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How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 1
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆

So one remarketing policy that doesn't get much (if any) attention is the policy around sexuality. The policy says that they don't allow remarketing that may be able to indicate sexuality, and from what I've been able to get from the policy team through AdWords support and our Google Partner is that they base this on your audience. But I can't find anything else on this and there is no transparency on how Google is determining which brands are too gay to be able to remarket.

 

I have a client that is directly affected by this, they have been disabled from all forms of remarketing. This puts them at a serious disadvantage compared to other competitors in their field. The client sells men's underwear and apparel, so what makes their audience too gay but not Calvin Klein, 2(x)ist or Diesel? Culturally, designer men's underwear are generally seen as a "gay" product, so shouldn't all designer men's underwear brands be disabled from remarketing?

 

I've also seen underwear brands marketed primarily to lesbians and the trans community running remarketing campaigns, so what made their brand acceptable? For that matter, heterosexuality isn't a protected status in the US too, so shouldn't any brand that could indicate heterosexuality be disabled from remarketing as well? I know that's more hypothetical, but it raises the point that there needs to be more transparency into this process and how a brand and/or it's audience are labeled as LGBT by Google; if you're going to disenfranchise an already marginalized group from the largest digital marketing engine in the world, shouldn't there be a clear and understandable process that clearly lays out the data being looked at in this determination?

 

I understand Google's perspective on this, they don't want to get sued because a remarketing ad outed someone, but by doing this they are putting every LGBT brand and LGBT friendly brand at a disadvantage. At the very least the guidelines need to be publicly available so that it can be ensured that they don't go overboard in penalizing LGBT brands. And does this mean that Google is tracking the sexuality of all of their users?

 

I know this is a lot of questions that probably no one outside of Google can answer. I just want to get a conversation going about this issue, because the longer it goes unaddressed, the more LGBT brands fall behind in the digital marketplace. As remarketing campaigns and programmatic marketing strategies become more and more dominant and effective as channels this handicap for affected brands only gets worse. There has got to be a better way to approach this, and there absolutely needs to be transparency on how Google is determining this status. It's not even anywhere that you can check, it took months of harassing AdWords support and our agency Partners to finally find out that sexuality was the reason our remarketing audiences kept getting disabled. 

4 Expert replyverified_user

Re: How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

[ Edited ]
Top Contributor
# 2
Top Contributor

any website that includes partial or complete nudity, or any sexual
behavior or orientation that can be inferred from a user's visit to a
website, cannot use interest-based or location-based advertising.

for all other ads, any nudity is subject to an approved-adult
status; any mature context is subject to a non-family status;
neither status is in any way limited to a specific product or

items such as adult-toys.

any sexually suggestive content, or sexual body parts
that are blurred or censored, are only allowed under
certain conditions and are otherwise not allowed.

 

product-listing-ads in particular have specific

settings and attributes that must be considered.

of course, potential policy violations by other
advertisers may be reported directly to google --
google is the final arbiter of all their polices.

there are both legal and protection issues regarding any amount
of transparency so is unlikely to happen to the degrees suggested
with respect to anything policy related.

 

Re: How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 3
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
Well there could be legal ramifications as well for having what could be perceived as a discriminatory policy in place as well; it's a double edged sword. And as far as partial or complete nudity and sexually suggestive imagery, there is no single standard for that at Google, it seems to vary brand by brand and by whichever members of the policy team are reviewing it. I have reported Victoria's Secret countless times for violating the adult content policy, and I still see the same remarketing ads from them. Same with Calvin Klein, especially given their controversial sexually charged campaign they launched two days ago. And yet their ads run all the time too, despite having countless images of barely clothed men and women, videos of simulated sex, both opposite and same sex couples kissing and making out, women's nipples showing, close ups of men's bulges in underwear . . . they seem to get a free pass, as do most brands that market to the heterosexual male gaze. I was told that having an image of two men kissing on a landing page is explicitly against policy the same day Google released a Think With Googel article celebrating their most successful TruView ads, including "First Kiss" a video ad for some apparel company that was just a bunch of couples meeting for the first time in the studio and making out.

Re: How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

Top Contributor
# 4
Top Contributor
generally, using other advertisers to argue for or against a policy issue
does not work; potential violations are reviewed with respect to the ad
or advertiser under investigation and the policy -- not other advertisers.

Re: How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 5
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
As I recall, you gave this policy a lot of attention last month. https://www.en.advertisercommunity.com/t5/Ad-Approval-Policy/Experiencing-an-apparent-policy-double-...

Seriously, Spike, starting a new discussion with the same taking points because the first one didn't go your way isn't going to help you any.

Re: How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 6
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆

@Michael Bauser

I didn't post this because I felt my original topic didn't go my way. The original topic had been focused on a specific client and a number of aspects of their issues with policy. While I have mentioned that client here (not by name) I am trying to focus on the broader issue of how Google determines a brand cannot engage in remarketing because of the sexual orientation of their audience. That issue was never addressed in my older post, and I think it deserves attention. I would love to have other examples and talking points to point to, but as I said in this discussion, no one seems to be talking about it so the only material I have to work with is what I've found and gathered through my affected client.

Re: How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 7
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆

@Celebird

I agree with you on using other advertisers as examples, but due to the lack of transparency I have little else to look to for examples and guidelines. I have not been able to find any kind of documentation where Google outlines how they are making these determinations, and no feedback on how they come to the conclusion that an advertiser's audience is too LGBT for remarketing. So what choice do I have but to look to other advertisers in my clients industry that run remarketing through Google? I need actionable information to be able to use to get my client to the point where they meet the bar for remarketing. Does my client have to abandon everything that may appeal to a gay audience or do we simply have to broaden the messaging in their marketing to seem more inclusive? Rebranding is not the kind of thing that you can fumble around with different options for until you find the one that clicks with policy like getting an ad through approval, it's a major effort and not one that can be done over and over again without destroying the brand identity.

Re: How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 8
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
Well, you're barking up the wrong tree, because Google never gives that kind of documentation for any of their policy guidelines. What you want, just doesn't exist.

Nobody here is going to be able to explain something that doesn't exist.

Re: How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

[ Edited ]
Top Contributor
# 9
Top Contributor

google is unlikely to suddenly be more transparent than
what is stated in their policy documentation or privately
to a particular advertiser under investigation; there is no
reliable way to infer google's policy decision details from
other ads or merchants.

in terms of actionable information --

does the website include partial nudity?
can sexual-orientation be inferred from visiting the site?
can any sexual-behavior be inferred from visiting the site?

Re: How does Google determine if a brand is too gay for remarketing?

Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆
# 10
Explorer ✭ ✭ ☆

@Michael Bauser @Celebird

You're both right of course; Google is unlikely to reveal thorough details on this topic. But currently there are no details, not even the kinds of vague guidelines they have for some of their other related policies. If no one talks about it, then there will definitely not be any movement or change on this. And I think that if Google actually looked at it, they would see they have an incentive to better explain or define this policy. Numerous US states already have laws in place forbidding businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation; while the reasoning behind Google's policy is to protect their users, it is still discriminatory and opens them up to litigation, and when sexuality inevitably becomes a federally protected status they will be on even weaker footing.

 

As for @Celebird's specific questions, for the first one I can say yes; the client sells underwear, so there is partial nudity on the site (just like all underwear brands). As for the other two, that is exactly the point I'm getting at: How do you tell if you can infer sexuality? I donated to the HRC to overturn Prop 8 in California so that same-sex marriage became legal again, does that mean you could infer that I'm gay? My fiance buys bras from Victoria's Secret, which features only images of partially nude women, does that mean you could infer that she and any other women shopping there are lesbians? Where is the line?