Antitrust & Competition Policy Blog

Editor: D. Daniel Sokol
University of Florida
Levin College of Law

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Friday, October 26, 2012

The Role of Keyword Advertising in Competition among Rival Brands

Posted by D. Daniel Sokol

David S. Evans, University of Chicago Law School, University College London, Global Economics Group and Elisa V. Mariscal, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Economica (CIDE), Competition Policy International (CPI), Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) discuss The Role of Keyword Advertising in Competition among Rival Brands.

ABSTRACT: This paper considers recent proposals for restricting keyword advertising using competitor brand names. Keyword advertising is similar to many other widely used and valuable methods of marketing to the customers of rivals that increase competition and facilitate entry. Queries for products or services using search engines help inform consumers about other competitive alternatives and may enable them to compare different product offerings. Economists have found overwhelmingly that this type of informative and comparative advertising benefits consumers and, conversely, that restricting such advertising harms consumers. Complainants in some recent keyword advertising cases have sought to forbid search engines from using trademarked names as keywords, claiming that this may cause confusion. We argue that most consumers are likely to benefit from keyword advertising and are unlikely to be confused by the practice. Moreover, without a careful weighing of the likely costs and benefits of this type of regulation, consumers might bear significant costs by eliminating an easy reference with which to compare existing or new products, resulting in important reductions in consumer benefits. In fact, even more narrow remedies such as case-specific penalties for causing consumer confusion could discourage search engines from offering this service to advertisers, decreasing their value to consumers as a search tool and resulting in significant harm.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/antitrustprof_blog/2012/10/the-role-of-keyword-advertising-in-competition-among-rival-brands.html

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Comments

I was very disappointed at the arguments made by Evans and Mariscal in their article in defence of Google's practice of selling brand and trading name keywords of a business to its competitor. Most of examples of advertising restrictions used in the article were quite inappropriately used to try to justify Google's conduct, which is clearly different. Evans and Marsical also did not properly explain the ACCC's case against Google in Australia. For example, the ACCC took action against Google because it had sold the trading name Kloster Ford, which is a physical car yard, to the Trading Post, which is a trading newspaper which offers cars, amongst other things, for sale. It does not make sense to me how redirecting a consumer from finding Kloster Ford to a trading newspaper enhances the consumer's welfare.

Posted by: Michael Terceiro | Nov 13, 2012 5:49:22 AM

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