Google to allow some advertisers to run coronavirus-related ads

Credit: REUTERS/Hannah Mckay

By Elizabeth Culliford

April 2 (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's GOOGL.O Google will begin to allow some advertisers to run ads relating to the coronavirus on its platforms, in a change to its rules on ads around "sensitive events," according to a copy of a memo to advertising clients seen by Reuters.

The memo, sent from Google's head of industry for elections Mark Beatty and first reported by Axios, said Google is beginning to phase in advertisers who want to run ads related to COVID-19, prioritizing those advertisers that are working directly on this issue.

This week, it will allow ads from government entities, hospitals, medical providers, and NGOs that want to get relevant information out to the public.

"Currently we do not allow such ads to run under our Sensitive Events policy, which is designed to protect users by blocking ads that try to capitalize on short-term events like natural disasters," said the memo.

"However, 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," it said.

Beatty said in the memo that Google was planning to allow other advertisers, including political organizations, to run ads related to COVID-19, saying it would have more information to share on this in the next few days.

"We don't have an understanding of the timeframe yet and that's something we're very eager to understand, to make sure we're not continuing to bolster Trump's megaphone," said Mark Jablonowski, the chief technology officer and managing partner of progressive digital ad firm DSPolitical. He had previously criticized Google's ban, saying it could boost President Donald Trump and Republicans atthe Nov.3 elections.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Google told Reuters the lifting of restrictions for some advertisers will be applied across its platforms.

A company spokeswoman also said that it would evaluate whether to allow brands and private companies to run coronavirus-related ads.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford, Additional reporting by Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Aditya Soni and Alistair Bell)

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