Twitter’s Promoted Tweets Advertisers Can Squat Rivals’ Brands

Twitter apparently allows its clients to buy adverts using rivals’ brand names.

I noticed UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s had bought ads on against searches for rivals like “Tesco”, “Waitrose” and “Lidl”.

Users searching for those brands saw Sainsbury’s Promoted Tweets, which Twitter recently started selling in the UK.

That is interesting because brand-squatting in keyword ad systems has been a contentious legal topic of late.

  • Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that Google (NSDQ: GOOG), as an advertising vehicle, was not culpable if companies breached trademarks by placing ads against rivals’ trademarks.
  • But the court then advised Marks & Spencer individually be found liable for placing ads for its own florist service against Interflora’s brand name.
  • A French court had ruled Google liable for trademark infringement when it allowed fake Louis Vuitton goods sellers to buy AdWords using the LVMH brand’s name. But the ECJ overturned that verdict.
  • We recently reported how Lovefilm has bought Google ads for “Netflix” ahead of its rival’s UK and Ireland launch in Q1 2012.

Twitter told paidContent: “We comply with the laws of the countries in which we operate.”

paidContent contacted Sainsbury’s rivals to seek their opinion. Waitroise said: “We are aware of this. We’re not planning any action.” Others did not respond.

Sainsbury’s campaign, which was running on last week, has now ceased. Tesco has since bought Promoted Tweets using its own brand name…

Another company has had the same experience. “We noticed that a competitor was creating Promoted Tweets and bidding on our brand name as a keyword,” Mail Chimp’s marketer Amanda Lauter wrote back in July. “That’s not really a big deal in and of itself, since it’s the kind of thing that happens with Google Adwords all the time.

“But the content of these particular tweets was unsavory and misleading, and literally had nothing to do with MailChimp. So we did what any self-respecting brand would do, and started our own little ‘brand integrity’ Promoted Tweets campaign.”

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority, which was recently granted regulation of online marketing, told paidContent it only regulates the content of advertisers’ own websites and can only investigate complaints made to it.

Tesco has previously asserted online rights it claims to trademarks.