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You Can Use Competitor’s Brands in PPC, But Do You Want To?

By Jim Foreman| 4 Min Read | July 2, 2021

We’ve told you before about what to do when a competitor uses your brand in its own digital ad campaigns. We’ve even told you what you can do to protect your trademark with Google. A recent lawsuit filed by a Canadian cartoon network against a rival illustrates how this tactic can backfire if you don’t do it properly, and even then, you should ask yourself: is it worth the trouble?

The short version is this: With all the consternation lately regarding whether kids should be watching YouTube unsupervised, there’s a lot of interest in apps that parents know are safe for their little ones. Where there is consternation, there is dialogue, which means there is demand, which leads to opportunity.

Kidoodle is a network that has kid-friendly stuff on it. It’s been around awhile, and it’s based in Canada. It’s a successful venture, by any measure.

Kartoon Channel is a fancy, Hollywood-infused network with kid-friendly stuff on it. It has famous names attached to it, like Arnold Schwartzenegger. It’s much newer than Kidoodle.

They are competitors. Competition is great as long as everybody plays nice. When somebody stops playing nice, one of the options available to the participants is to file a lawsuit.

A lot happens behind the scenes of a Google Ads campaign. We don’t have access to the Google Ads account at Kartoon Network, so we don’t know what they meant to do and what they didn’t mean to do. It’s not for us to decide, it’s, apparently, up to the courts now.

But there’s still a lesson here for us as digital marketing experts. Even if everything Kartoon Channel did was completely, totally, 100% legitimate and above board and playing nice, it’s possible for a competitor’s name to pop up in your ad. Since dynamic ads are generated automatically, there might not be anybody actually looking at the ads that appear in every user’s browsers. And, let’s face it, sometimes the algorithms we use make mistakes. Even Google’s algorithms can do things we don’t necessarily want them to do.

Anyway, It doesn’t matter how it happened. Maybe Kartoon Channel used Kidoodle’s name on purpose, maybe they didn’t. Looking from the outside, we can’t know. We talked to our President, Justin Seibert, who’s been doing this stuff long enough to have seen pretty much everything. From Justin, we get these three big tips:

  1. Register your trademark with Google. They’re not likely to do anything if they don’t have one. Not only that, but once they do have it, they can automatically flag ads that try to use your trademark.”
  2.  “Don’t use a competitor’s trademark in your ad copy. Sometimes, if you’re doing a comparison between services, you can do it, but even that is likely to get flagged. I would recommend against it.”
  3. “If you’re thinking of running ads on a competitor’s trademark, ask yourself if it’s worth the trouble. Are you getting the most out of your money by doing that, or should you come up with a different strategy?”

For more on trademarks, competitor strategies, and other legality related to SEO and advertising in search engines, please check out any of the following:

If you’d like some help figuring out all this PPC stuff, get in touch with us today.

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