Officially, Google doesn’t have any special policy regarding cryptocurrencies and ICOs. But worried voices coming from the crypto and marketing industry paint a very different, darker picture.
Google is obviously much more than just a search engine or even an all-included internet service. If the internet is a global village, then Google is its chief. And now the chief seems to be going after one of the most prominent and fast-growing industries.
After technology titan Facebook banned crypto ads, Google is apparently following a similar path. Advertisers using Google Ads are reporting difficulty in advertising cryptocurrency and blockchain-oriented products. In other cases, channels showcasing crypto content are reporting that their channels are being banned from YouTube.
A CMO’s worst nightmare
Google AdWords hasn’t published any official changes to its policy, or made any official statement. However, myriad Google AdWords clients, such as firms doing direct advertising, marketing firms and PR agencies, report a significant drop in the performance of Google advertising for customers offering cryptocurrency services. In some cases, the advertisers even find their adverts rejected, or their accounts suspended.
One marketing company that specializes in ICO marketing (and that asked to remain anonymous) told Finance Magnates that it saw its daily AdWords performance dropping by thousands in a matter of days. Here’s an example of a daily performance sheet from a crypto marketing company:
This change in numbers coincided with cryptocurrency-related adverts beginning to be defined as “limited” upon submission.
Judging from the list of practices mentioned in Google’s official policy that merit defining an advertiser as limited, the closest definition to cryptocurrency would be gambling. Could this be Google’s interpretation of the crypto space?
In another case, Finnish blockchain startup Lamium, that tried to advertise its platform on Google a month ago, saw the termination of not only its advert, but also of its Google Ads account. “So I understand why the ad was suspended, but why was the account itself suspended?” it wrote on the Google AdWords support page. A similar case happened to an algo-trading platform called Crypto Bot Settings, that also saw its account suspended. And the list goes on.
While different advertisers got different reasoning from Google AdWords support for the suspension of their accounts, there is a consensus on the official forum as to the common denominator – all blocked ads and accounts come from the crypto industry.
We reached out to Google and received an answer that denies any changes to the official policy:
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But this special approach to crypto doesn’t seem to be limited to the advertisement realm. Some crypto Vloggers and shows reported that their channels being restricted or even taken down altogether. The restrictions include demonetizing, cancelling the Live Video feature, and more.
The protest hashtag #YouTubePurge has been trending for a while on Twitter. But until now it was used mostly by political thought leaders from the right-hand side of the isle. Now, we are starting to see it being used by cryptocurrency-oriented content. In one case, Bad Crypto, one of the most viewed / listened to crypto podcasts, has been unavailable on Youtube from this week.
Hmm I wonder if Facebook & Google are trying to ban crypto leaders in addition to ads. Love your podcasts
— Joe Atwal (@Joetherealtor) March 4, 2018
How, what, why?
So, why is all that happening? There are a few theories, some overlap and some are contradictory. One answer is that this phenomenon is an overreach of Google’s policy against fake news, malicious ads and crypto mining scams. A similar move was announced this week by yet another technology leader, Twitter. This means that the aforementioned advertisers probably did something wrong by mentioning a word or a sequence that targeted Google’s algorithms.
Another interpretation, which is the most common, talks about Google being extremely meticulous with regard to ads coming from crypto advertisers. Google has a very elaborate policy on how to advertise on its platform, especially when it comes to firms offering financial services. Is seems that when it comes to crypto firms, its approach is much stricter and less forgiving than it is for other industries.
Prospects of a total ban
Another explanation that we have been hearing from our sources, and that is being raised in professional forums as well, is that we are seeing an intentional and gradual effort to restrict crypto ads or to even block them altogether. Moreover, a source with close connections to Google claimed that the technology behemoth is mulling an official ban in March.
The notion of banning crypto ads from Google was raised a month ago by a Canadian regulator. Jason Roy, a senior investigator at the Manitoba Securities Commission in Canada, openly turned to Google and asked it to follow Facebook’s lead. “We’re very pleased with Facebook’s decision. My hope is that Google will enact a similar policy, where they specifically name products like binary options, ICOs and cryptocurrencies,” said Roy.
Back then, the request was declined. Google explained that while it already bans misleading and fraudulent ads, it doesn’t want to prevent the entire industry from advertising on its platform. Right now it seems that it might have changed its mind.
Nicc Lewis, marketing expert and founder of Expozive, says that such a ban is a possibility. “I know that there is a lot of pressure on Google, coming from the US and Canadian regulators. It’s possible that if the pressure is strong enough, Google might decide to act globally. It seems it’s ICOs that will be affected first.”