According to a report in the Norwegian press today, some companies have reacted uncomfortably to the news that their Google Adwords text ads have been appearing on IsoHunt, the world’s third largest BitTorrent site.
Google has a policy of not displaying ads on sites that are involved in or linked to copyright infringement, with many torrent sites previously excluded from the scheme. Of course, some still carry Google ads, purely because Google is unaware of the nature of those sites, but with IsoHunt the situation is different. On IsoHunt the Google ads aren’t directly served by Google, but by Ask.com, a Google AdWords ‘reseller’.
Ask.com, formerly known as Ask Jeeves, works with several other BitTorrent sites. Only on IsoHunt have they displayed search based ads that came from Google AdWords campaigns. They have been doing so for several months, perhaps years, but up until now nobody complained, or knew.
Several companies whose ads appeared on IsoHunt, including online bookseller Bokkilden and search engines Sesam and Kvasir don’t have that much to complain about. However, there are others who are less happy.
Media giant Sony BMG and Norwegian online music store Platekompaniet have both reacted strongly to the news that their ads have appeared on IsoHunt. Artist sponsor StatoilHydro called the situation “regrettable”, adding “We would certainly prefer not contribute to the financing of sites like this.”
In a statement, Jan-Henrik Ohme, head of digital marketing at Sony BMG said “We have stopped the section of the campaign that goes to the third party until Google cleans up the issues. We have contacted Google, and they took immediate action.”
For its part, Google Norway has apologized for the situation, and said that the advertisers should not be held responsible for the placement of the ads, since due to the 3rd party involvement, they had no way of knowing where they would appear. The campaigns are not limited to Norway though, and Ask.com certainly has something to explain to Google.