Monday, January 26, 2009

Buying brand terms of Google as part of litigation

I received some traffic today from the someone that searched in Google "hotelscombined wego". This often happens to me that combinations of competitor names results in traffic to the BOOT as I am one of the few places that regularly talks about competitors in the same post. I followed the referring link to see how high a ranked. Below is a screenshot of the Google page I came to. Have a look at the top sponsored link


In case you can't see, it says
"Warning Hotelscombined: www.asiativ.com Read legal procedures running Currently against Hotelscombined"
I have never seen anything like this. I know that Google has loosened the restrictions on bidding for brand terms. But I have never heard of a company buying a brand term so they can put up a link accusing another company of "defamation, fraud and falsification" (their words not mine). Here is the full text of the Asiativ accusation against Hotelscombined. I don't know Asiativ (do you?) so can't give any background on them. I do know Hotelscombined. They are an Australian based meta-search company headed by some guys that made their start in online travel working for HotelClub.

I also know Google and I am very surprised to see that they are allowing this ad to stay on the site. Anyone out there ever seen anything like this?

UPDATE - here is a later post with more on this including how Hotelscombined is bidding for Asiativ's brand.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well you should see Hotels combined Ad-word on Asiativ.. they actually say Do no book with Asiativ! It's even worth Lol
How come Google allow this?

Jonathan said...

Wow. One of these companies is acting extremely unethical, but it is unclear who is telling the truth at this point in time.

I hope we hear more about this as things become clearer.

This sort of news is not easy to come by so thanks for the heads up Tim.

Adam said...

Hmmm. Interesting, from my initial readings on this matter I see a classic online business strategy of "Bait n Switch" that hotelscombined.com is engaged in.

Step 1.
Come up with great idea, hotel meta-search. Promise consumers best and cheapest rates from many sources
Step 2.
Consumers respond, repeat visits increase, brand image grows in consumers mind.
Step 3.
How do we make more money? Let's start charging even more for preferred positions. Stop showing cheapest options first, even-though it goes against what we've built our brand on and how we have trained (yes trained!)our customers. (Bait n switch)

Simple solution is to have "PAID LISTING" in bold type on the preferred top listing, but you must still have the cheapest listing listed way above the fold, never below.

I'm with Asiativ.com on this one. HC are involved in unethical customer deception in the quest to bump up the coffers.

Brian said...

As a HotelsCombined.com affiliate I'd be very disappointed if they have been using this strategy.

They certainly haven't explained to me that what 'we' are offering the consumer has changed.

Chris Noble said...

I've heard of companies inserting messages into other companies analytics campaign codes to send a 'warning', but this is a new one.

I wonder what the CPC on this is? I'm sure the have a good quality score, even though the ad itself is totally inappropriate for this space. Google will can this once they find out.

Steve Sherlock said...

well i think it takes two to tango, in any dispute.

i reckon pretty poor management by both companies, to get themselves in such a dispute.

one advantage of having a trademarked name, is you can register the trademark with google and they automate no bidding on the name.

Anonymous said...

AsiaTiv is a Thailand based site. I doubt if either of these are registered trademarks so theoretically Google does not have any reason to go after them.

Asiativ may be on to something here though. Most of the meta-search companies especially those based in APAC have finite number of successful OTAs and hotel chains they can work with. The only way to squeeze more revenue out of any existing partner is to come up with different bidding and forced advertising models.

If you are a smaller OTA or a smaller hotel chain good luck singing up with them! Providing the best rates is not so high on these companies' agenda. Most of the time other OTAs or hotel websites with best rate guarantees are able to provide better rates.

If they keep at this, it will be interesting to see how long their business model survives. Customers are not dumb after all.

Chaoley said...

If Asiativ is telling the truth I forsee a painful learning experience for hotelscombined as their users fade away. Everyone is shopping by price and if the best prices are on the second page of the search results their business model is just not going to work anymore.

Tim Hughes said...

Google has to play the role of parent here. The search page is Google's media/real estate. Google needs to own it and take down all ads like this. Thanks to the first Anon for the heads up on the battle over at the search results for Asiativ's brand. See here for that result.