Oneupweb Reviews : Google AdWords’ New Alcohol Policy

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The first step to a healthy life is admitting you have a problem. Here goes: I have a problem with holiday shopping – I don’t much like shopping in stores. I don’t like searching for items, and I’m not fond of other shoppers.


The good thing is that we all live in an age of options, and the ideal option for the modern-day misanthrope is online shopping. However, I find myself instantly engulfed and rendered nearly catatonic by the paradox of choice.

Plus, I have immediate family members who have no hobbies, don’t read, don’t much like music, don’t particularly enjoy movies, will watch TV regardless of what’s on, and have enough damn shirts already. On the other end of the spectrum, I have immediate family members who are combination collectors, completists and elitists; anything I could buy they either have already or, I guarantee you, won’t be right.

The thing to search for is a common thread, the “one size fits all” gift for my family.

And, thanks to Google’s recent update to its AdWords alcohol policy, there it is. (Cue the angel-voiced castratos:) Liquor.

Google, just in time for the holidays, has changed its rules for AdWords ads and, yes, interested parties can now promote information about hard alcohol and liqueurs through paid search ads. They can’t directly sell hard alcohol, or promote the sale of hard alcohol (whatever that means), but they can advertise on it.

For example, say you’re a manufacturer of vodka: you can now bid on the keyword “vodka” and share recipes for cocktails containing vodka while promoting your brand. You just can’t sell it the way you can sell beer, which, according to Google, can be promoted for sale via its PPC ads. Why there’s a distinction I don’t know.

Regardless of the fact that I can’t actually purchase liquor, my interest is piqued: let’s forge ahead and see who is taking advantage of this new development in what has to be the perfect time of the year.

Let’s start with tequila. There are hundreds of types of tequila. Someone, somewhere, must be on this bandwagon.


The search reveals nothing in terms of sponsored ads. Nada. Ningun fiesta para usted.

OK, no problem: what else do people drink. Scotch? OK, scotch:

I get a place that engraves bottles, and while members of my family drink, none of us are to the point where we’re interested in alcohol-related paraphernalia. Then, Shopzilla: “Save on Scotch!” Awesome. I don’t know anyone who actually drinks scotch, but I’m intrigued: I click.

From here I can choose from four departments: Liquor, Spirits & Beers; Tape (ha!); Cleaning Supplies (HA!); and Automotive Care (pfft!). I make the obvious choice and am confronted with a bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch Blue Label 200th Anniversary Baccarat Decan for $3,599.99 (which is a deal, apparently, since it typically sells for $4,500).

Wait, isn’t that pretty much against the rules? Aren’t they directly selling hard alcohol? Not my decision, and thus, not my problem.

Sprinkled throughout the fancypants, decent-down-payment-on-a-car-priced bottles are far more affordable scotch offerings. Does anyone in my family like scotch? Well, they better learn. Click. Done. Merry Xmas, grandma.

Along with weird stuff – a search for “irish whiskey” returned an ad for Irish peat you can use to have an authentic Irish peat fire (way to broad match, superstar), and a search for vodka returned a place that sells Russian-language t-shirts – I found enough booze, most of it pretty blatantly directly sold, to get me through to 2009. There’s even a resource for the many goths on my Xmas list: La Maison d’Absinthe. I’m set.

So, is it a big deal that Google lifted the restrictions on advertising for hard alcohol on AdWords? Well, in the time-honored tradition of answering a question with another question, here you go: who cares? Why did they have that restriction in the first place? With experience as my guide, I can say almost unequivocally that a person can get as intoxicated on beer as they can on hard liquor. Plus, there’s never been and could never be any restriction on positioning in the organic results. So big whoop.

That said, since this morning both Smirnoff and Ciroc have started bidding on “vodka.” ‘Tis the season (to get tipsy).

The Necessary Disclaimer: Perhaps Stolichnaya says it best: “Drink with Care.” Here’s another one: don’t be stupid. Don’t drink and drive. Ever. And, if you imbibe too much at your company’s holiday fiesta, there are going to be pictures, and you’re not going to like them.

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