Ask.com misses the mark with lack of transparency

SimonGeneral6 Comments

Information Revolution website screenshot

Ask.com is behind a misguided offline and online campaign that’s aiming to encourage UK search users to stop using Google.

The virtually unbranded website, at www.information-revolution.org, suggests an organic campaign set up by internet users to challenge the dominance of Google in web search:

But this is 2007, not 1984. So we’re speaking up before things get out of hand. Raging against the machine kind of thing. The machine of conventional wisdom if you like!

But delving a bit deeper reveals this so-called web user uprising is in fact a marketing campaign, devised by agency Profero, for its client Ask.com.

There’s a very small logo in the bottom right of the page and Ask.com is clearly identified in the site’s terms and conditions.

The site allows users to post comments. It’s already attracted a fair number of negative comments about this being a poorly executed advertising stunt. Comments such as those below sum up the general response:

So, another irritating piece of corporate advertising dressed up as revolutionary fervor. Sickening in a way, all the language of protest gradually getting warn down by overuse, suffocating, rather than making me look for an alternative, it makes me feel there actually isn’t one.

At first I thought this was something genuinely new and unique, then I realised that this was all marketing for ask.com. I’m slightly disappointed by this blatant marketing.

Jesus, like 99% of the people who have commented, i came to this site because i thought it could be something interesting. Instead I find a frankly revolting ‘viral’ (read SHAM) website which is no more than an advert for a lame search engine.
I hope the PR people at ask.com read these comments and learn from their mistakes.

This is a good example of the use of social media in marketing and public relations campaigns needs to be transparent and genuine.

If something isn’t what it tries to appear to be then users will not be convinced, and the campaign will actually be detrimental to the brand.

If I were Ask.com I’d be asking some serious questions to Profero about this campaign. Profero bills itself as a digital marketing agency. I wonder if this is an example of the marketing community failing to appreciate the nuances of working with social media?

I’m convinced that the public relations profession is best placed among the creative industries to operate in the social media space. Many public relations competencies, such as ethics and relationship management, are vital when using social media for commercial goals.

As someone with a foot in both the marketing and public relations camps it pains me to write this, but marketing professionals seem to struggle more with integrating social media into their campaigns than public relations people do.

6 Comments on “Ask.com misses the mark with lack of transparency”

  1. No clue

    You really show a big ignorance here. Working in new media myself, it’s quite obvious. But when Profero have “digital marketing” by their name, wouldn’t that suggest that they have been guided by some other advertising company? Seeing as there are tube posters and light shows. This isn’t purely a digital campaign. Think, just think about it before writing.

  2. Simon Collister

    It’s interesting how the ‘social’ elements of ‘social media’ are making small but significant changes to the way people interact with the media.

    A good eg. is a slightly negative story spun in a local paper about a client who failed to fix a couple’s house before Xmas. The paper allowed readers to post comments online and while we expected stinging criticism of the client. There were over 20 comments – every single one of them slagging off the couple for being in social housing. eg. “Oh boo hoo. My boiler broke. I went to work and earned money to fix it.”

    Very unexpected – but it changed the wider perceptions of the story.

  3. simon

    No Clue – thanks for your comment, but surely a credible digital agency (of any sort) wouldn’t let itself be led by another agency if what was proposed went against what you considered best practice?

    I noted in the post that the campaign is offline as well as online – as a marketer I know that the two channels need to work together, regardless of who’s responsible for their delivery.

  4. Tim

    I agree: A vague, expensive, ‘underground’ advertising campaign does not give me the feeling of integrity which I would require of a search engine. Clarity and openness would be more appropriate.

    Nobody is forcing me to use Google. I do so because they have earned my trust with quality products. I occasionally try alternatives, and am certainly willing to ‘switch’ to another if an equivalent or better set of relevant search results is delivered.

    How, specifically, are Ask’s search algorithms a better alternative? Nobody has yet been able to convince me.

    Most amusingly of all: they seem to consider prime-time television advertising to be ‘underground’…

    O_o

    The whole thing smacks of desperation, leaves me feeling slightly angry, and reminds me why I don’t get along with “digital media” types.

    Nathan Barley eat your heart out.

  5. simon

    Thanks for your comment Tim – it is interesting that the content of the campaign focuses mainly on why not to use other search engines, instead of emphasising some specific benefits of using Ask.

  6. Chris Edwards

    Why the anonymity ‘No clue’? Work for Profero by any chance? I only ask because if ‘No clue’ had done any research into the Information-Revolution website and blog at all, they might have realised it was by far the weakest link in the chain. The comments mostly reflect the attempts by Profero to lie about the campaign. The content was all about it being the work of ‘revolutionaries’ who somehow managed to ‘intercept the TV signal’. If ‘No clue’ believes that sort of insulting toss is good digital marketing, they need to get out of the business pronto.

    Profero could have handled the situation far better but didn’t. It’s interesting that the TV ads now direct you to Ask.com rather than Information-Revolution.org – which is slightly nonsensical as it’s not clear from the structure of the ad whether the ‘revolutionaries’ are protesting against Ask or promoting it. Was that a last minute decision after Ask realised what a disaster the site and campaign had become?

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