New Ask Jeeves Campaign Sidelines Butler

  |  August 11, 2003   |  Comments

The multi-media campaign emphasizes its buffed-up search technology rather than its natty butler.

Ask Jeeves unveiled a new ad campaign on Monday that switches the focus from the company's ubiquitous butler to its improved search technology, as the search company tries to grab market share from the top search sites.

The Emeryville, Calif.-based company said the five-month campaign would focus on finding the right answers, not on the ability to search through questions. Ask Jeeves had used its natural language search as a key differentiator in its earlier campaigns, emphasizing the ability to ask its butler, Jeeves, for answers to any question.

"We really need the campaign to combat the misperception that we're only for questions," said Jacquie Harrison, director of marketing at Ask Jeeves. "We need to let people know there's something different."

Ask Jeeves is trumpeting its search as a better alternative to search engines with the tagline: "Searching is good. Finding is better. Ask Jeeves to find it." Other ads will have the tagline: "An easier, more intuitive search. Ask Jeeves to find it."

Print ads will run in 17 publications, including Forbes, People and US Weekly. Outdoor placements will run in half a dozen major markets, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Radio spots will also be heard in a number of markets. An online component will back up all of the elements.

None of the ads feature Jeeves, instead using a strategy the company calls "consumer disruption." For example, one ad creative reads, "Find the boy with the glasses," and has two photos of boys without glasses and one with glasses.

"We're trying to present a metaphor for what it means to be an intuitive search engine," said Michael Allen, president of TBWA/Chiat Day San Francisco, which designed the ads.

Both Allen and Harrison said Jeeves was not permanently banished, pointing to his prominent place on the Ask.com arrival page.

"The butler is still part of the mix," Allen said. "We haven't decided with the client where we go from here."

Ask Jeeves declined to release the campaign's spending levels, but said it planned to spend $6 million on marketing this year, after taking two years off from advertising. Ask Jeeves' hiatus from widespread advertising came after its post-IPO advertising blitz in the dot-com boom days, in which it spent an estimated $100 building its brand image around the butler.

Now, however, Ask Jeeves is looking to establish its brand image as a serious search engine. Its search capabilities have been greatly enhanced since its Sept. 2001 acquisition of Teoma. Since then, Ask Jeeves has re-launched the search engine with a number of new features and integrated it into Ask.com.

The print ads emphasize Ask Jeeves' unique search approach, with text reading: "We obviously can't read your mind, but by using Teoma technology and natural language, Jeeves is able to better understand your keyword, phrase or question."

Last quarter, the company said it was gaining traction in the search market, with queries up 37 percent from the same period a year earlier. Thanks to its paid search deal with Google, Ask Jeeves made money from 14 percent of all searches.

Most recently, Ask Jeeves dipped its toes back in the waters with a couple of outdoor campaigns in the past nine months.

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