An online travel advertising free-for-all is looming in Australia and New Zealand with Google declaring it will no longer protect trademark for suppliers on AdWords, opening the door for online travel agents to bid on hotels, airlines and tour operator brand names – a move that will force up advertising costs and turn partners into competitors or “frenemies”.

Google has been advising customers that from July 28 “advertisers may use a trademark term in ad text if they are a reseller of, offer compatible components or parts for, or provide information about the goods and services related to the trademarked term.

“To fall within the policy as a reseller, the product or services must be the primary focus of and clearly available for purchase from the ad’s landing page.

“Informational sites qualify when the primary purpose of the ad’s landing page is to provide informative details about the goods or services corresponding to the trademarked term.

“This change will bring our procedure in line with our current approach to resellers and informational sites in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland.”

At present Google allows companies to bid on other brand names but they are not able to use the trademarked term in the ad copy.

This means the cost to bid on another company’s brand is excessively expensive as Google’s blind bidding system places a heavy surcharge on irrelevant ads

Therefore it’s not worth the time, money or effort.

Of course that all changes now – by using the brand name in the ad copy makes it relevant and cost-effective.

However, it’s certain this will drive up the advertising costs for companies who presently have no competition on their trademarked term.

By how much? The answer is an awful lot.

For example, one operator was able to bring down the cost it was paying per click on its brand keyword from 70 cents to 4 cents by simply trademarking with Google.

That is a price difference of 1700% – reverse the situation and it’s completely reasonable to assume there will be a major search cost blowout for travel operators used to operating under trademark protection.

Or they could play a game of brinkmanship with “resellers” of their product – otherwise known as travel agents.

Hoteliers could for example tell online travel agents, by far the most active online travel marketers, that they will pull their inventory unless there is no bidding on its brand term.

That approach may work for industry heavyweights such as Qantas, Mantra Group and Carnival Cruises, but it doesn’t seem to be a realistic option for smaller operators.

They need online travel agents and will probably just have to pay more for less.

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