1-800 Contacts lawsuit targets Warby Parker’s ad search strategy

Dive brief:

  • Online eyewear retailer 1-800 Contacts filed a lawsuit against Warby Parker in New York City District Court, claiming the direct-to-consumer brand infringed its brands and deceived customers.
  • In its complaint, 1-800 Contacts alleges that Warby Parker purchased advertisements related to Google and other searches of the 1-800 Contacts brand, advertisements that direct consumers to a page on the Warby Parker website that, according to the complainant, “mimics key elements of the 1-800 contacts website.
  • A spokesperson for Warby Parker did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dive overview:

For DTC brands and retailers, search ads have become a mainstay of marketing strategies.

Google, along with Amazon, dominates product search. According to Google’s own survey data, 59% of buyers said they used the tech giant’s platform to research a purchase they planned to make online or in-store. (For strictly online purchases, the figure is 51%.)

For Google, this is an extremely lucrative business, worth over $ 100 billion in sales to the company. It also led to the company coming under scrutiny by antitrust authorities concerned about Google’s power in the search and advertising markets.

Often, brands compete with each other to buy ads for general searches for specific products. It’s a way to grab attention in a large and crowded online environment. Search ads can also prove to be very expensive, analysts say.

“Research is such a critical way for businesses to market themselves because… it’s the only channel where the customer puts their hand up and says, ‘I’m in the market for this product’” Collin Colburn, senior analyst at Forrester, told Retail Dive earlier this year.

According to Colburn, some companies spend more than 50% of their digital advertising budget on paid search. This includes spending on advertising to “defend” the terms of their own brand.

Tying ad buying to competitor brands is also a key strategy for digital marketers. For example, search for “LL Bean” online and you might find ads directing you to the Lands End e-commerce store in the search results.

The 1-800 Contacts lawsuit was filed by a company trying to defend its brand online against such a strategy. The company said in its complaint that consumers often look to its name online to find its online store. Key to its case is the company’s claim that Warby Parker’s landing page for ads mimics its own website.

1-800 Contacts, which is owned by private equity firm KKR, argued in its complaint that Warby Parker’s strategy “unfairly relies on the strength of 1-800 Contacts’ brands by placing advertisements designed to confuse consumers. searching for 1-800 Contacts by, among other things, directing those consumers to a deeply related Warby Parker landing webpage that deceptively and intentionally mimics the look and feel of the 1-800 Contacts website, including use a confusing color scheme, layout and discount offer, as well as images evoking 1800contacts.com. ”

1-800 Contacts seeks to block Warby Parker, a relatively new entrant to the online contact lens market, to use his name “in any way” that may confuse customers, including through search ads. The company also sought damages, compensation for the increased advertising costs “necessary to address any public confusion caused by Warby Parker forgery, “all income Warby Parker made from advertisements and other court remedies.

Brandon D. James