Anyone with experience dealing with Google’s pay-per-click advertising platform AdWords knows that the company can and will reject advertisements for a variety of reasons, and often for rather opaque reasons. Now, online advertising agencies can add one more possible reason for rejection to the list: marketing clothes to plus-size women.
This January, BuzzFeed reports that AdWords rejected a clothing company’s proposed Gmail ad for “body type and personality targeting,” or rather, targeting Gmail users whose emails contained keywords like “curvy” or “plus-size.” The company in question was reported to be the well-known clothing retailer Ashley Stewart.
Most consumers realize that vast amounts of their personal data, online activity, and social media accounts are fair game for advertisers, now that companies are aiming to better identify likely customers online. So how exactly did this plus-size clothing company cross the line?
The company’s online advertising agency wrote in a (now deleted) blog post, “Here’s something we’ve never seen before — one of our client’s accounts had an ad disapproved for ‘body type and personality targeting.'”
And according to the official “Disapproval Reason” from Google cited by the agency, “Given the unique nature of Gmail ads and how users interact with these ads, we’ve developed an additional layer of policy requirements specific to Gmail ads. At this time, Gmail Advertising policy does not permit promotion of products and services that targets individuals with negative physical attributes such plus size, curvy. To run your ads, please remove any content related to body type and personality targeting from your ad or site.”
Looking past the typos, it appears that per Google’s Gmail advertising policy, “curvy” and “plus-size” women possess “negative physical attributes.”
It didn’t take long for Google’s PR department to kick into gear.
“We have very specific policies on the types of ads we allow in Gmail,” a spokesperson told BuzzFeed. “The email our team sent to explain this was poorly worded and we’ve made changes to fix this moving forward.”
Some PPC experts argue that Google’s policy puts unfair restrictions on PPC marketing services. For instance, support.google.com lists “anti-aging, fine-lines, anti-wrinkle, plus-sized, curvy, etc.” as possible violations of Google’s prohibition on body-type and personality-type targeting.
As more and more advertising dollars are spent online, particularly through search advertising platforms like AdWords, it appears that even Google still has some kinks left to work out of its system.