Google’s recent change of policy in the UK to allow PPC advertising for online gaming has re-opened the issue in the Russian markets. This Friday Google started to allow online gaming advertisers to again participate openly in their PPC program, Adwords.
As NewMediaAge reports, the initial ban was enforced as part of a company-wide, global move Google said at the time, but now the company’s industry head James Cashmore said it was ensuring that local markets were served in the appropriate manner.
“Dennis Woodside (Google VP and MD for UK, Benelux & Ireland) and the team have been reviewing policies both from a legal and user need point of view at a local level,” he said. “I definitely think that local markets will make more decisions in the future.”
In terms of the local Russian market Google would be looking closely at the gaming legislation signed into law at the start of 2007. While this law covered rules for offline advertising in the industry it has been vague in regard to online advertising. It merely carried one sentence stating that internet gambling was prohibited.
There was no mention of advertising and to date, nothing has been done to online gaming sites. No mention was made of penalties, differences between national and international gaming operators or how they defined “gaming” (i.e. how did this law affect software which allowed free or non-monetory play).
Despite this lack of clarification the leading Russian search engine, Yandex stopped accepting gaming advertisers into their PPC systems. A few months after Rambler, the no.2 engine followed suite. Yandex made have been siding with caution or taking a moral stand, similar to Google’s own.
The structure of the legislation focused on where gaming advertising was allowed, so by omission some felt online advertising had been made illegal. Others disagreed, suggesting that the question of online environment had not been addressed by the bill. The single sentence tacked onto the end of another point did not indicate the online marketplace was considered seriously by Russia’s legislators, who have sometimes struggled to keep up with the new technology.
The key would be in the clarification of the Russian legislation on gaming advertising. Rather than a one-line addition to the bill, gaming operators need to know the rules on online advertising in Russia. Online gaming is a very competitive sector in Russia and could prove a significant revenue source for the search engines in the current financial climate.
The main effect of Google’s u-turn on the issue maybe to re-open the topic for discussion by the major engines here. Google has recently signed a deal with Rambler to provide them with contextual advertising, should this stream include gaming advertisers there will be considerable pressure on Yandex to reverse their policy.