don't Ask11 May 2007
Many years ago, in a parallel universe, I created a Web page that proclaimed:
'The fastest, most comprehensive Web search engine - AltaVista'
With the increasing domination of Google, it really is difficult to remember life back in the days when AltaVista was the only search engine in town and you were even considering sinking 500 quid of your hard-earned into the rumoured IPO. Maybe one day, another startup will come along and usurp Google's #1 position but somehow, I sincerely doubt it.
And if that search engine company turns out to be Ask, I hereby pledge to eat my underpants and buy everyone a season ticket at Manchester City (with complimentary powder blue and white scarf).
Duncan Riley of TechCrunch already posted an excellent summary on Ask's current, abysmal marketing campaign in the UK.
Listen, if you want to get ordinary people to use your search engine, don't use some subtle, understated, pretentious campaign ('Evolve Your Search') with pictures of Neanderthal man, costing millions of dollars, dreamt up by new media luvvies, wearing black shirts and no ties.
Ordinary people don't say: 'Ooh - that looks very interesting indeed. I wonder if that advert is a cryptic reference to a new, exciting search engine technology which will undoubtedly to help me find relevant stuff quickly on the Interweb. The Ask brand has now been subconsciously planted in my mind and I simply must remember to discuss this topic with the lads at work tomorrow.'
Ordinary people say: 'God there's some rubbish adverts on TV these days. Fancy a cup of tea, love ?'
Believe it or not, technically minded people have already heard of Live, Ask and Google and all those niche search engine players (incorporating Web 2.0 semantics).
Believe it or not, those technically minded people are in a tiny minority. They don't know it but they are.
You are not trying to get their attention. There's no point. They look down their nose at you. The only time they use Ask.com is the final choice to determine how many inbound links their tiresome blog has this week.
No, you are trying to get the attention of millions of desperate housewives, builders and silver surfers who have never heard of Google and have to ask their 12 year old son to dig up that Web site for holiday cottages in the Dordorgne. These people don't use IE7 and type their searches directly into the address bar.
A much better campaign would have been:
'Trying to find something on the Internet ? Go to ask.com.'
Black text on white background. Short and to the point. Quicker and therefore considerably cheaper and it probably would have delivered better results than this report from Hitwise suggests .
Well, let's face it - my campaign couldn't have been much worse; 3.69% market share and a staggering 13% down year on year). Come on Ask, only another 62% before you overtake Google.
So, don't Ask, just Google. Like everyone else.