If you do a search on the term “DBCP” on google.com, Dole shows up in the “sponsored links” sidebar. If you mention DBCP in an article published on a site containing Google ads, the same ad shows up again. The link is called “Dole DBCP Facts”.
DBCP is a chemical formerly used in pesticides, the same chemical under scope in the recent banana pesticide trials. In 2007, Dole was sentenced to pay punitive damages to six workers claiming to have been sterilized by DBCP (this is the case featured in the film BANANAS!*).
Apparently, Dole is paying Google to be on top of the search results when users are trying to find information about the trials and DBCP.
However, if you do a search on the term “Fredrik Gertten”, the director of BANANAS!*, you get the same results. This probably means that Dole is paying for the keywords “Fredrik Gertten”. This also means every time someone writes something (a word is enough) about Gertten and BANANAS!*, the same link appears in the “ads by Google” space included on thousands of websites.
How does it work?
Dole is using an automated ad system called AdSense. If you want to use the system on your site, you reserve some space for Google, and the system recognizes keywords in the content of your site and places ads that match your content. Ideally, an article about bananas has ads about bananas.
On the other end, if you want to sell bananas, you use a service called AdWords. You invest in the word "bananas", and if that word appears in a text online, there is a chance your ad pops up. To set this up, you need to tell Google you’d like to spend a certain sum of money on your keyword, let’s say a $100. This sum is now your investment budget. As soon as someone clicks on your ad, a small amount of this budget is used. The more money you invest in your ad words, the more often they show. In the end, the site owner gets paid by Google for providing the ad space.
So where do you end up if you click on Dole’s ad?
It’s always the same link, an ad called Dole DBCP Facts, a page that doesn’t really contain any facts about the pesticide DBCP. Instead, it’s a list of Dole’s court documents related to the banana pesticide cases and the lawsuit against BANANAS!*. Sure, this is a nice little initiative in corporate transparency, but there is one big problem: where are all responses to Dole’s documents? We replied to every single cease-and-desist-letter they sent to us that are listed there.
Bananas about "Bananas!*"
Pidde Andersson, Xomba.com
June 13, 2010
Google går bananas (in Swedish)
Andreas Ekström, Sydsvenskan
May 29, 2010
Smutskastningen kan börja (in Swedish)
Andreas Ekström, Journalisten.se
May 26, 2010
Related articles on this site:
When Fredrik Gertten held a speech at the LA premiere, he mentioned the sponsored links. Watch the speech here »
The BANANAS!* lawsuit »
(All documents related to the lawsuit against BANANAS!*)
The letters from Dole »
(The cease-and-desist letters preceding the lawsuit)