Google To Lift Ban On Coronavirus-Related Advertisements

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Medical bodies, governmental agencies and NGOs to be allowed to run Covid-19 ads, followed by political organisations, Google confirms

Google is to begin allowing non-governmental entities to run advertisements related to the novel coronavirus and Covid-19 across its platforms, in a change from its policy of recent weeks.

Since February, advertisers have been restricted from placing pandemic-related advertisements under Google’s “Sensitive Events” policy.

The policy aims to prevent people from capitalising on short-term events such as natural disasters, but Google said it is now planning to allow coronavirus-related ads from a “limited” range of entities.

“We are looking at ways to support limited Covid-19-related ads from hospitals, medical providers, government entities, and NGOs,” Google said in a statement.

coronavirus Image credit: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
Image credit: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

Political ads

The company’s remarks follow the leak of a memo by Google’s head of industry for elections, Mark Beatty, indicating a change in its Covid-19 advertising policies.

In the memo, first reported by Axios, Beatty said that from this week Google would allow ads from government entities, hospitals, medical providers and non-governmental organisations for the purposes of distributing relevant information to the public.

Political organisations are to be added to the list of permitted bodies in the coming days, said the memo, which was sent to Google’s political advertising clients.

“Coronavirus has become an ongoing and important part of everyday conversation, including a relevant topic in political discourse and for many advertisers in different sectors,” Beatty said in the memo.

Criticism

The shift follows criticism by Democrats that the policy limited their ability to critique the US administration’s response to the pandemic.

“It’s obviously the right move to reverse this ban. I don’t know how Google ever thought that this was a tenable position,” Democratic National Committee chief mobilisation officer Patrick Stevenson told Reuters.

He added that Google’s policy had “benefited Trump’s re-election campaign”.

Google said the shift is to be applied across its platforms.

The company said it is also evaluating whether to allow private companies to run coronavirus-related ads.

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