Google to protect consumers from brand freeloaders


Sensitive topics finally get some respect from the ads that Google allows to be served

It's a common annoyance. You search for a specific product or company and click on the first thing that pops up. Only it's a completely different company or product.

Google is kicking off September by hog-tying sneaky advertisers that run ads hoping to fool consumers into taking action that could lead them down the wrong road.

If how a brand that is mentioned in an ad is unclear, references another brand’s name or likeness in response to a user’s search for that brand, or any other brand masquerading, that's kind of fakery will get a company sent to the bench until it adheres to the new policy.

The company is also going all-out to protect users from being hounded by ads that chase them around after they've searched for a particular topic.

Imagine if you will, you’re trying to book a flight to New York City on Delta Air Lines. Before, ads might pop up that were trying to get you to believe that they were Delta.

Now, however, the “vast majority” of the ads you see in a search result like that are supposed to be related to things that naturally relate to that search: either Delta itself, or its competitors, hotels in the area, and other advertisers that a history of policy compliance and transparency. 

If an advertiser tries to pull off that hustle or doesn't have a record of good behavior, it might find its ad impressions are limited until it builds a trustworthy track record on Google’s ad platform.

“While we want to allow users the opportunity to interact with relevant and helpful ads, this policy will reduce the chance that they'll see a misleading or confusing ad from an advertiser with an unproven track record,” Google’s Alejandro Borgia, Director, Product Management, Ads Safety, wrote.

Keeping sensitive topics and ads to a low roar

As you know, when you click on an ad, there are “trackers” that ride along and gather information about who you are, what your interests are, etc., so an advertiser can send you what they think you’d also like to see.

Now, with the updated Google Ad Center, you can customize your ad experience to see more ads about things you like and fewer ads about things you don't.

You can: 

  • Tell Google which topics and brands you would like to see more or fewer ads.
  • You can keep Google from showing you ads about certain sensitive topics, such as alcohol, dating, pregnancy and parenting, weight loss, or gambling.

Here’s how you can limit ads about sensitive topics:

  1. Go to My Ad Center.

  2. Select Customize Ads > Sensitive.

  3. Select the toggle next to each topic you’d like to limit.

  4. Confirm your selection.

To allow ads about the sensitive topics you’ve limited again, repeat the steps above. 

And, if you’re tired of an ad or brand chasing you around after you’ve searched for, say “weight loss,” you can ask to see fewer ads about that topic or from a brand trying to sell you on how it can take care of that situation. 

However, the company says that when you flip that switch, it’s not a death sentence for that particular topic or that advertiser, but its ad engine will try its best to push out more relevant ads about that topic and from that advertiser as well as different brands or topics.

Here’s how to accomplish that in "My Ad Center:

  1. Go to My Ad Center

  2. Select Customize > Ads Topics or Brands.

  3. Select See more, or See fewer, on the topics or brands you want to see, or don't want to see.

But does it work?

ConsumerAffairs gave Google's My Ad Center a chance to show its stuff and we have to admit it handed us the keys to do everything it promises.

Block repetitive ads, block topics that we had no interest in, tell Google that we don't want anyone to see our birthday, not let what we watched on YouTube be used to personalize ads, etc.

One important note, though: If you have more than one Google account (and most people to), you'll need to change the My Ad Center settings for each account. 

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