Ask Goes To The Tubes

    March 14, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

A swiftly-outed faux guerrilla marketing campaign in London by the Ask search engine has drawn positive and negative responses from observers.

Posters spotted by blogger Ben Werdmuller and posted to his Nuclear Sledgehammer site led sleuths to determine the Profero ad agency, retained by Ask, was behind the The ads had been posted in places in the London Underground.

Searching for Google on the UK version of Ask brings up a link to Information-Revolution. Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan pinned down Ask’s CEO Jim Lanzone about the campaign:

He said it’s all meant in good fun, not to be negative about Google, but rather to wake “sleep searchers” up to the choices they have in search. And I have to agree — when you understand more about what’s planned, it is pretty funny.

In particular, Ask wants to build up the idea that the “sleep search” choice shouldn’t be how people select their search engines.

“Google dominates the media. We need another way around the mountain. It’s been frustrating to continually launch critically-praised products, only to have 62 percent of UK users give little or no thought to which search engine they use. We call that ‘sleep searching,’ and we want to wake them up,” he explained.

Additional advertising will appear in London on TV, radio, and even in lights on Westminster Abbey, according to Lanzone.

Early impressions of the campaign have drawn a mix of comments. Clickinfluence’s Nick Wilson posted a negative review of what he has seen, and also noted Profero works for Yahoo as well as Ask:

It seems that Search underdog ASK, is engaged in a little dirty tricks campaign against Google. Not only that though, the campaign, dressed up as a grassroots movement against information monopoly, is far less than transparent.

Wilson further called the ad campaign “a pretty stupid way” to undermine a competitor.

As dirty tricks go, it’s hard to drop Lanzone and company into the same category as the Enron crew. Wilson and the negative commentors at Information-Revolution may be taking the message too seriously.