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Google Responds to Valentine’s Day Florist AdWords Ambushing

Posted by Sheila Shayon on February 21, 2012 04:04 PM

Valentine’s Day was marred for many by failed or faulty delivery of bouquets to loved ones, as we covered here, last week – and many consumers and retailers had things to say.

A popular florist blogger commented in a Feb. 17th post titled “Valentine’s Day Flowers Adwords: Feasting on the Bones of Local Florists”:

“Vultures. It’s the only way I can think to describe Google’s Adwords ads this past Valentine’s Day holiday. ‘Don’t be evil’ flew out the window and Google opened it even wider for the birds of prey to strip consumers and local flower shops of their hard-earned dollars.

First, we had ProFlowers telling shoppers seeking local florists BY NAME in Google searches that the stores were sold out of flowers. It’s a completely despicable ad tactic that diverted consumers by lying about local flower shop inventories. Despite having plenty of beautiful blooms for Valentine’s Day, the drop-shipper tried to suck in late buyers by falsifying the flower availability at these shops. Shame on Liberty Media. Shame on ProFlowers. And shame on the Google staffers who approved those ads."

We asked Google to comment, and they replied by email.

"Google allows advertisers to bid on competitor keywords as well as to use competitor terms in the ad text itself as long as advertisers do not make any false or inaccurate claims in their ads (see more here)," we were informed when asked for Google's response to the Valentine's Day debacle. "We use a combination of manual and automated processes to enforce this policy. Ads that are found in violation of our policies will be removed."

Clearly, manual and automated processes weren't up to the task of policing floral ad campaigns around Valentine's Day. Many local florists took note of the ambush Google AdWords campaigns and a few others blogged about it, including:

"Loads of local florists are going through this time-consuming exercise daily. Google has long been a company I’ve respected, but this holiday they put ad dollars way, way ahead of truthful advertising and consumer/user interest. Google: Don’t tell your users drop-shippers are ‘located nearby’ and don’t let advertisers misrepresent the inventories of real local florists. Both are evil and are far more vulture-like than the Google brand I’ve respected for many years. Lose the trust of local businesses... and buyers...and you lose a whole lot.”

A final word of caution from floristdetective.com:

“Consumers should keep in mind, when they order from "national sites" and not directly from a local florist, that most of the time, the monies paid in Delivery/Service fees are not passed along to the local florist and kept by the "brands". Also, so called "deals" where you buy a coupon for dollars off of flowers, can actually cost you more in the long run as these fees often eat up any discount you may have received. Consumers will always get a better deal, dealing directly with the local florist that will be delivering the gift, and the local florist will receive the funds they need to do the job right.”

Next up – Mother’s Day. Caveat emptor – and the sellers too.

Comments

Mark United States says:

Thank you for a great article Sheila.  

February 21, 2012 05:13 PM #

Mike DiSanto United States says:

Googles as guilty as proflowers. In St Paul there is a fictitious florist listed on google places , not even a legitimate street address, and the complaints about this continue to be unanswered...by google

February 21, 2012 05:33 PM #

laura chase United States says:

Sorry Google, that excuse just does not wash.  Brand names are not competitor keywords or terms. If I was Coca Cola would Google let me take out an Adword ad saying Pepsi was "Sold out of product for the super bowl"? I think not. I will never ever advertise with Google. There is no excuse for what happened and what continues to happen to local brick and mortar florists.

February 21, 2012 10:13 PM #

David Rothwell United Kingdom says:

All's fair in love, war, and advertising. Of course Brands are competitor terms and fair game to bid on to tempt users to try new wares. But Brand Trade Mark names are forbidden in ads where they are claimed by the owner.

However, user trust is paramount with Google and they should accept this feedback about such a disgraceful "dirty tricks" campaign by the originator making misleading claims about 3rd parties.

Their automation only goes so far and is far from 100% successful, so feedback like this is essential, and hopefully they will build it into their machinery if possible.

Google Places remains a weird can of worms and seems open to much misuse - hopefully one day it will fulfill its promise.

February 22, 2012 05:21 AM #

laura chase United States says:

Agreed David and well stated. I am the florist Chez Bloom, who discovered and took the screen shot. Despite several my attempts to contact and report this to Google, they have not responded to me at all. The response they gave to Brand Channel seems to be a canned one, its like they never looked at the screenshot and refuse to acknowledge the "Dirty trick". This one is ALL about money and Proflowers spends a ton with Google. Sigh.....

February 22, 2012 10:17 AM #

Buchete Romania says:

Google should not let us to bid on PPC for brand terms. If i sell something from a big brand then Google should not permit me to use any of that terms.

February 22, 2012 12:40 PM #

Donna Smith United States says:

I think there should be a distinction between brand terms and proper business names. If we both sell a brand like Rio Roses, fine then we can both bid on the terms. But them bidding for my store name is something different and unfortunately, I haven't the $$$ to bid on "Proflowers". W

February 22, 2012 05:08 PM #

laura United States says:

Even if you did bid on a name like Rio Roses, why would you place an Adword saying you were SOLD OUT. Seriously, everyone can see right through this. It was as David said, "A Dirty Trick".
Pure and simple and purely evil. Shame on ProFlowers and Google for doing this to small local shops.

February 22, 2012 06:11 PM #

Billy United States says:

Dirty trick?  Yes of course it was, but how many other aspects of our industry seem unfair?  How many aspects of any business seem unfair?  
I have a plan, let's all shut our Dove systems, Mercury systems, and other wire service systems down RIGHT NOW! Guess what, it would not work because we are all behaving like small mom and pop boutique shops. This capitalistic society feeds on aggressive marketing and this is exactly what PF did. Do I agree, of course not.  It is however the way things are going to stay until we all start doing exactly what they are doing.  We are not as aggressive as these large corporations yet we have the ability to preform the same exact advertising and marketing they do. There is nothing complicated about the simple SEO and ad campaigns they run. The difference is the scale they preform on. How many of you have a social media department? How many of us have a team that spends all day bidding for keywords?  Not many is the answer, yet together we could be a team and our combined efforts could shut them down.  Of course we need to stop behaving like small mom and pop businesses and get in the game! 1800flowers started as a small boutique and almost went bankrupt once.  They stepped it up and got in the game, now look at them.

February 23, 2012 10:08 AM #

laura United States says:

Billy, I respectfully disagree with your comment. Our shop is Wire service free, there is no need to shut down an antiquated Dove system. I built my own website and control any social media. I am one person. One. The reason PF attacked my shop is that I have decent SEO and I show up on top search results. It took 5 years for me to get there and I did it honestly. Local florists don't have millions of dollars to spend on Adwords. We can't play the same game and when they pull "Dirty tricks" it is NOT a level playing field. We can however, compete by having a great product and great customer service. I will never belong to a Wire Service and I will never pay for Adwords. But I will still be in the game.

February 23, 2012 10:42 AM #

Billy United States says:

I'm number 1 in search results for an area that has just over 8 million living in it. we do our own SEO as well.  However you must understand that in order for practices like this to stop we have to work together, which would be very tough.  You say they attacked you because of your presence online, what keywords do you come up for that are above the fold?  I see that you are 11 on Google for "order flowers Minneapolis"  and 10 for "Minneapolis florist."

February 23, 2012 11:11 AM #

laura United States says:

Billy,

On the Proflowers/Google issue this is, surely, what it boils down to:

A) IF, as Prof stated to Brandchannel it was a computer error, that means Google is at fault on the count of inter-state fraud as defined by Section 1343 of Title 18 of federal law -Google's policies can state anything they want them to state but fraud is fraud.... Going with the issue of computer error, let us suppose that Google did remove it as soon as they know about it then Google is still negligent in that it's product allowed, however innocently, inter-state fraud to be made (assuming Chezbloom can prove that they were not sold out of flowers) and that Google has to face penalty for selling faulty product in their ad-words formula; OR
B) If it was intentional, then Proflowers and Google are breaking the law again with inter-state fraud and on a civil-level by making and publishing statements known to be false and with the intent to gain for themselves...(for they did not know Chezbloom had sold-out, especially if Chezbloom had not and Proflowers paid for the service?).

There are 2 potential avenues to follow - state or federal. Frankly, I think federal is better because it is inter-state as neither Google not Proflowers have an office in Minnesota.

Read more: There's a negative for non-WS businesses as the WS/OGs fight the tide of complaints - Page 5
Where professional florists grow FC Professional Florist Community.

February 23, 2012 12:08 PM #

Billy United States says:

Wow, you have really done your homework Laura!  I just finished a law class where internet law was a huge topic and most of the projects were about internet law. You have a good grip on the most important issue which is Jurisdiction. Example, If a guy talks smack about you on his website and it causes your business to go under, could you file a lawsuit for defamation?  The answer depends on where his web server is, where you are, and whether or not he provides services to your state. If you take that guy to court in your town it will get thrown out automatically. Jurisdiction is a gray area in law so keep doing your homework, it will pay off. In all actuality PF probably did the same thing to us as well but we didn't have many people searching for us in house.

February 23, 2012 02:32 PM #

laura United States says:

I didn't do the homework. That was from Medford Florist in NJ. All I've learned is this is all about Ad money and deception.

February 23, 2012 04:55 PM #

como desentupir privadas United States says:

adorei o blog!!! porem verifique pois nao estou conseguindo adicionar o seu RSS no meu leitor, me retorna um erro 404!!

February 26, 2012 11:50 AM #

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