Apr 2, 2020 - Health

Scoop: Google to lift coronavirus ad ban

Photo illustration: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Google will begin to allow some advertisers to run ads across its platforms that address the coronavirus, according to a Google memo sent to clients and obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats have argued that in banning attack ads targeting President Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic, including on YouTube, Google was shielding his campaign in a critical election year.

  • The broad ban had also stopped consumer advertisers, like retail and packaged goods companies, as well as corporate social responsibility advertisers like nonprofits, from running messaging about the virus.

Details: According to the memo, sent from Google's Head of Industry Mark Beatty to political advertising clients, Google is beginning to phase in advertisers who want to run ads related to COVID-19, prioritizing those advertisers that are working directly on this issue.

  • This week, Google will begin allowing ads from "government entities, hospitals, medical providers, and NGOs who want to get relevant information out to the public," according to the memo.

The big picture: Google had previously banned ads related to the virus in fear that some people would take advantage of the situation and use Google's self-serve ad platform to buy ads promoting things like fake coronavirus tests or hoarded supplies of hand sanitizer.

  • The policy previously placed ads related to the coronavirus under the company's "Sensitive Events" policy, which is designed to block ads that take advantage of users by capitalizing on short-term events like natural disasters.

What's next: Google says that it's planning to allow other advertisers, including political organizations, to run ads related to the coronavirus, and will make an announcement about that in the next few days.

  • Sources say that in the coming days, Google also plans to address how it will phase in other advertisers, like consumer brands, to allow those groups to also buy ads that reference the coronavirus and related terms.
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