Posted June 21, 2007 4:30 pm by with 11 comments

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Ask has a new television commercial. And, yep, it’s . . . disappointing. Yes, the Lisa makes incredible points about how they’re still objectifying the opposite sex and how googling ogling Kato Kaelin is just plain weird. And yes, their campaign since hiring CB+P has been disjointed and disappointing. But since she’s covered all that so well, I hardly have anything to add. So I’ll quote her:

I get that they’re trying to be funny and lighthearted and warm and fuzzy-inspiring, but they’re failing. They’re failing so bad that they’re insulting the people they’re supposed to be attracting. Instead of me becoming an outspoken brand evangelist telling you how great is, I’m sitting here fuming over their ads. When do users get to search for something intelligent? Do we always have to be idiots?

(And when can they find something that’s, y’know, useful?)

With that ringing endorsement, watch the commercial.

(video via Nathan Weinberg)

Musically, well… I really think they’re trying to evoke Gilbert and Sullivan here. You know, The Mikado, Pirates of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore. (Oh, just pretend you know what I’m talking about. I’ll admit. I like opera—and I don’t mean the browser.) Pretty much the most astoundingly ingenious lyrics and lyrics+music combo in the English language.

But these commercials are not the very model of the modern major advertising campaign. They are not mindbending and clever. They’re more like mindnumbing and ho hum.

There, I said it. As much of a stir as the commercials have caused (even here on Marketing Pilgrim), they’re HO HUM. They draw plenty of attention to themselves, but not very much to Ask. Yeah, it’s there hovering in the background, and if you’re squinting during the last 5 seconds, you can even see their logo and slogan.

I admit that they have us, the search world, talking, but we already know all about Ask. The Lisa, Andy and I were in a private advanced screening of Ask 3D. (We like the interface. Really, we do.)

But we’re not who they want to—no, need to—make talk. Are these ads reaching the average person, or are they insulting them? Or are they making Ask out to be the soft porn/D-list celebrity search engine we’ve all been waiting for?

But here, just to make them feel good, a backhanded compliment: it’s better than chicks with swords.

And I simply must end with Gilbert and Sullivan. It seems they watched Ask’s commericals, too:

– To understand this, it is not necessary to think of anything at all.
– Let us think of nothing at all!

  • I’m not sure what Ask is trying to convey here… we provide the most relevant results on obscure searches like “chicks with swords” and “Kato Kaelin”? Well, Yippeee!!!

  • Yikes! – maybe CB+P is going for the “so bad, you can’t help talking about it” angle – at least I hope that’s their intent.

  • Sorry, but I have to call bullshit on this one – Kato (a man, despite his hair) is the one being objectified. Unless that was your point (and I don’t think that it was since you described as “still objectifying the opposite sex” – which means a continuation of what they’ve been up to, i.e.: “Chicks with swords”). And yes, while it weird, it also makes a great point, namely that can help you find the weird, the bizarre, and yes, even the unpopular/long-since-over-it/my-god-who-would-want-this-stuff in mass quantities, no less.

    Quizno’s took a similar approach with their (gross) dead, singing hamsters and it worked like a charm; I think is getting what they’re looking for with their off-color, offbeat ad campaign: word-of-mouth.

  • I think there are some legitimate criticisms to be made of these commercials, but it also smells a bit elitist to me. Take a look at Google Hot Trends. “cats that look like hitler” is a #4 search. People search for funny, weird crap. These ads play to that, while poking fun at it (and yes, us) at the same time.

  • Jordan McCollum

    Yes, Jeff, that was exactly what I meant. And it is a continuation of “Chicks with swords” because it is objectifying the opposite sex. It’s just the opposite opposite sex of last time.

  • @Chuck – true, but why make ads that appeal to those that search for the obscure? It just seems like Ask is trying to be too clever.

  • Andy, I think you missed my point. People *do* search for weird obscure things, thus “cats that looks like hitler” is a top search result. These ads are playing to what people really search for, but in a cartoonish/stylized way.

  • @Chuck – fair enough, but these are still obscure search terms (popular right now, but not mainstream), which casts as the search engine for obscure terms. I’m pretty sure the people using Google do so because they trust Google to find results for mainstream terms.

    I guess we’re all subjective, the real test will be if Ask can improve its audience share from running the ads.

  • Hasn’t now made the most TV commercials out of all the major search engines? Yet they remain last? I’ve seen Yahoo commercials but it’s been awhile and the only MSN commercial was that “follow the butterfly” one from back in the day.

    And has Google ever had a TV commercial? Or even any kind of traditional mass advertising?

    I still think Ask should spend their money working on “The Algorithm” so that it does provide noticeably more reliable and relevant results consistently than the other major search engines for the average Internet user instead of producing more lame commercials.

    I put together all of the search engine TV commercials including the old Ask ads (before they booted Jeeves!) on my blog last year if anybody is interested –

  • They are showing the below advert over here in Europe, a lot better than the above video. 🙂

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