Yahoo! Kicks Off Wide-Ranging Search Campaign

  |  May 19, 2003   |  Comments

UPDATE: Following disclosures that reveal just how critical search is to Yahoo!'s revenues, the portal launches a campaign promoting the key feature.

Yahoo launched a multi-media ad campaign Monday to tout its newly redesigned search function, tapping everything from television to an Internet-connected billboard to get its message across.

The campaign, spending for which was not disclosed, debuts with two new TV spots, called "Subway" and "Anthem." All elements were designed by Yahoo's agency of record, Black Rocket Euro RSCG. Creative for the television commercials shows people going through their everyday lives carrying five-foot-long search bars that reflect how Yahoo meets their daily search needs. These ads will appear on network and cable programming, including on Fox, USA, MTV and f/X.

"Search is a really important priority to Yahoo," said Andrea Cutright, Yahoo's director of North America advertising and brand marketing. "It's core to what we think Yahoo is about."

Yahoo re-launched its search feature in April, after having retooled to integrate its purchase of Inktomi, and to better highlight network assets like Yahoo shopping. Search has been a key driver of revenue for Yahoo. The company recently disclosed that its paid search partnership with Overture accounted for nearly 20 percent of its revenues in the first quarter of 2003.

The ad campaign, with the tagline of "Faster. Easier. Bingo.", will seek to highlight the personalization Yahoo offers searchers, in seeming contrast to Google's one-size-fits-all approach.

"Bringing [search] to people's real lives is one way of demonstrating how essential Yahoo Search is to users and how we help people find what they want," Cutright said.

Google and Yahoo are neck and neck in the search market, with Google holding an ever-slimmer lead. According to comScore Media Metrix's qSearch ratings from January, Yahoo held about 24 percent of the U.S. search market in contrast to Google's 33 percent. In its March figures, the two are in a dead heat with 27 percent.

Unlike Google, which has built one of the best global brands without spending much on advertising, Yahoo plans to aggressively market search. Ask Jeeves, another search provider, recently returned to advertising after a nearly two-year hiatus. Over the next four weeks, Yahoo will run Flash ads across its network as well as on other Web sites, such as CBS Marketwatch, Weather.com and USA Today. Creative will reflect similar themes as the television and outdoor ads. The company will also be launching a microsite at http://search.yahoo.com/promo/tv which will allow users to view their favorite television spots.

The Internet will also be used as part of an unusual outdoor campaign. Yahoo has rented a 7,000 square foot (22 floor) billboard in New York City's Times Square, and for 15 minutes every hour, live search terms will scroll across the screen, highlighting users' actual searches on the site.

Other outdoor elements will include placements in Boston, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, such as signage on downtown walls, on phone kiosks, in office building lobbies, and on bus shelters.

Radio and print media are also part of the campaign. Radio spots will air in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. Print placements will appear as full-page ads in publications such as BusinessWeek and Infoworld.

Guerilla marketing efforts taking place in Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco will echo the television creative. Live "searchers" will be walking through heavily trafficked parts of those cities carrying search bars like those featured in the TV spots.

Cutright said Yahoo would most likely run more search-related ad campaigns after this one ends next month.

"This campaign is just the beginning for us and how we're communicating the Yahoo Search brand going forward," she said.

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