Ask.com Information Revolution campaign

Since Ask.com’s good old Jeeves was fired a few months ago, it’s been clear that something was brewing behind closed doors and that a great relaunch was bound to happen soon.

It’s now happened. A viral, out-of-the-box, really groundbreaking campaign about an information revolution. At least, that’s how it sounded back in the boardroom where the ideas took shape.

Ask.com Information Revolution campaignIn reality, it’s one of the most blatant cases of astroturfing I’ve seen in the past few years. It presents itself as some sort of underground social movement, shrouded in mystery. [Disclaimer: Keeping in mind that I don’t live in London and my exposure to the campaign is limited to the banners on blogs I read, and these pictures snapped on the street and on the tube by some Londoners.]

The Wall Street Journal weighs in:

The online discussion has been dominated by people complaining they’ve been misled. “I thought this may be an informative Web site about how information is used on the Internet,” said one posting last week. “Instead I discover it’s just a cheap ploy for an inferior search engine.” The six-week campaign is designed to lift Ask.com’s profile in the U.K., where it trails Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. The Ask.com network, a unit of New York’s IAC/InterActiveCorp, was used for 4.3% of all Internet searches in the U.K. in January, according to comScore Networks Inc.

Fallon says it expected some criticism but felt there was little to lose, because Google is so much bigger. [via Search Engine Land]

Support for the campaign has been scarce so far. The campaign has been called a “load of drivel” and the agency producing it “cynical, manipulative hacks”. Some go as far as saying that Ask.com expected things to turn sour, figuring that bad publicity is better than no publicity at all.

Not so sure about that. If all it leads to is a couple of attempts at using Ask.com, when the user is already in a mindframe where they feel betrayed and bullsh***ed by the company in question, the likelihood of this user leaving with a positive, “yes, I think I’ll use them again” attitude is somewhere between unlikely and simply laughable.

Time will tell whether this campaign yields any positive visibility for Ask.com, but at the moment, it’s a bit on the ugly side… A bit of a shame, but really, if Ask.com felt that the right way to spark new interest in its search engine was to be deceitful and lie to its users, then it’s getting what it deserves!

[Cross posted from Focus on Them]