I wrote earlier about Ask’s guerrilla marketing campaign now underway to raise awareness of the search engine in the UK. I’ve now talked with Ask CEO Jim Lanzone, who explained more about how the campaign is designed to unfold. 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.
Ask is no stranger to television campaigns. The company has run them several times before, including a big one last year. But it was looking for something new than a standard "better features" pitch.
"A better features pitch did work in the US. It worked great. But advertising has to be sustained over time to make a brand difference. See our ad four times and you’re not going to ‘switch’ to Ask," he said.
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.
Television ads will launch in the UK this week, done in a funny style where it seems as if revolutionaries have broken into a regular TV program to demand that people think about choice. Radio ads are also going, and I’ve already shown examples of billboard-style ads in the London Underground. Ask is even doing light displays on Westminster Abbey.
The TV ads will mostly be unbranded at first, to build buzz about the change idea, then change after the first 10 days to promote Ask itself. The site itself changes tonight with the Ask connection becoming apparent.
I think understanding that the intent is for the Ask brand to emerge helps defuse a lot of what at first seems a negative attack on Google.
Some of those visiting the site now clearly have come away with the idea that Ask is trying to wage some secret whispering campaign against Google. The fact it’s tied into this TV campaign, a teaser campaign that was planned to change, certainly eases the tone.