Google Serves Up Apple Ads For Search Term "Sex Game Apps"

While yes it would be an amazing feat of hypocrisy if Apple actually advertised against the search term “Sex Game Apps” that is not what is happening here, even though this specific Google Ads juxtaposition is worth noting due to Apple’s stringent attitude towards featuring sexually explicit materials in the App Store.

So what is actually going on? Crunchgear’s Greg Kumparak has a pretty solid theory; Due to the fact that Google won’t advertise for actual sex sites (only sex education-related sites pass muster), when a user searches for blacklisted stuff like “Sex Game Apps” the Google AdWords (and/or Automatic Match) algorithm treats the word “sex” as invisible and focuses on serving up ads triggered by the whitelisted keywords “Game Apps” in bold. Hence, why the iPod touch ad shows up above despite not having any mention of sex. The same trick works for “Nazi Game Apps” and myriad other racy iterations.

While AdWords loopholes like this are nothing new (try “Android Apps Boobs” if you’d like the Android compatible version), Apple’s inadvertent advertising against people searching for something the App Store explicitly doesn’t allow is enough to at least consider a change in policy, on either Google or Apple’s part.

Update: Search expert Danny Sullivan more precisely explains what is going on here in the comments.

“It’s not that “sex” is being treated as invisible or is on a blacklist. It’s because Apple is buying the phrase “game apps” on a broad-match basis — which means anything plus those words will trigger that ad. For example, search for “i hate apple game apps,” and voila — there’s the ad. The fact that the words “games” and “apps” are bolded tell you what they bought.”

Sullivan tells TechCrunch that while Google doesn’t blacklist specific words, the more interesting fact about the above image is that Apple isn’t excluding the word “Sex” from their Google AdWords buying policy, where the company could chose to ensure that an ad would NOT show up for a search term. Sullivan also explains that this is probably an oversight on Apple’s part and they will most likely turn what’s going on above off soon.