Ask not what an Information Revolution can do for you

Ask.com’s latest attempt at wresting “sleep searchers” from Google: the Information Revolution.

Ask.com anti-Google campaign on the London tube

I saw the posters on the tube and thought “looks interesting” and made a note to visit the website. Although the site now displays the Ask.com logo, it initially didn’t declare who was behind it (and I wasn’t sharp-eyed enough to spot the red oval on the poster is the Ask logo sans-“Ask”). Marketing-savvy readers – cynical about apparent underground activism and viral campaigns – did soon identify who was behind it though, with Ask.com finally showing their hand four days later.

And that was probably the biggest problem with it. By initially concealing the messenger, the message itself becomes tainted.

It’s not even an original approach. Didn’t SanDisk already do almost the exact same thing with iDont, complete with guerilla-style tube ads and cheap-looking white-and-red-on-black website? The one thing Ask’s campaign does better is to allow comments on their website. Of course, the comments being left are almost universally negative, as people vent their disappointment and resentment. This one sums up the tone of most:

“Like other people here I was expecting a net neutrality site. I was curious where the money for your tube ads had come from though, and now I see this is just a poorly executed PR stunt for Ask.com.”

And what are other people out there saying?

Personally, if I’m disappointed it’s partly because I really want companies to try interesting ways of engaging with the web. With us. With me. This failed, and failed really horribly badly. While it’s crass and vacuous (almost on the scale of WalMart’s ‘School Your Way’ flop) hopefully at least the world is learning from it.

[CC-licensed photo originally uploaded to Flickr by Larsz]

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