Ask Found Jesus, But Doesn’t Want To Talk About It

    April 19, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

If hasn’t gotten much attention because of their search engine lately, they’re at least raising eyebrows through new (and kind of cerebral) ad campaigns. An algorithm that "constantly finds Jesus" but can’t really find itself is beside the point – it’s all about engaging the public and rousing curiosity, says Ask’s VP of marketing.

There have been billboard sightings in New York, LA, and San Francisco – weird billboards with weird sentences and no explanation.
Sentences like:

The Algorithm Is Banned In China

The Algorithm Is From Jersey

The Algorithm Killed Jeeves

And everyone’s favorite, um sort of  —

The Algorithm Constantly Finds Jesus.

That last one has caused more question marks than its weird predecessors. Some thought it was some kind of drive-by religious peddling. Others went the opposite way, wondering if it was making light of entire faith.

But they had one thought in common once they realized it was an campaign: "What are they thinking?"

Says Bruce Clay’s Lisa Barone: "I get that we’re promoting the importance of the algorithm and all, but tell me again why we’re talking about Jesus? When is bringing religion into a conversation a good idea?"

Valleywag asks: "What is Ask’s marketing department on?…we thought for a moment that Ask’s main rival, Google, had funded the campaign. And this latest billboard sighted in Manhattan, though not so obviously self-destructive, is plain bizarre."

When we asked Ask about it, the response was akin to "what’s the big deal?" In fact, CEO Jim Lanzone and Greg Ott, Ask’s VP of marketing, seem to barely remember even mentioning Jesus.

"At," said Lanzone, "we feel that in order to drive consumer awareness and use of our engine, it is important to highlight the uniqueness of our algorithm, which takes a different approach to ranking than our competitors."

Yeah, but, we were asking about the Jesus thing.

"We never thought people would be as curious about it as they are," Ott told WebProNews. "[The campaign] has gotten some great attention and we feel pretty good about it."

Yeah, but, hasn’t anybody yelled at you yet?

"We haven’t gotten too much feedback," Ott said, "The most interesting places we’ve seen talking about it were Valleywag and Flickr."

Hmmm. Guess I need to work on my interestingness.

Though the US campaign is reminiscent of the weirdness lacing the Information Revolution campaign spreading around London’s Underground about the same time, the banned-in-China-Jeeves-is-Dead-Jesus-found-in-Jersey campaign is the brainchild of the same people who’ve been bothering us with morbid street performers in those pretentious anti-smoking surreality spots.

Direct all complaints to Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

Though we’re pretty sure we remember Ask getting at least a little flack over the Information Revolution trickery, Ott says Londoners really liked it. "We’ve had more requests for tee-shirts than we’ve had comments."

Okay, enough about the revolution. Let’s get back to the Jesus thing. The slogan seems at least a little risky, especially if the billboards start popping up outside of the blue states. Ott says the Ask marketing team didn’t see any risk in it, nor have they seen any negative response.

Even so, the billboards in question seem doomed to urban life as a nationwide billboard campaign would be "cost-prohibitive."

They’re also kind of Bible-Belt-prohibitive, too, but Ask isn’t sure why.

In a humorous twist, if one wanted to learn more about Ask’s algorithm promotion, they might want to use Google. Searches for the now notorious phrase on Ask only brought back three results, compared to Google’s 933 results.

To be fair, though, only search nerds use quotes around their queries.