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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Royal Opera House bid on Sadler's Wells name in Google adwords

An interesting thing happened when we Googled ourselves recently. The Royal Opera House had bought Sadlers Wells (sic) as keywords in an Adword campaign. Just to be clear, there is nothing legally wrong with this, nor is it against Google's terms and conditions but it is a subject that has caused much debate since Adwords began. Google allows you to bid on competitor* names (even those that are trademarked) if they do not appear in the text of the advert (and in some cases even if they do). This was a big shock for a lot of companies that were not wise to the ways of the web and many people still regard it is as a dubious practice. It has certainly been challenged in a number of territories and Louis Vuitton lost a five year legal battle with Google over this issue. Over the years Google's own position has changed a number of times and has varied from country to country, so the position has hardly been clear. It is a fascinating topic (well to me anyway) so I have added some more links below.

As far as I could tell the ROH had not bought the word Sadler's (just Sadlers) and I could speculate this was a deliberate decision.  I also assume they aim to pick up customers that are new to dance since the ad copy is so general. Personally I'm not sure pushing the fact they have seats from £4 is the best idea. Even if is the best ballet in London in a £4 seat you would not see much of it. I sat in one of those seats once and only saw about 30% of the performance. For a first timer it would be a wretched experience and if you tried to upsell them to a decent seat the price might come as a shock.

Interestingly the advert itself points to the What's on page. I would have thought it made sense to link to a page aimed specifically at new visitors. If you are serious about encouraging new attenders to book tickets a dedicated landing page would ensure potential customers were not abandoned at the front door without guidance. Online ad campaigns do not end with the click through, they need to follow through and take you on an appropriate journey once you are in the site. Unfortunately when I looked there were seven ballets on sale that were currently only available for Friends booking (which costs an extra £79) and just one single 12pm performance that was available for public booking so the timing does not seem ideal for a value based message. 

*Personally I do not believe too much in the idea of competition within the arts. I think arts attendance of any kind is a good thing whatever venue people go to, and energy has been wasted in the past applying traditional marketing theory on competition to arts and culture. Competition within our sector is a wasteful use of precious resources and for me the biggest competition has always been staying in (or the pub and a bite to eat). That said, I do feel this ad is slightly different due to its generic aim and the tone of the copy. 

There is a good tradition of co-operation within the sector and I see that increasing. But in some cases (mailing lists, e-lists) organisations that have achieved success through a lot of hard work should have the right to protect that data from its misuse in supporting short term goals (Artistic Director A says to Artistic Director B "Can you just get your Marketing team to send a solus email to your entire list to promote my show that is on this week? For some reason it is just not selling. It must be the marketing..."). But that is a whole different post.

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