne Ultimatum movie. A gimmick like this blue box, which was showing for a variety of search terms like bourne ultimatum or jason bourne (some of which, but not all, have now been removed), was likely also aimed to add extra hotness to the movie – in return, Google got a product placement in the movie (someone’s seen using a Google search engine, The Hollywood Reporter informed, as “part of a promotional partnership with Google that did not involve any money changing hands"; not money, but goods, apparently).

Previously this blue box was undisclosed in whatever way (compare with Google’s official philosophy, “Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a ’Sponsored Link.’ It is a core value for Google that there be no compromising of the integrity of our results. We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results”). But now it carries a label reading “Google Promotion”. Which brings us to another issue of this campaign; Google previously said, calling this statement “important to note” (my emphasis):

[O]ur ads are created and managed under the exact same guidelines, principles, practices and algorithms as the ads of any other advertiser. Likewise, we use the very same tools and account interface. (...)

We’re quite proud of the advertising platform we’ve built and it simply makes sense for us to use it. At the same time, the trust of both our users and our advertisers is of paramount importance. We honor that responsibility, and work hard to earn and keep that trust.

So I asked Google how I can create this blue box thing on top, being one of the “other advertisers”, to promote my own services, using the “very same tools” they use. Google’s reply (my emphasis in bold):

The Bourne Ultimatum promotion is not an ad, but one of the many tests we run to provide users with opportunities to access Google products. Independent of this promotion, Universal is running paid AdWords advertisements on to promote the movie and the online game.

This is a collaboration to develop a new, more engaging form of movie promotion based on our mutual areas of expertise. Universal offers content while Google provides engaging consumer technology. For The Ultimate Search for Bourne with Google, Google built and implemented the platform and Universal Picture and Big Spaceship built the game. In general, we choose to work on projects that enhance user access to our products and services and which we feel enhance the user’s web experience. Unfortunately, we cannot comment on our specific screening criteria for potential collaborations.

To repeat: it’s not an ad, but a promotion, hence it doesn’t fall under the ad guidelines Google proclaimed last year. This is a very interesting way to look at it, because popular dictionaries I queried (all available at Google’s own word definition provider, say a “promotion” is, among other things:


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