Overture Says No To Guns, Sort Of

Google's pretty well known for not allowing gun ads, which can get gun merchants upset that porn ads are allowed but gun ads aren't. But Overture doesn't allow gun ads, as well. A new move? That's what I wondered when the issue came up on our forum thread Overture now banning gun related ads? last November.

Overture told me a ban on gun ads had been in place for over two years. But then forum moderator AussieWebmaster noted that a search for gun on Overture brought back some paid listings. Checking again today, I see one there that leads to a hunting web site that sells pistols, shotguns, rifles and revolvers. So if there is a ban, it's a leaky one.

Meanwhile, there's nothing in Overture's listing guidelines that seems to advertisers that gun ads are not allowed. In contrast, there are special regulations for:

  • Adult sites: can only bid on certain terms; must carry disclaimer.
     
  • Gambling sites: not allowed.
     
  • Online pharmacies: must gain third party approval in order to advertise; Canadian pharmacies aren't supposed to market to Americans.

The guidelines also had specific rules until some time within 2004 covering:

  • Job/Employment: terms "job" and "employment" could only be sold to web sites dealing specifically with "an employee/employer relationship." IE, services such as job interview preparation weren't allowed.
     
  • Cars/Auto: To big on the term "car" or related terms sites had to offer cars for sale, rental or lease, repair services or information.
     
  • Wine: Sites selling win had to be approved by a third party service, similar to how the current online pharmacy approval program works.

You can see the old guidelines here. They're dated from June 2003 and no longer linked to on the Overture web site (that I can see), but I could still find them through a search on both Yahoo and Google.

If those guidelines are dated June 2003, why do I say they were still active at some point in 2004? Google's cached copy of a version of the current page still shows information about the job, car and wine ad restrictions in place and a 2004 copyright date at the bottom (the date of the Google page cache itself is useless. A server error appears to give the page a date of 1969).

Going back to the forum discussion, some correspondence from Overture's support department has been posted suggesting that gun ads aren't a problem, as long as they don't involve assault weapons.

The entire thing underscores the fact that if there are going to be restrictions placed on any ad, then these should be spelled out clearly for advertisers before ads are actually placed. Google seems to have finally learned this lesson, with an expanded set of rules that was published in November: Google Posts New Ad Guidelines. It seems like Overture may have more spelling out that it needs to do, as well.

Postscript: Overture tells me there is indeed a ban on ads for sites that sell or give away "Automatic weapons, military-style assault weapons, as well as products and parts that make these weapons work." and that a policy on this is being readied for publication on its site. Postscript 2: Guidelines have now been posted, as covered here: Yahoo Posts Ad Guidelines & Ad API Info