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How Google Killed Our Ads

An online knife retailer is fighting Google AdWords over their banned ads--while big-box retailers seem to get off scott free.
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When Google AdWords informed Knife Depot that it would be terminating their account in November of last year, the internet knife shop did not back away from the fight. In fact, they recently took it to their blog, The Cutting Edge

"Google told us they would be terminating our AdWords account unless we removed all of our 'assisted opening knives,' which are legal, hugely popular across the U.S, and not prohibited in Google’s policy," wrote Daniel Lawton, a Knife Depot blogger. 

Yesterday, the Knife Depot blog post made it onto Hacker News, where it ignited a firestorm of David vs. Goliath-style rants. Knife Depot is an online knives retailer based out of Prairieville, Lousiana and accoridng to Lawton, the company's AdWords ads were responsible for a "good slice of its revenue." 

The current Google AdWords policy states that "Google doesn't allow the promotion of knives, such as butterfly knives (balisongs) and switchblades, in addition to disguised knives, such as air gauge, belt buckle, lipstick case and writing pen knives,"--no mention of assisted opening knives. 

But here's the kicker: What especially upset Knife Depot and its supporters about this termination was that other retailers--big-box retailers--are still allowed to utilize their Google AdWords accounts to advertise the very same knives that resulted in Knife Depot's account being shut down. 

A quick Google search for "assisted opening knives" earlier this morning confirmed claims made in Lawton's blog post: "Save on Kershaw knives assisted opening," read an ad by Amazon.com. A sponsored bar on top of the search results encouraged the reader to "shop for assisted opening knives on Google," listing various options from five retailers such as Galls, Bass Pro Shop, and Walmart. 

According to the Knife Depot post, the Google employee who was handling their complaint about this "blatant favoritism" acknowledged that other companies were still selling and advertising the assisted opening knives. That Google employee reportedly told Knife Depot that he has alerted his superiors about those seven companies and requested that Google "state the clear differences that allows these competitors to serve and Knife Depot to be suspended."

When reached for comment, Google spokesperson said, "Our AdWords policies do not allow ads for assisted opening knives. This policy applies to all AdWords customers. As soon as we become aware of ads that violate our policy, we work to remove them."

Knife Depot did not return calls for comment. 

IMAGE: stock.xchng
Last updated: Mar 27, 2013

JANA KASPERKEVIC | Staff Writer

Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.




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