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Algorithm Apathy Affecting Ask Ads?

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Jim Lanzone and company want to own the mindshare for the word ‘algorithm’ as their massive advertising campaign to promote that and Ask’s brand continues.

The problem with the work being done for Ask by Crispin, Porter & Bogusky isn’t that it’s too edgy for the typical web surfer, but that it’s not how people are doing search these days.

That’s the contention of Rohit Bhargava, VP for Interactive Marketing at Ogilvy PR Worldwide. In his words, “the algorithm is dying.”

He perceived three flaws in Ask’s approach, one that is being fueled by some $100 million of Ask-owner IAC’s dollars. One, he said, is that no one cares about the algorithm:

This is a fact which they already note above, stating that consumers don’t care how they get search results as long as they work. Everyone in the tech industry is trying to be more “human” with their advertising – but Ask inexplicably decides to go the other way and focus on the algorithm.

Bhargava attributed the growth of human influence in search and social networking as another reason why the algorithm is declining in importance. Finally, he stated that Ask’s core value isn’t in the algorithm at all.

It’s a point where we tend to agree with him. Our previous talks with Gary Price, Ask’s director of online information resources, have always been compelling because he has been able to demonstrate with technologies like Smart Answers, Ask Mobile, and Ask City that their real value is information at one’s fingertips.

Technology Evangelist blogger Ed Kohler commented on Bhargava’s story with an apt observation: “I think they should consider switching to “Find Stuff.” People would actually understand that. And they can spell it.”

Algorithm Apathy Affecting Ask Ads?
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  • Rohit

    The really interesting thing about this is that I suspect there are lots of smart folks at Ask who already know the truth about the algorithm and are asking similar questions about this campaign. I wonder if Ask did any polling or checking internally before going out with this campaign? At the very least, it certainly demonstrates the danger of going with a creative idea without doing the due diligence to confirm that it makes sense strategically …

  • jason maurer

    I don’t think the campaign’s audience is the *general* consumer. The average surfer thinks Google IS the internet.

    I suspect there’s a sweeter target here, and that’s people who are tired of getting dumb search results. These folks are primed for a more intelligent search engine. Crispin has chosen to deliver that message in a way that doesn’t underestimate their intelligence.

    Personally, I think that’s pretty smart. Whether it works or not, I guess we’ll see.

    I agree that Ask’s Smart Answers and Binoculars are great, but they’re not all that proprietary. THe meat of why Ask is better is that Teoma algorithm.