It was only a little over a week ago that I was having an interesting discussion with a Google employee around the question of bidding on the names of competitors. He was telling me that in the UK this practice was OK, but in other European markets such as Germany this practice was not permitted.

Now, only a few short days later, and it appears his response is already out of date. News last week was that the highest court in Europe has upheld and confirmed a decision by a previous court that bidding on trademarked keywords in search engines does not infringe on European trademark law.

From the Wall Street Journal article on this topic:

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that Google isn’t liable for trademark infringement when it sells linked ads to a brand’s competitor. The court held that the search giant is merely a host for ads and that it is an advertiser’s responsibility to make clear if its product is different from that searched for. However, the court opened the door for brands to demand that Google take down ads that confuse consumers…Advertising makes up 97% of Google’s annual revenue, which totaled $23.7 billion last year… The ruling was the first time a court as high as the EU’s Court of Justice has ruled on the legality of Google’s AdWords. The court’s opinions apply to all 27 European member countries.

Personally I’ve never had a problem with this practice, but then again I’m not happy with comprehensive laws on ambush marketing either, so I’m probably not representative of the community view in the area of aggressive marketing techniques. I’m still waiting to see an airline the treated customers well during the ash cloud debacle using this as the basis for a comparative marketing campaign – ask yourself this: how many airline advertising campaigns fail to make any impact at all? Avianova being an obvious exception, but maybe for the wrong reasons. Going head to head and naming competitors or bidding on their trademarks so long as any claims are factual and customers are not  deceived should never be illegal in advertising.

On a different topic, if you are following what various airlines are doing with social, Tom Bates, the Air New Zealand social media and viral marketing head was quoted on the weekend discussing some of the initiatives they are undertaking in this space.

And in something unrelated to direct sales channels, but interesting for people working in the airline industry, I was looking at some numbers from Innovata on the word’s biggest airlines. I’ve only shown 1o of the top 20 below, and it is based on available seats kilometres whereas normally I am personally more interested in passengers boarded, but I has not previously spent much time looking at Innovata data and they also have some good stats on the growth of individual airlines in Middle East and China if you are interested.

GLOBAL TOP 20 AIRLINES – REFLECTING MERGERS – JULY 2010

Operating Airline ASKs/week

  1. United Airlines + Continental 7,281,071,837
  2. Delta Air Lines 7,130,185,986
  3. American Airlines 5,048,206,129
  4. Air France + KLM 4,868,923,205
  5. British Airways + Iberia 4,257,303,280
  6. Lufthansa + Austrian/Air Dolomiti/BMI 3,751,548,302
  7. Emirates 3,632,461,247
  8. Southwest Airlines 3,246,409,787
  9. US Airways 2,459,020,063
  10. China Southern Airlines 2,277,092,040
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