A set of leaked documents have revealed some fascinating details about who is buying advertising around Google's search results.
The files were leaked to Advertising Age and show that in June AT&T was the biggest spending customer of search advertising, which wasn't unusual considering the amount of buzz around Apple's new iPhone.
But the surprising data in the files was the amount BP ramped up its spending during the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which leaked millions of gallons of crude into the sea.
BP had been spending a modest amount, around $57,000 per month, on advertising around certain of Google's search keywords. However, in June of this year spending spiked upwards to nearly $3.3m as the company sought to make sure it was reaching people searching for details of the spill.
"We can't comment on these figures because we haven't seen the document in question or determined what these numbers represent," Dennis Woodside, vice president of Google Americas Operations told the publication.
"We're now looking into the possibility that someone improperly disclosed confidential information about our clients, and [we] will take all appropriate action."
The documents show that BP bought up advertising around the search terms " oil spill," "leak," "top kill" and "live feed." In light of the estimated $100m that the company spends on advertising the Google payments are a drop in the ocean, but this is the first time the company has invested significantly in online advertising around a specific issue.
"Google has become the remote control for the world; it's the first stop, not TV," said Will Margiloff, chief executive of Innovation Interactive, a unit of Denstu.
"More than any other media, that messaging is requested; people are seeking BP's answers out as opposed to waiting to be told."
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