Between the 6th and 10th August this year, riots began in London and spread to other cities around England. Many people, myself included, have not seen anything like this so close to home. I wanted all the information I could get on the event so I found myself searching for information ceaselessly. I knew I would not be the only person looking for minute by minute updates on my search engine. So then I asked myself (and my colleagues), would it be wrong to bid on the keyword ‘London Riots’?
In theory it is a great idea. Hitwise are reporting that, “UK internet searches for all variations of home insurance increased by 14% between the week ending 6 August and the week ending 13 August 2011.”
Seeing these figures made it seem that it was a missed opportunity by online advertisers to increase sales during this time. Imagine all the clicks home insurers would have received with targeted ad copy imploring searchers to update their insurance to ensure they were covered for the riots. Thinking about those kinds of numbers made my head hurt.
It is not like it hasn’t been done before. In 2010 Ann Summers bid on topical keywords relating to the British Airways strikes and the hung parliament. This led to them generating over 1.5 million impressions at a cost of less than £4,500. The campaign was also covered in the national media. Thinking of the numbers made my head hurt, again.
So why didn’t many companies bid on riot related terms?
I believe it is because companies do not want to be viewed as being insensitive. With all the violence and loss suffered by so many, it could be seen as unethical to profit from the misfortune of others. If the national media spun the advertising in the wrong way, it could cause irreparable damage to a brand.
Oliver Walker of Periscopix even did a poll to gauge opinion (it is not clear who was polled) and 50% agreed it was insensitive.
It is clear that the negative sentiment that could be perceived by manipulating these terms during such panic would either make light of the situation, or plaster advertisers as “uncaring”. This is particularly relevant considering the Riot Damages Act (1886) covers acts of civil unrest that traditional insurance policies would not have, essentially making the requirements to purchase insurance cover for civil unrest redundant.