Ask’s Latest Commercial: “Chicks with swords”?




ask logoAsk had a new campaign all ready to go in honor of the launch of the new Ask 3D interface. If you weren’t a fan of their Unabomber ads, maybe you’ll like the new one.

Unfortunately, I still don’t have permissions to embed video (Andy, what can we do about this? – fixed!), so you’ll have to pop on over to YouTube to take a look at Ask’s latest TV ad.

And also unfortunately, this is exactly what I was afraid of when I heard that Crispin Porter + Bogusky was doing their campaign. As Slate’s Seth Stevenson put it, most of CP+B’s ads promote this misogynistic ubermale persona. Is that the only person that Ask wants using “the algorithm”? Then keep it up. (And, as Barry Schwartz notes at Search Engine Land, their results for the query “chicks with swords” are not very cool anyway.)

I think our interview with Ask’s Michael Ferguson does a much better job of not only demonstrating the features of search accurately (the cartoonish simulation in the background vastly overstates the reality of the interface, I think).

On the other hand, there aren’t any sponsored links on that query. Think Ask will allow the fleet fingered to get in on their advertising action?

  • http://www.babeswithblades.com Stuart Jones

    “misogynistic ubermale persona”?

    Hmmm… I really wouldn’t know much about that, but as the owner, web master, photographer and pretty much everything else related to the web site “Babes with Blades” I was very excited when CP+B contacted me and asked to use images from my site. I began the site over 7 years ago wanting to show off my collection of swords and other bladed weaponry. It was my girlfriend who suggested having the gals from her dance class pose with them for additional interest and gave the site its name, “Babes with Blades”. Since then, it has been a great way for us to meet new people (almost our entire social life revolves around it), it’s made me get back into my original field of photography and open another business (Rose & Dagger Studio), allowed me to dabble in web mastering and finally, given me an excuse to buy more swords. All without earning a single dime from the site. I do have to admit though, for a hobby, it beats the hell out of collecting stamps!
    I don’t think I’m bragging too loudly when I say that the images I contributed to this commercial are far better and more fun to look at than that scary Burger King strange thing from CP+B’s other commercials (personally, it gives me the creeps!)
    This is just one sword collector – photographer – web master’s opinion. Fun? You bet! Stop on by sometime and check us out.

    Stuart Jones
    Babes with Blades

  • Jordan McCollum

    Less creepy? Absolutely. But the image that Ask wants to push? Perhaps not.

    Page two of the Slate article looks at the trend in CP+B campaigns for VW, Miller, Haggar and BK. The “misogynistic ubermale persona” quotation is actually based largely on his words:

    “Because it seems that every time it [CP+B] takes over a brand, that brand quickly adopts an off-putting, bullying personality. For instance, Volkswagen’s image throughout the 1990s was laid-back, progressive, and nongendered. Yet when Crispin won the account, its very first set of ads encouraged reckless driving and careless misogyny…. [The "My Fast" ads]

    “I hate this kind of subjugating, behavior-circumscribing, frat-guy approach to humor. I realize it appeals to a certain target demographic (i.e., fratty guys of all ages). But it repels almost everyone else. And there’s a danger in that.”

    I don’t mind your site, per se, I just don’t know if “chicks with swords” was the best advertising slogan for Ask. Oh, I mean instant getification.

  • http://www.adnetworkreviewer.com/ Adnetworks

    Ask’s marketing campaign may be getting some attention, but I’m still not seeing relevent enough results in searches I have performed. Advertising “the algorithm” is one thing, but results are more important to me. I’ll periodically check Ask’s results, and hopefully find what I’m looking for in the future. Right now I’m sticking with Google for search.

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  • http://www.thejasonmurphyshow.com JasonM

    I got my attention without a doubt. My wife, on the otherhand, was much less interested.

    When they roll out their “how to get husband to stop watching TV” commercial, they’ll win her vote.

  • Kalos

    Very catchy commercial to be sure. Too bad I still don’t get any relevant search results. I’ll stick with Google, thanks.

  • Rin

    You just love the word misogyny don’t you?
    I think you need to take a step back, look at what the word really means, and ask yourself if a spunky commercial about a search engine can really be misogynous.

    Ask yourself why women with weapons is misogynous.

    Are you perhaps scared if weapons or powerful women yourself, and projecting your feelings upon others?

  • Jordan McCollum

    Um. . . I’m going to assume that you don’t know that I’m a woman, or that I actually used that word because the Slate article, which I quoted above (see comment 2), used it to describe the campaigns created by this agency.

    It’s not women with weapons that’s misogynous. It’s also not just a “spunky commercial about a search engine.” It’s the way the images are portrayed on the commercial (not necessarily the images themselves, but the the way that they are framed and shot in the commercial). In no way does this glorify powerful women. The message I get, as a woman and a mother, is that women (especially those with swords) are no more than sexual objects for the gratification of men.

  • Frank Trampe

    I have a friend ( not me , of course ) who finds the combination of women and weapons to be terrifying . Personally , I know that women are incapable of handling such manly weapons as swords . Although women can handle small guns , girly men have had access to such weapons for a long time and have posed no threat to manly male dominance . I worry more about the possibility of women entering the workforce in the next decade and about a possible end to our calm watercooler conversations in which we make highly insensitive and misogynist jokes and comments in clouds of manly cigar smoke .

  • One of the Babes

    Ya’ll are funny and read much too much into this. Babes with Blades is a site which glorifies the strength and beauty of women and weapons. The fact that Frank believes that women can not handle such weapons as swords only assures the world to his lack of contact he has with women. I am a Middle Eastern Dancer and teacher, metalsmith, sword maker, mother, WOMAN and a Babe with Blades! Ask.com was very smart because, heck yea, men want to see women in situations they will never have us in. That is the birds and the bees. Get over your feminist hangups and enjoy life. You can’t tell me you are so cold to fantasy! As far as the search engine. It worked for me. I found very important info on ask.com, I had been searching for through yahoo. Plus, I found this. Hahahahaa! You rock Stuart!

  • Jordan McCollum

    It’s really not about the swords. It’s just not. It’s about what the women are (not) wearing. It’s about spending the first ten seconds of a 45 second spot staring at a woman’s butt in lace panties. I’m just not seeing that as empowering to women.

    And Ask.com still doesn’t give great results for “chicks with swords,” considering this page is now in their top 10. I think this wouldn’t be what that guy was looking for.

  • Nathan R.

    You know what, I must say, you all need to chill out. You feminists, calm down, who cares if they are two strings away from nudity, it’s the world we live in, and yeah I know it sucks, but it is, and not much is going to change it. You look at the women’s rights protests, right, it’s a just cause, but then look to the left and do you see how many men mock it. You can’t change humanity, it’s too far down the road for any salvation. Now on the other hand, those of you saying “shutup” to these women, your at fault too. Freedom of speech is one of the greatest things of this country, despite the lack of people excersizing it. You should stop to think how these women feel. And I know it may be hard for half the men out there, admit it, your perverts. Women don’t want to be seen as sex idols when in retrospect a majority of men fantasize about being worshiped for their penis. And I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have fantasies like that but you need to realize that most of these women don’t feel the same way you do. Now back to freedom of speech. Both of you categories, the women need to realize that freedom of speech allows these commercials, and men need to realize freedom of speech allows the women to object to them. It’s a wonderful thing aint it. I’d be more than happy if someone would reply soon, it’s an interesting subject to talk about. And one last thing, I really feel arguing about this is stupid. Go ahead and do your protests women, it’s not going to change. The only way you can get men to stop drooling over you is to castrate them, preferably with a rusty grapefruit spoon, purely for enjoyment. But seriously, does anyone else see how pointell these protests are, you need to be doing more, so much more, signs aren’t going to change minds. But right now it’s the best we’ve got aside from brainwashing. I fully support women’s rights, though I am a male, so please do me another favor women, stop stereotyping men as sex-craving idiots. It makes it hell on the good ones, well, what little there is left. And does it really take a 16 year old to see the points I’ve been making?

  • Jordan McCollum

    I think that commercials like this one do little to help put an end to the stereotype of men as “sex-craving idiots.” In that sense, it’s degrading and cheapening to men, as well. (Who do you think came up with the idea, a man or a woman?)

  • Nathan R.

    Yes but it doesn’t mean all men are. For example, some women are prostitutes (no insult intended), it doesn’t make me feel every woman should be treated as one. Same principle, some men are utter perverts, doesn’t mean we all are. Quite honestly, I myself hate perverted men, there are too many at work and seeing how they treat and view women, it really does sicken me. Did I make this commercial? No. So am I the same as the one who did? I’ll let you answer.

  • Jordan McCollum

    And did I say you were or that all men were? Of course not. Most of the men that live in the real world, I think, are not. My husband finds the commercial offensive.

    I, on the other hand, have been called a lot of things for posting this (and if you look at the original post, all that I said was paraphrasing a man’s perspective of CP+B and that “Chicks with swords” isn’t a great slogan for Ask.com). I have been directly or indirectly accused of being frigid, humorless, afraid of powerful women, ignorant, and a feminist, none of which I am, either.

    All that I want is for people (men and women) to respect themselves and one another.

    The question that I asked (comment 13) was sincere.

  • Nathan R.

    Heh, I’m not arguing with you, I know ya didn’t accuse me of that, I was throwing it out there, I happened to be on a roll. I though, didn’t find the commercial offensive really, it didn’t surprise me much due to the world we live in where every major comedy has sex drugs and violence (the third I like though…). If it had been a woman searching for “dudes with swords” it would have had the same effect on me. It isn’t offensive, I found this whole thing to just be pointing out the obvious (no offense) allthough I do agree that when they do take over a company the advertisment becomes more.. what’s the word.. risque? I don’t find you to be any of those, infact quite the opposite. You are able to point out these things when the most of us accept it as normality. As for the real world I think it’d be the opposite, it seems to me everyone living in the real world is at fault. Well from where I sit, I know three people that go into work stoned and or drunk everyday, some who have pornographic material in their lockers, one that is on probation for dealing drugs, several racsists and sexists, I think it takes a special mind to realize errors and faults in soceity. Therefore, that’s why I feel the real world is the screwed up one, and that those who live in their own reality are respectful of themselves and others

  • Nathan R.

    To the violence thing, it goes to a certain extent, no gang war, that’s just plain dumb, I was talking of horror movies and the like, just to be clear on that. :)

  • Jordan McCollum

    Gotcha, gotcha. Most of the people I associate with by choice are very anti-porn, so that’s my perception of “the real world.” Obviously, the people you describe exist, but I kind of consider people who fill their minds with all those kinds of things/substances to be out of “the real world.”

    I also think that we need to point out the obvious if we ever hope to change it for the better. If we let it pass without commentary, the world just gets a sorrier place to live in.

  • http://server9.myebiz.com/chrisobrien/tk.html Cthulhu

    You are all off topic because you have been dazzeled by the dog and pony show slight of hand and are not decoding the message. The topic of discussion is the malignant advertising of Ask.com.
    Before anyone falls asleep reading this, as an industry professional I must broadcast to anyone who’s image appears in the TV commercial, if you did not sign a release form and are not getting royalty checks for each time the ad is aired you have a strong case for a law suit. First let us stipulate that Ask.com lacks truth in advertising because testing the product proves it does not live up to the hype. Go to a local store, pick a current issue of a computer magazine off the shelf and read the survey results of search engines. You do not need to buy the magazine. It will be a quick read. Now ask yourselves what is Ask.com touting about itself? The goal is to claim to be able to find things that are hard to find. In my realm, weapon wealding women are commonplace. From XENAphiles to batlith weilding Klingon wanabees to blaster weilding Princess Leatards and Princess Laidups to creative anachronists to a plethora of Japanimation characters I can not begin to keep track of to dragon riders alla Red Sonia in (functional?) chain mail to whip weilding doms with slave girls in tow. Look up conventions related to Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Comic Books, ect.. There is plenty of “chicks with swords” to be found. The only dancing I have directly encountered has to do with Scottish Highlander high school football half times and contests during Highlander Games where the girls each place two swords on the ground crossed like an x or a + and do a hop scotch dance around the swords trying not to step on one. What Ask.com reall wants everyone to search on is something that is considered hard to find, “chicks with dicks”. Look at the fruity pervy expressions on the face of the main character. Look at the Las Vegas / Off Broadway choreography of the dancers, paying homage to places and shows where the audience is not aware of what they are really watching in the chorus line. Ask.com pulled a Lone Ranger getting this one past the FCC with the closest thing they could come up with that has the phalic symbol built in. If you still do not get this check out some of the other sites near this one. Another area of malignant advertising of Ask.com is contributing to the destruction of the web site work of many site developers. http://www.dot.tk is a free domain name provider. In the beginning the trade off was a popup ad that would delay the web site by ~15 seconds which could be clicked past even sooner to get to the web site which would still have a thin dot.tk bar at the top. Popup blocker issues changed the method to a thicker bar at the top which had a pointless rate this site and links to other .tk domains under dot.tk and the popup ad appeared on top of the web site file and was easily deleted. A top cat at dot.tk died and now the mice have made a mess of it. Dot.tk advertising fills the screen of most computers (Most users are not on an SGI.) pushing the website the domain name is attached to far below the screen in a small window where most who encounter this will not scroll to and there is no way to delete or get past the obnoxious advertising. Along with punk advertisers not worth noting, Ask.com is one of the advertisers. If Ask.com was really worth anything why would they be advertising in such a destructive manner. If Ask.com wants to advertise on my site they can get involved with the Infinite Button Link Grid (my answer to the milliondollarwebsite plans) at http://server9.myebiz.com/chrisobrien/g0.html or send me a proposal for an affiliate file. No, I do not expect that to happen! By the way, if you do not get the Lone Ranger reference, ask for a translation from any Native American you observe watchin the show and laughing out loud. This one is still getting past the Christian networks that are airing reruns of the show while they show spots of their ilk passing out blankets to Native Americans in cold mountain reservations.

  • http://bush-flop.home.att.net Robert Newsome

    … “Chicks with Swords?” I started to do a search just to see if the results would be as spectacular as the commercial… Then it hit me!!! A line from the original “Clerks” movie… “Chicks with *****” It was then I realized that the commercial has a subliminal component… Those clever, clever Madison Avenue guys…. or would that be “Guys with Orchids?”

  • Nathan R.

    O.o …no Robert, just… no..

  • http://www.babeswithblades.com Stuart Jones

    Actually, the original spot had the guy texting a buddy about what he had found when searching for “Babes with Blades” using the Ask.com engine and then breaking into song about it while pictures flashed on the screen behind him. Personally, if they had kept that part in it would have made much more sense… sadly, with the constraints of commercial time, that part wound up on the cutting room floor. Additionally, it’s been pointed out that a term such as “Babes with Blades” was a bit too “high brow” and needed to be taken down a notch for the masses, hence “Chicks with Swords”.
    In the long run, irregardless of whether you like the spot or not or even if you like the idea of winsome women weilding wonderous weapons the spot has everyone talking about it and trying out the search engine. Mission: accomplished.

  • Tuna

    I think many of you fail to capture one thing. This commercial was funny. I mean seriously, I find it strange that at times like this, people would be offended by this sort of comedy. We see it everyday in sitcoms with their unending sexual innuendo jokes that we would find cute. Does anyone complain about these tv shows? You see much more “lewd” stuff on MadTV, Saturday Night Live (dick in a box, anyone?) and Late Night talk shows.

    I think people should lighten up. Without this sort of thing, life would just take one more step towards boredom. It isn’t anything doing harm. There are a lot of bad things in the world you should focus on that are way more important.

  • The Truth

    Ms. McCollum, the commercials are clever and funny. Not recognizing that shows your lack of creativity and imagination. Good God, get off your paranoid femnazi attitude, if you can. Otherwise, just STFU.

  • Jordan McCollum

    Actually, “The Truth,” I’m Mrs. McCollum and apart from doing this (which means I don’t have to shut up), I’m a very conservative stay-at-home mother, which, in my opinion is a far cry from a “paranoid femnazi.”

    I just have this thing about people being respected. Silly, I know, in this day and age to hope that women might be as respected as men. We’re so far past that these days.

  • Brian

    I do happen to agree that commercials like this are degrading and insulting to the people watching, but not necessarily because of the unclad women. I’m more concerned about the fact that an online search engine needs to use such a song and dance to get their message across. I suppose I should be a bit relieved that they don’t beat us across the head with the name of their product like I hear so much on the radio. Are the public at large really that simple that we need such an elaborate ruse to try to promote one’s product? I don’t even find this entertaining (but I tend to shy away from most television made in this decade for similar reasons). What Tuna said in a few posts above is true about what we see on the rest of TV and that is rather sad.

    On a side point, as degrading as it is to the women that were in this commercial, they still were alright with posing in it. That, alone, doesn’t make it right, but they did have the free will to not choose this job. Much like you typically have a choice to choose from a few alternatives, if that really bothered them, they didn’t have to be in the commerical and could have chosen a less silly way to make money.

  • http://www.gowfb.com GoWFB

    Gosh! That is a lot of responses to that commercial! I would not have thought that a simple commercial would spark off discussions about misogyny, femnazi (I suppose that is supposed to be the offensive way to descibe women who take a firm stand on something?) attitudes and a whole bunch of other stuff.

    The very fact that this ad sparked off this much indignation (or admiration as the case may be) tells you that it is a success. Sad truth for those that did not like it. I am a woman and it neither offended me nor did i like it; sort of so so reaction.