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“Ads Added by AdWords” – an awful, awful idea

Every now and then, the folks who run Google AdWords get carried away and come out with some terrible initiatives. Often these involve the company’s systems trying to create ads for you. Examples in the past have been mainly on the Display Network; for a while, they decided to take text adverts and – without asking – add what they thought was your company logo to this, bung in some arbitrary colour, and generate a poor-looking image advert. They didn’t tell you they’d done this, not even in the reports. I suspect many advertisers had these unwanted adverts (which probably ran quite contrary to their style guide) appear millions of times without them even knowing.

Another brainwave which was imposed without permission on image advertisers was called ‘seam carving’, where Google’s machine algorithms ‘chopped up’ the components of a well-crafted image advert and reassembled it to fit a different shape.

In both cases, we had to go straight to the top to ensure that all of our clients were opted out of these awful, awful ideas. If you manage your own Google AdWords campaign, you may not have been aware it was going on. Even if you spotted an advert which looked nothing like anything you’d ever designed, you might not know how to stop it.

Indeed, as far as I know, either or both may still be going on.

Now there’s another dreadful innovation in the same mould, called “Ads Added by AdWords”. At least this time, apparently, participants were asked for permission. However, I guess the next stage could be just to roll it out to everyone without notification – they’ve got form on this.

“Ads Added by AdWords” attempts to get around the issue that most advertisers don’t test out nearly enough variations of their standard text adverts. So Google is using some sort of machine intelligence to swap round the two title sections, or to swap the titles for the description. It then runs these new ads as alternate versions to see if they get a better click-through rate.

Could this mean that you get adverts looking nothing like what you intended?

It sure could.

At this point I’m just letting out a silent scream. Our own clients needn’t worry, we’ll be opting them all out of this as soon as it’s offered, but if you do your own thing, keep an eye out.