When the internet was first becoming a commercial success, big name advertisers would go out and buy AOL keywords, and at the end of TV and radio commercials tell people to search on those keywords. As advertisers finally learned that the internet was a lot more than just AOL, that practice faded away. In 2002 we noted that one advertiser had decided that even putting URLs in a commercial was too cumbersome and, instead, just told people to Google its name. It was a sign of faith that Google would return the right result. It looks like that's gone a step further now. Pontiac is apparently advertising in some locations with a television ad that tells people to search Google for Pontiac (and even shows a screenshot) to see what people are saying about the car company. John Battelle points out that other carmakers might want to think about bidding up the price of AdWords on that keyword now (my quick test shows a Mazda ad in the top slot -- so perhaps they've already begun). What's interesting is that Pontiac parent GM says part of the reason they're doing this is to associate the company with a strong brand -- the same argument we heard a few months ago for why certain companies were willing to pay a premium to be in Google's print ad experiments. Apparently, just any association with the company is viewed as a good thing by some advertisers. Still, this does seem like a risky move -- and simply cries out for search engine manipulators to mess around with the results seen on a search on the keyword Pontiac.
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