M&S's Strategy Does Not Come Up Smelling Of Roses

Dan Cash

If you know advertising and marketing but not too much about SEO then M&S’ decision to buy a competitor’s name for Google Adwords might appear confusing. For most other of M&S fields of business this wouldn’t make a great deal of sense but when it comes to doorstep flower deliveries, who’s synonymous and who would you never have thought of? So, if every time you search Interflora or any reasonable misspelling thereof you will find M&S flowers online directly underneath in sponsored links.






M&S say that this in an industry wide practice and claim that they don’t believe it is unlawful. Interflora haven’t released a statement but obviously disagree and are taking M&S to court to prove it.

A similar case was tried when Louis Vuitton took Google to court for promoting third party retailers in the sponsored search results. Louis Vuitton lost that case because Google was found to be doing nothing wrong and the retailers involved were doing a legal trade in reselling authorised, genuine Louis Vuitton goods so they faced absolutely no loss of business. This case differs in that Interflora aren’t interested in trying Google and M&S are a direct competitor piggybacking their global brand.

Another case which may prove significant in the proceedings against M&S involved Ryanair and their detractors at ihateryanair.co.uk Although Ryanair claimed that the site contained content which was abusive Robert Tyler, owner of ihateryanair.co.uk claimed that the case was undemocratic and an attempt to censor free speech and legitimate criticism.  In the end the case revolved around Tyler making £322 from advertising a while using the Ryanair name.

However, this ruling came from Nominet, controllers of .uk domain names which Tyler had been using and not from any official judicial body. Tyler has now migrated to ihateryanair.org and continues to vociferously point out Ryanair’s shortcomings.

Now, M&S aren’t using the Interflora brand per se, they are just making sure that they appear alongside every time someone searches for Interflora. They take solace in the findings of the European Court of Justice concerning the Louis Vuitton case when it was found that Google had:” not infringed trademark law by allowing advertisers to purchase keywords corresponding to their competitors' trademarks". However that case concerned Google, an index who provide search results and are not in direct competition with those whose adwords they have bought.

When Google were found to have done nothing wrong in the Vuitton case they stated that they believed that the public interest was best served by maximising choice of keywords and that their guiding principle had been that advertising should benefit users. So far they haven’t made any statement in the case against M&S and are not involved in it.

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