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Ask's Bizarre Bad Taste And Weird Ad Placement


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#1 SEOigloo

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 05:40 AM

Good evening, everybody,

So, I'm watching old Jazz videos on YouTube, and when I refresh the page, I see one of those silly Ask marketing banners. Up until now, they've just been dumb...but this latest one "The Unabomber Hates the Algorithm"....what is the deal with this?

The Unabomber killed 3 people and wounded more than 20 others. This is what Ask is now using as a marketing ploy? I'm totally disgusted. Beyond this just not making sense, (am I supposed to say, well if a murderer hates it, then I, a good person, will like it????) it's making me think Ask is being run by a bunch of nut cases. Seriously. Will we soon be seeing H****r featured in one of these things? Some things just aren't joke material...and I honestly don't know if this is supposed to be a joke, or clever, or weird, or thought-provoking, or brain washing or what.

What do members think of this? What is the deal? What is Ask trying to do? I never really used their service before, and after this bizarre campaign, I really can't see myself ever wanting to.

Additionally...why is YouTube running Ask ads? Didn't they, umm, get bought by Google? What's that all about?

These are things you start wondering about if you're up at 3 in the morning while your husband deals with that one last line of code. :huh:

What's your opinion about all this?
Miriam

Edited by SEOigloo, 22 May 2007 - 05:43 AM.


#2 JohnMu

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 06:53 AM

A crazy last-minute attempt to get any kind of visitors?

One thing that might be playing a role, I don't know if this is the case with the ads that you saw: Ask has an affiliate program where you are paid for every visitor you send to them (or every search that you redirect someone to on ask.com). They pay a fairly low price per click (it's something like 3 cents), but I imagine if you could get enough exposure it would still be profitable. I know that there are a few people who are using Google Adwords to run really low-price campaigns (say 1 cent/click) to drive traffic to their ask.com affiliate links.

Somehow I doubt that they could get video ads for that price, but who knows.

At any rate, if it's an affiliate that is running ads, then ask.com is not directly responsible for any bad taste that is exhibited... but if they can't control their affiliates then they "deserve" whatever bad PR that they might get...

John

#3 BillSlawski

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 07:22 AM

The ask.com advertisements are unusual. I'm not sure that invoking the unibomber in your commercials is really a wise move, regardless of how much he might have hated technology.

I believe that the commercials are ask's. Here's a blog post about a billboard with the same message:

http://valleywag.com...ithm-256781.php

Here's the as.com blog announcement of this ad campaign:

http://blog.ask.com/...lgorithm_i.html

The idea seems to be getting people to talk about ask.com and the algorithm, and they seem to have done that.

#4 JohnMu

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 07:44 AM

Now that I have read the links, I realize that I misunderstood these ads all the time :huh:. I thought "the algorithm" was Google's. I suppose it makes a bit more sense the other way around, but I still can't imagine why a company would use ads like that. Are they trying to prove that there is such a thing as bad PR?

What's next?

John

#5 Jozian

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 10:25 AM

Poor message design. And offensive to many, I agree, Miriam.

I once made a mistake like this, I am sad to say. Luckily, it wasnt a marketing campaign.

Drunk, back when I still drank, I was in a bar with a coworker, hitting on a couple of women. I made some ignorant comment about Timothy McVeigh. I wasn't supporting his cause of course, but I believe I made light of something related... Turns out the two women were first responders in Oklahoma City.

Is Ask.com drunk, do they misunderstand a good portion of their audience, or are they just that desperate for attention?

-Jeff

Edited by Jozian, 22 May 2007 - 01:28 PM.


#6 SEOigloo

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 03:35 PM

Thanks for those links, Bill. I'd seen the Valley Wag one, too, but not the second.

Yes...people (including me) are talking, but I hear little admiration in what they are saing.

John,
You know, I thought this was all supposed to be about Google, too. It must be my SEO hat. I hear the word algorithm and I think of Google. :D

Jozian,
Your story illustrates one the things that is the worst about this. All of those folks whose loved ones were killed or injured are still very much alive. How must they feel if they see someone using that tragedy as a marketing ploy?

I appreciate the comments, fellows. At any rate, I took a minute to send a note to Ask giving them my feedback on what I consider their really poor taste. I hope mine won't be the only e-mail they receive, and that, if they get enough negatives, they will hold off on any further advertising they might plan to run that uses a criminal as part of a slogan.

Miriam

#7 Jozian

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Posted 22 May 2007 - 05:39 PM

from the Ask Blog:

Many of you who read this blog already know what an algorithm is, and how it separates good searches from the better ones.

ROLF. And I always thought an algorithm was a 'a finite list of well-defined instructions for accomplishing some task'. An algorithm isn't good or bad, it doesn't separate good from bad, and if it did, I imagine it would separate results more effectively, not searches.

My guess would be that anyone who learned what an algorithm was, in the past few years anyway, learned it from working with or hearing about Google. I think that if they want to claim that they have better search results, they should do it without instantly invoking the image of Google in everyones mind, as it does for me as well. Their marketing research may show that the masses don't make that association, but my guess would be that the masses don't even know what an algorithm is.

Perhaps their approach is to brand themselves as the man behind the curtain :) If so, I say "Pay no attention..." :rofl:

-Jeff

#8 rmccarley

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 04:35 AM

Didn't Ask use an ad company to do something else stupid a few months ago? I think it was "mock-subversive" and accusing Google of being a monopoly. Can't quite remember.

Anyway, Ask is on a roll...

#9 Jozian

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 08:58 AM

And it's not just the Unabomber, but Jesus too.

The line in another version of the campaign: 'The algorithm killed Jesus'.

For more see the Valleywag blog The Algorithm is tweaking

I have to say, I'm un-politically correct enuff to not be offended personally by these wild non-sequiturs. But I don't really get who the are appealing to... disenfranchised Youth? Luddites? Radical Muslims?

I guess negative attention is better than no attention at all...

-Jeff

#10 AbleReach

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 09:17 AM

I think they're working too hard to be cool, and are ending up looking more scattered than edgy.

#11 Ruud

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 10:21 AM

To some extend the ad campaign reflects the company's direction very well: it leaves you wondering while at the same time you think "but you could have been so....".

Over time Barry Welford has posted some solid concepts and directions for Ask to latch on. Each and every one of those has you wondering by this time; why not?

Ask has some great properties, good interface ideas. At this time I don't see myself switching to them though. They're not on my radar. When I think about switching search engines I consider Yahoo, partly prompted by a co-worker at Search Engine People, and maybe, maybe being closer to "probably not", in the very distance Live.com.

But Ask? No. Why would I?

Google and Yahoo are the ones who have it most together at this time. Live and Ask are still thinking about "getting search" while it seems to be that that round has finished. We're beyond the portal and beyond search. We're at services in order to glue people to your sites and we're at tracking user behavior. We're at recording attention.

#12 Jozian

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 10:39 AM

Ruud said: We're beyond the portal and beyond search. We're at services in order to glue people to your sites and we're at tracking user behavior. We're at recording attention.

Nicely put. And I agree.

Do I really care if I go to Google and get 100 good hits on my search compared to more or less from another engine? Nope.

What ties me to Google and Yahoo are the fact that I need to check organic and PPC ranking. And I'm already on iGoogle reading feeds and news. And I am already on Yahoo to upload photos to Flickr or check IM's. Now I'm starting to use Google's calendar and docs as well.

Why should I leave? To get a couple of different search results? They are going to have a hard time proving that value equation. They need a new service or USP soon or they fail.

-Jeff

#13 JohnMu

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Posted 25 May 2007 - 11:02 AM

Yeah, but the algorithm's from New Jersey.

I think that is a USP that neither Google nor Yahoo can top. Heh. :P

John

#14 Guest_rustybrick_*

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 05:59 AM

One thing...

It has been a while since I seen so much discussion in this forum.

Don't they say, "no publicity is bad publicity"? ;-)

#15 Ruud

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 08:11 AM

Heh <grin> Yup, from that side of things everything works in the same way a schoot out at their main offices would. Gets you talking about them around the watercooler.

Still -- they need something to follow that attention up with. Now I'm not saying that Ask is worse than any other search engine; it's just not cool to be there. 80/20. 80 percent of the people want to be on common ground, want to be where everybody else is, especially their friends. Google. Yahoo. Dogpile? No. Ask? No. 20 percent want to be there where nobody else is (yet). I don't see frontrunners talking about Ask. Except for people here who check out and monitor every little thing in the world of search, I don't know of anybody who knows that there is a search engine called Ask let alone people who use it.

Dang.... now I talked about them again...

#16 Guest_rustybrick_*

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 05:58 AM

Right, they plan on following up these messages with commercials all themed around the theme of "the algorithm."

I doubt they will use references to the Unabomber.

Should be interesting on how they swing these things.

They start the buzz and then clean up the mess via mass commercials.

Check some out at http://about.ask.com...visionads.shtml

Not bad...

#17 Ruud

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 08:01 AM

Oh but that is much better. Still don't understand why they want to go with this "the algorithm" thing but I really like the concept of "getification".

TV commercials: good.
Printed stuff: rude.

#18 Guest_rustybrick_*

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 01:10 PM

Looks like this thread sparked a larger audience outside of here at my blog.

Check it out at http://www.techcrunc...m-is-offensive/

Nice thread SEOigloo!

#19 JohnMu

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 01:46 PM

What I find interesting in all of these threads about ask is that people can't agree about it - and for lack of interest they don't even bother to get upset if others don't agree with them. If you look at the threads here and there, people say:
- bad taste
- gets people to talk about it
- any PR is good PR
- product sucks
- who cares if the product sucks
- somebody asked "what's an algorithm?"
- yawn.

I don't see anyone converting. It feels like the marketing has nothing to do with the product. I don't see the viral juices flowing, fighting, debating. People read about it, leave a comment (maybe) and leave. Next.

Maybe the campaign isn't shocking enough? Maybe it isn't shocking on the right level?

John

Added: I like the TV ads though. Why can't they use that style for print? "I used the algorithm" :D

Added: had to watch the TV spots again :o

#20 Jozian

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Posted 29 May 2007 - 02:32 PM

John wrote: It feels like the marketing has nothing to do with the product

I agree, John. But what can they really say about their product that a consumer would understand?

== We try harder? We're just a good? We're NOT Google?

Their predicament is that most users are satisified. Without dissatisfaction, its hard to generate change or even interest.

== Try mine, its lime green?

So, Ask.com is resorting to a hokey campaign instead of value creation. They probably need to do whatever they can in order to hit some number and keep the investors at bay.

But that only works short-term.

Added: They are trying to beat Google head-on, when they need to make an end run with new value.

-Jeff

Edited by Jozian, 29 May 2007 - 02:35 PM.


#21 Jozian

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 09:30 PM

Tech Crunch has some scoop on the next TV phase of 'The Algorithm' campaign:

Leaked Photos Include Half Dressed Women With Swords

I can only imagine where this is going :)

-Jeff

Edited by Jozian, 05 June 2007 - 09:31 PM.


#22 SEOigloo

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 02:24 AM

Nice thread SEOigloo!

Thanks, Barry!

John -
Your list of reactions seems to sum it up pretty well.

Jeff-
What can I say...I guess it can get stupider. :spambuster:

Miriam

Holy Toledo...did anyone else notice that this thread has been viewed more than 1000 times??? I just did. Does this get into the Cre8asite hall of fame or something like that? :)

Edited by SEOigloo, 06 June 2007 - 02:26 AM.


#23 Guest_rustybrick_*

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 08:01 AM

Tech Crunch has some scoop on the next TV phase of 'The Algorithm' campaign:


That didn't take long... Yea, so your thoughts?

#24 AbleReach

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 09:32 AM

I saw the women with swords ad played last night on cable.

Not impressed. Even less likely to use "the algorithm."

The slogan was something like "I found what I wanted," which doesn't have to be half bad. I could see that used for ads that ARE connected to people using ASK, in ways that would be fun, funny, memorable and not offensive.


:::sigh:::

#25 cre8pc

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 10:02 AM

Those half dressed women with swords would make perfect dates for the Geico Cavemen. :pieinface:

#26 whitemark

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Posted 11 June 2007 - 05:32 AM

Not surprised; they've supported spywares in the past (still do?). I guess their whole marketing is based on the concept that any kind of publicity is good publicity.



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