Basically, a competitor to Marriott buys a Google ad at auction using keywords like the chain’s slogan. When someone searches for that, it brings up the competitor in the ad box on the side of the search results. It’s something that’s been going on for at least four or five years, though the Journal acknowledges it’s been building for a while.

As a result, Google could face a backlash as it attempts to grab a bigger share of other advertising niches, including display advertising and video ads. Big advertisers say they may punish Google if they aren’t satisfied with the way the piggybacking dispute is dealt with. “This does play into our decision of overall spending—it has to,” says Michael Menis, vice president of global marketing services at InterContinental.

Maybe this will send all the advertisers running back to newspapers. Kidding!

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.