At PMG we monitor all of our clients’ brand terms closely and recently we have been finding more violators on brand keywords than ever before on the Bing engine. We are not talking about direct competitors here, but rather a lot of sketchy, one-off advertisers duping users to believe that they are a legitimate part of the business and then when users least suspect it… infect their computers with AdWare & Trojans!
Ever since Microsoft parted ways with Yahoo this summer, it appears that Bing support (and even their engine) has begun to degrade. Albeit there is without a doubt a lot of backend work being done through the transition that we cannot see, these changes still look to be leading to a loss of quality control on their engine.
One such example has to deal with the OpenTable brand where we recently noticed a lot of activity from other advertisers on Bing. Again, these are not the run of the mill advertisers that we would expect to pop up in our results.
We would like to direct your attention to one of the questionable ads below:
This may look like a legit OpenTable ad to regular users, but it is clearly a site we were all used to seeing back in the early 2000’s when AdWare ran rampant, infecting unsuspecting computers across the globe. Cast your mind back to that all-too-familiar feeling of frustration when every few minutes hundreds of ads would pop up and crash your 900mhz processor… oh, those were the good ol’ days! Unfortunately these AdWare sites continue to exist, but Google has done an excellent job of finding them and removing them immediately from visibility, especially in their paid ads.
So what happens when a user actually clicks on an ad like this thinking that it is your brand? Well we found out.
First, you get taken to a site that if you were not familiar with the OpenTable brand, looks pretty realistic. You get the app button logo and a prominent “Download” button. We are sure this landing page converts very well for these dupers.
We also downloaded the file, but did not attempt to open it as we did not want to infect our work computers. But, we did run it through an online virus scanner to see if they could catch anything. The results were very revealing!
This online virus scanner found an AdWare called Instacor, but also a Trojan.
Our next step after finding this was to report to our partners at Microsoft to get it removed from their search results as it was a clear violator. As a point of reference, Bing’s ad guidelines state the following:
Equipped with our guideline knowledge and an extensive amount investigation under our belts, we were sure that we would find a fast resolution to this violator. However, we were surprised by Bing’s response to our submission. Microsoft was not able to take down this advertiser simply because they are not a “direct competitor.” Furthermore, it’s apparent that the Engine does not have actual, clear guidelines on how to handle this type of advertiser.
At this point we were less worried about the trademark violation in question but rather were more worried about the possible bad taste left in users’ mouths after potentially downloading and installing harmful AdWare -when in actual fact they were expecting to be able to reserve a table at their favorite restaurant.
Before the Yahoo! breakup we did not notice any violators of this kind, and it seems to be a byproduct of the transition, although we do not know that officially however.
If one thing is for certain, it’s that we are urging all advertisers on Bing to closely monitor their brand terms to make sure this is not happening to their users as Microsoft does not seem to be taking any action in the removal of these ads.
UPDATE on 11/13/2015 : After nearly 2 weeks and two official complaints from both PMG and the OpenTable client, Bing has agreed to remove the ad in question citing the reasons outlined in this article as the grounds for removal.