Facebook Ads is the most targeted traffic your advertising dollars can buy. Sure, we’ve had Google AdWords for some time and they’re very powerful and effective. But Facebook takes the ability to hyper-target – based on a vast range of personalized data - to a whole new level.
Given the amount of data Facebook users share on the site, some of the areas you can target with your ads include:
- Location: Country/State/Province/City
- Relationship status
- Interested in status
- Language spoken
- Education level
- Place of work
In addition, you can choose to target Facebook users who are connected — or not already connected — to YOUR Page, Event, Group or App. Plus, you can target the friends of users connected to your Page, Event, Group or App.
Likes & Interests
Here’s where the game of Facebook advertising can get real tricky. You can target any “Likes & Interests” that Facebook users have on their profiles:
So, of the millions of possible activities, movies, musicians, books, TV shows, celebrities – you name it – everything is fair game to target in your Facebook ads. This means you could, if you wanted to, without breaking any Facebook rules, take out ads targeting users who have joined specific fan pages (now that fan pages are really “like pages.”)
Where it crosses the line and becomes a possible infringement of trademark/intellectual property, is when the advertiser uses a person/brand’s name in the ad that could cause consumers to be confused.
Recently, an advertiser has been running a series of Facebook ads using my name in the ad copy and targeting Facebook users who have “liked” my page. The advertiser had the intent to divert people to their fan page services.
My inbox and fan page wall kept filling up with friends asking me if these were my ads, if I was getting any kind of compensation, if I’d endorsed the ads, if I sponsored the ads, if I was affiliated with the product or the advertisers. The answer was a resounding “no.”
My name was being used without permission and it just did not sit right with me. The ads, the landing page and the service all just looked and felt completely disconnected from my own brand. (I’m trying to be polite and diplomatic here. Really, I mean to say, “spammy.”)
It seems we found a rather heated, and somewhat divided, topic. Comments ranged from “it’s totally unethical and out of integrity,” to “you should be flattered, you’re a brand!” Hm.
I decided to seek legal counsel and spoke with my attorney today. There is a term in Trademark law called “initial interest confusion.” Per Kevin Houchin:
…the federal trademark laws are in place to prevent consumers from being confused as to the source of a good or service and by preventing consumer confusion, protect the investment of brand owners in their company’s reputation, goodwill, and marketing dollars. There’s a concept in trademark law called “initial interest confusion” which is when one company unfairly diverts the potential consumer’s attention away from the brand they were looking for over to the competing product at the moment of initial interest, even if there is no confusion at the point of actual purchase. ~houchinlaw.com
(My buddy, Ed Dale, was also the target of this same advertiser and invited his fans to share their thoughts. Again, a somewhat divided response… though Ed himself doesn’t seem to mind the ad practice.)
I decided to track down the advertiser and simply ask him to stop running the ads. He responded promptly and courteously stating he would do so soon. I waited almost 24 hours, then asked again. The ads have stopped, thankfully.
The whole arena of buying keywords for ads that target brands, businesses, trademarks is rather sticky and has been something Google has had to deal with for awhile. Google have a comprehensive help section including their AdWords and AdSense trademark policy. My attorney tells me Google typically respond promptly to any infringement claims and take down the ads in question.
I’m guessing Facebook get their fair share of similar keyword trademark issues, seeing as they make it so easy for any keywords to be purchased. Facebook’s Advertising Guidelines do, however, include a clause stating the advertiser cannot infringe on intellectual property rights of third parties.
SO, what are your thoughts about this type of practice? How do you respond if you see an ad capitalizing on someone else’s name/brand/reputation? Do you think this is an area that Facebook should take more control over? Please share your thoughts with me in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you.
- The Google Adword TM Trap (houchinlaw.com)
- Rescuecom v. Google: Trademark Infringement (faithatlaw.com)
- ONE BIG REASON FACEBOOK WON’T KILL GOOGLE: Facebook Ads Become Irrelevant After Just A Few Days (businessinsider.com)
- Study: Facebook Ad Click-Throughs Declining (searchengineland.com)
- Facebook @ Tagging Etiquette – A Guide For Personal And Business Use (marismith.com)