Event Ticket Resellers and Google AdWords
The issue of event tickets being snapped up and re-sold has been gaining increasing attention in recent months. In fact, it’s felt like something of a problem for many years.
Across sporting events, concerts and a range of other forms of entertainment, it often appears that high demand events are sold out quickly, only for tickets to appear on the secondary market (at inflated prices) fairly rapidly. Whether you’re wanting to go to a gig, or watch you favourite football team in action, this can feel unfair: ordinary spectators and fans are often left paying a premium.
Google undoubtedly plays a role within this burgeoning situation. Inevitably, when many of us choose to buy tickets, we start the process with a search. Google’s dominance within the marketplace ensures that it’s right here that we commence our search in most cases. What do we find when we conduct such searches? Often, we’re presented with a range of options: some of those may be from primary sellers (ie those who have been officially accepted as sellers by promoters and venues), but others may be resellers. Consumers may find the situation confusing.
Earlier this week, Google issued clear guidance on how they wish to approach the issue. What are the implications here for consumers and advertisers alike? If we take a closer look at the measures that are being implemented and why, then we start to get a clearer picture.
Firstly, Google have suggested that resellers demonstrate a lack of transparency. This may surface in terms of hiding information about the actual cost of a ticket, fees associated with making a purchase and, in some cases, whether that reseller has some form of certified link to the venue or promoter. All of these elements can add up to confusion for the consumer.
But it’s not just consumers who are suffering from the impact here: legitimate, established businesses can become tarred by the same brush. In effect, as we lose trust in the entire marketplace, we may struggle to identify the good guys. There’s also a problem here for Google: they want all of us to trust their results. If we start to receive results that are unclear, or that appear to be aimed at causing confusion, then our trust in Google slips a little too.
That’s the background to why Google appear to have decided to take action, but precisely what action are they taking? Well, with immediate effect, they have taken the decision to implement a much more stringent process of certification.
Every event reseller is being required to seek certification. This will mean that they will need to demonstrate:
- Transparency in disclosing that they are a reseller
- That there is no attempt to suggest that they are a primary seller
- Clear pricing, with nothing being hidden from view
- The entire fee (including taxes) being displayed prior to purchase, so that there aren’t any nasty shocks for the consumer
- Provision of the face value of the ticket, as well as the price that they are selling it for
That last step is a powerful one. Although Google are saying that it won’t be implemented until March, it will provide a considerable level of transparency. When we land on a reseller’s website and see that we’re being asked to pay £150 for a ticket, we’ll also be able to see that it was originally made available for £28.
Advertisers were given a heads-up in November, when the Google AdWords terms and conditions changed.
We believe that this is a positive change. The problem that’s being tackled here is, of course, far wider than AdWords. Ultimately, when sports teams play or bands perform in concerts, it’s because they wish to entertain their fans. Resellers have limited the initial supply in many cases and are then driving up prices. This doesn’t benefit anyone, other than the resellers themselves.
The entire problem can’t be solved, but Google undoubtedly has considerable responsibility, as a result of the evident market dominance in the UK. What they’re proposing here isn’t driving resellers out of business, but it is levelling the playing field. We see that:
- Consumers will now be able to identify whether they are dealing with an official, primary seller, or with a reseller
- There will be a chance for consumers to see precisely what level of “mark-up” has been added by the reseller
- Consumers should be protected from hidden fees to a greater extent
- Official, primary sellers will have the chance to be separated more clearly from resellers. As part of this, pricing differentials will become clear
- Genuine resellers who are looking to run legitimate businesses will welcome this level of transparency
Changes in Google’s terms and conditions often fly below the radar. In this case, however, we see a positive change that is likely to be welcomed by consumers, together with many other participants within the sector. Finally, it helps to build trust both in AdWords and in advertisers more widely.
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