Google Accused of (But Denies) Giving Obama Special Ad Access

    June 18, 2011
    Chris Crum

A bit of political controversy has erupted around Google and an Obama ad that recently ran. Long story short: The National Republican Senatorial Committee has suspicions that Google gave the Obama campaign a special deal on a new type of ad (Cost-per-lead), which the company is currently testing. Google denies this notion, and that the ad in question was even a Google ad.

Do you believe Google? Let us know in the comments.

Politico ran an interesting article about unconfirmed and denied suspicions that Google had given President Obama a special deal on an as-of-yet released advertising product. The publication reports that a staffer at the National Republican Senatorial Committee saw “what appeared to be an Obama ad built on this technology” at the site RealClearPolitics last month, and then emailed Google asking about running the same kind of ad for Republicans.

The Google saleswoman reportedly replied, “This is a pre-alpha product that is being released to a select few clients. I’d be happy to get you into the beta if you’re interested.” Politico then quotes the NRSC communications director as saying that this “raises some red flags that the Obama campaign appears to have been given special access to a new online advertising product.”

The article quotes Google spokesman Jake Parrilo as saying that the email contained inaccurate “puffery” by the sales rep, and that the ad that appeared on RealClearPolitics wasn’t even a Google ad. Google has chalked the whole thing up as a “mistake” by the rep.

Fox News says: “Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told that the Obama campaign did not purchase any of the ‘cost-per-lead’ ads through Google. Google’s press office also denied that the president’s reelection effort got any early deal, considering the ‘cost-per-lead” program has not even been rolled out yet.'”

Parrilo is also quoted as saying, “This is an experiment and while we generally do not comment on those experiments we can tell you that we have not sold a single CPL [cost-per-lead] ad unit to any political candidates or committees.”

So, by Google’s account, the ad the NRSC is talking about wasn’t even their ad, and the kind of ad they’re talking about has not been sold to any political candidates. As you might imagine, there are plenty of people chiming in in the comments of Politico’s report. Here are a few:

“Google is all about control and knowing every inch of your life and so is the Obama administration. They make a perfect fit IF that’s what you want your life to be.”

“Notice the key words in their denials. They claim Obama hasn’t paid for the service and Obama claims he hasn’t paid them for a service. It was most likely given to him for free. So technically they’re telling the truth.”

“If this turns out to be true…..a deal between Obama and Google, I will immediately eject Google from my computers.”

“I Bing…I don’t use Chrome.”

Google’s history with the Obama administration draws plenty of scrutiny from onlookers. Former CEO and current executive chairman Eric Schmidt is a well known Obama supporter, and was named to Obama’s Science and Technology advisory council. In late 2008 alone, it was reported that six Google execs had donated $25,000 a piece to fund Obama’s swearing-in party. That includes Dick Costolo, who is now CEO of Twitter, by the way.

NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh told that Google has reached out to the committee. Walsh reportedly told the site in an email, “They claim this was a misunderstanding. We are currently examining that but certainly the appearance raises a red flag when you consider that Google executives have contributed almost a million dollars to President Obama’s political campaigns.”

In a 2008 post on Google’s Public Policy Blog addressing the company’s political advertising policies, Peter Greenberger wrote, “We permit political advertisements regardless of the political views they represent, and apply our policies equally. Just as the Net itself provides space for a thousand political opinions to bloom, Google is committed to being a neutral platform for people to advertise their political messages.”

An interesting side story here is that Google has separate ad teams that run Republican and Democratic campaigns. These teams, Politico says it was told by Parrillo, are unaware of the other side’s projects or deals. Google spokesperson Rob Shilkin also told Search Engine Land, “As our clients know, when we experiment with new products like this, our sales teams always has, and always will, offer the exact same opportunity to both sides of politics, at the same time. Our Democratic and Republican sales teams are strictly separated from each other and are charged with offering the absolutely best online ad solution for their respective clients.”

Is this being blown out of proportion, or do you think there are legitimate “red flags” being raised? Tell us what you think.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.