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Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords) is an online advertising service that uses its search engine to display your digital advertisements to your potential customers. You choose various keywords that correspond to what people type into the search bar. Then, Google Ads will show your target audience your advertisements. You likely have seen these as they appear as ads on your Google searches or part of ‘Ads by Google’ banners on websites. Notably, you pay a ‘pay-per-click’ fee for this service. This means that you do not have to pay until people click on your ad. You compete with other advertisers to rank the highest on the keywords and search terms you choose, depending on how much money you bid on your chosen words.

This advertising service, if you use it efficiently, can be very successful for your business. However, there are various legal aspects you need to consider when advertising using Google Ads for your business. This article explains what they are. 


In New Zealand, if your business handles customers’ personal information, you need to comply with your obligations under the Privacy Act. Personal information is anything that can identify a living person, which can include their:

  • names;
  • email addresses;
  • phone numbers;
  • browsing history;
  • IP addresses; or 
  • financial details.

Privacy Act Rules for Personal Information

To comply with your obligations, you need to follow the Privacy Act’s rules for dealing with personal information, including its:

  • collection;
  • storage;
  • security;
  • disclosure;
  • disposal; and
  • usage.

Therefore, you need to tell customers what you are using their personal information for and who you are sharing it with. Otherwise, you can face penalties under the Privacy Act for interfering with their privacy. These rules apply to all aspects of your business, including your digital marketing. You may engage these rules in situations like:

  • using customer browsing habits to determine keyword popularity;
  • tracking cookies for targeting customers and choosing your target audience;
  • using individual user IDs to assign customer profiles; and
  • using other personal information for assessing ad performance.

Privacy Policy

You may have to share this personal information with Google as well. Therefore, you need to make sure you tell your customers all the ways that you will use their personal information. This includes what you use for engaging Google Ads. An excellent place to explain this is in your privacy policy, which Google requires you to do to use their service as well.

Be Wary of Using Others’ Trade Marks

Another critical issue to avoid is using other businesses’ trade marks in the keywords you choose to bid on for your Google Ads. Many businesses will register trade marks for their business name or their products. Subsequently, they have intellectual property rights in those marks and can enforce their rights against anyone that infringes upon them. If you copy their trade marks and use them as keywords for drawing customers via your ads, you could be infringing on their intellectual property.

This fact will depend on various contextual factors around your online advertising and how you use a competitor’s trade mark for your Google Ads. Through the way that Google Ads functions, customers will not see you using a competitor’s trade mark for your trade, which means that they do not know you are copying or using that competitor’s intellectual property. Therefore, you may be able to avoid legal penalties in some cases.

However, you should not copy or use a competitor’s trade marks within your online advertisements or on your websites without authorisation. The overall context of your online advertising will matter in any future trade mark disputes. Additionally, advertisers or trade mark owners can complain to Google if you use their trade marks without permission, which may lead to you losing access to the Google Ads service.

Protect Your Own Trade Marks

These same trade mark rights apply to your business if you have registered your important trade marks. If another advertiser is using your trade mark in their ads on search results, then you may have legal avenues available to you, as well the option to use Google’s own complaints service. However, proving your trade mark ownership is significantly more difficult if you are relying on an unregistered trade mark. Therefore, you should apply to the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ) to register your valuable business trade marks.

Misleading Your Customers

New Zealand consumer law will also apply to your online advertising, so it is important that you comply with its regulations. Notably, it is illegal to mislead your customers, and you cannot rely on fine print disclaimers to contradict the overall misleading image of an ad.

This fact also relates to the trade mark concerns discussed above. If a customer searches for another business using their trade mark that you have bid on in Google Ads and mistakes your advertisement for your competitor’s business, you may be liable.

Therefore, you must consider both the keywords you choose and your ad content to ensure you avoid deceiving or confusing your customers.

Key Takeaways

Google Ads is a helpful online advertising service that can boost your digital marketing and draw potential clients. However, you need to ensure that you are operating legally when using this service and within Google’s own guidelines. If you would like more information or help with your Google Ads campaign, contact LegalVision’s eCommerce lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Google Ads?

Google Ads is a digital advertising service that lets you display ads according to various search terms your target audience types into Google. You choose keywords, and when customers search for those keywords, your ads will display. Notably, your ranking depends on how much you bid on those keywords

What keywords should I choose for my online advertising?

You should bid on keywords that include your business and product names, as well as any other relevant trade marks that you own. In addition, consider related search terms that customers will Google that would be useful for your business, and include misspellings as well.

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