Ask Welcomes Back Jeeves, At Least In The UK, That Is

new jeevesIt has been well over three years since Ask.com has retired Jeeves. Ever since then, many searchers and internet users have asked for his return. Today, Jeeves has come out of retirement, at least in the UK, where he returns as the brand behind the search engine. Visiting uk.ask.com or any of the URLs should now give you the revitalized Jeeves character, when accessed within the UK.

The new character has been transformed into a 3D icon, replacing its 2D counterpart. The 3D version will be found on the Ask UK home page and on the right hand side of the search results. The character will offer searchers additional search options, interact with the searcher on their query and more. When I asked for more specifics, Ask’s reply was, “you will want to wait and see.”

ask-ui-new-jeeves

Cesar Mascaraque, managing director of Ask Jeeves Europe and former Googler, shared a YouGov poll, where Ask polled their UK users and found that Jeeves had 83% brand awareness, even after retiring Jeeves three years ago. Compare that to Ask.com’s 72% awareness, and the Ask team felt it was the right move to make, bringing back Jeeves in the UK.

“Our users have emphatically told us that they find Jeeves enhances their search experience – adding character to what can otherwise be a very functional experience. They see Jeeves as approachable and trustworthy and, above all, helpful,” Mascaraque said.

Mascaraque explained that Ask focused hard on improving their core search over the past year. Mascaraque said they have achieved on that level (I still disagree), but they needed to also focus on the perception of the search engine.

The Ask UK team will backup the new 3D Jeeves character with a major marketing and PR push. The marketing effort will be broken into two phases:

  1. Initial messaging that Jeeves is back and with a lot more answers
  2. Later, a much more targeted approach to buying ads that are contextually relevant to what the user is doing. For example, if someone’s watching a home improvement TV show, the ad that shows might have a question related to home improvement

The campaign will be inclusive of TV ads, radio ads, print ads and online ads. Plus, Ask UK will create a Facebook fan page and Twitter account to continue the message in the social media space.

I asked if bringing back Jeeves is proof that Ask is going back to their 1996 roots? The obvious reply was no, the new Jeeves character is revitalized, quicker, smarter and should be perceived as better.

So why only bring Jeeves back in the UK? Mascaraque explained that the polls they ran in the UK showed a strong desire for Jeeves to make a come back. The same desire was not found in the US, although Ask admitted they did not run similar polls in the US. Nicholas Graham, spokesperson for Ask.com in the US, did remind that you can bring Jeeves back in the US by typing in askjeeves.com into your browser. Mascaraque also added that Jeeves is more of a British character than a US character.

Instead in the US, Ask has been building on its partnership with NASCAR through a series of television ads that in some ways are the opposite of the Ask UK approach. Rather than focusing on a refined butler, these ads revolve around the “Ray family” which asks questions such as if you can drink milk after its expiration date. Said Graham:

“The questions are articulated by the Ray family, our NASCAR fan family that viewers see during race day programming on FOX.  Since the Rays have non-NASCAR questions in their lives, we’re also featuring them beyond so-called ‘race car programming’, on networks and programs that index well against the NASCAR fan audience like Sci Fi, USA and NHL on NBC. The campaign started in mid-February, and we’re on 18 different networks — including AMC, FX, National Geographic Channel, MLB Network, and NFL Network.”

Here’s one of the ads

YouTube Preview Image

Beyond the traditional TV ad spots, Ask has also been running “crawl” ads that appear during shows such as on National Geographic, during NASCAR events and Major League Baseball:

Will we ever see Jeeves make a full return to the US market? I personally believe we will. The NASCAR season is over sometime in November, and although I don’t know if there is a specific time period for the NASCAR and Ask.com partnership, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jeeves make a comeback in the US market in early 2010.

Postscript: Jeeves now has his Facebook page and Twitter account up, as noted by Mashable. Also see related coverage on Techmeme.

Postscript 2: If you’re looking for the other four ads that I’d posted with Ask.com’s permission to YouTube, they’re gone. About a month after this story went up, Ask’s ad agency filed takedown requests with YouTube. Ask didn’t know this happened, so went back to figure out what was going on. Ask learned they only have the rights to show the single ad above for an unlimited time (the crawl ads are also unlimited). So, Hanft Raboy & Partners, I hope you’re happy.

Since Hanft Raboy & Gang kind of irked me, I figured I should learn more about the agency. Ironically for a company working with a search engine, they seem clueless to SEO. They’ve got an all-Flash site that’s pretty uncrawlable. This is what you get when you search for them:

Clueless Ad Agency

“Get Flash,” now there’s a nice creative message.

I’d link to the page that explains what they do, but — given that it’s all in Flash — I can’t. But I especially loved this part:

Our work combines deep cultural and consumer insights with a rare understanding of business realities. Our clients don’t just work with us, they experience us.

Here’s a business reality. You probably kind of tick off your clients if, after they work really hard to get some attention for those ads you produced for them, later find out you’ve gone out without checking with them first to yank them off the web. I mean, it was probably pretty hard to click from the links in those videos that led to this story, see that Ask was quoted, see that they had given me permission to post them and think hmm, maybe we should talk to someone before filing some time-wasting takedown requests.

I get that there might be issues that prevent these ads from being posted online, such as the need to pay additional fees to the actors. Then again, maybe they’re aren’t any. And if not, another business reality is allowing the ads to stay up with the agency’s own permission might have been a smart move.

Oh, and another business reality is that a lot of people these days interact with web sites via search. I know you’re all into the creative and want to make people “nervous enough to be challenged” with your ads, as your What We Do page says. But you might want to demonstrate some basic awareness of one of the primary ways consumers interact with brands on the web — through search.

Related Topics: Ask: Promotions | Channel: Industry | Features: Analysis | Top News

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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