Ask.com misses the mark with lack of transparency

SimonGeneral

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.