Thoughts on PPC Advertising Policies

So, I’ve recently gotten a couple bulk emails from HostGator regarding affiliate use of PPC ads. Here’s the latest one:

Hello Affiliates,

This is a reminder about our Pay Per Click Policy as unfortunately there are many affiliates that are still not abiding by the Terms of Service.

Please remember that it is against the affiliate TOS (Here: ) to bid on trademark + keywords. Please remember to look at your keywords and match types to make sure that you don’t have the word HostGator in any of your search terms.

This includes:

Host Gator
hostgator review
hostgator reviews
hostgator coupon
hostgator coupons
hostgator discount
hostgator promo
hostgator promo code
Host Gator Review
Host Gator Coupon
Anything else with the word HostGator in it

Please discontinue bidding on these search phrases immediately. Those affiliates who continue to do so will be at risk of having their affiliate account terminated and their sales voided.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Thank you, Affiliate Team

Now, this raises two main issues for me.

1: When you see PPC ads on sites, and they mention a brand, do you just assume that ad was placed by that brand? I’m guessing you do, or at least, you don’t worry about if it’s not. But it does raise a pretty obvious question of what role the ad provider has in protecting a brand in ads placed on its service. Not that Pepsi would ever run an ad for Coke, mind you – but situations like this where an affiliate has a definite interest in getting clicks for the brand, but might be doing so in a way that the brand manager for the company doesn’t approve of. Worse yet, maybe they make false claims or such about the service to mislead people into signing up. I need to look more into the trademark issues involved on that.

2: The flipside of the coin. If I’m willing to bid more for a brand’s keyword than the brand, should I have that ability? Of course the brand can build it into their TOS like HostGator has, and stand by the “if you want to be an affiliate, you have to follow these rules” line. But is that really the right thing to do? Is it ultimately in the brand’s interests? Strictly speaking, if I’m bidding on someone else’s use of their name in a search, and maybe I don’t even use their name in the ad (for instance, Pepsi bidding on Coke keywords, but using the opportunity to show off their new drink), does the targeted brand have any recourse?

It’s an interesting marketing world we live in right now.