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June 21, 2007

Ask.com Thinks You’re An Idiot

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Why does Ask.com think I’m a vapid idiot?

If the battle of the search engines was a football game, Jennifer Laycock and I would be sitting in the front row of the bleachers clutching hands, decked out in our favorite Ask.com gear and jumping up and down rooting for our boys. And we’d look adorable doing it. But do you know how that football game would end? The score would be almost tied and then at the last minute, Ask.com would drop the ball, start running in the wrong direction, trip, or perform some other unthinkable move, causing Ask.com to lose in the most painful, degrading way possible. The crowd would storm the field and Jennifer and I would be left sitting in the bleachers. Alone and let down.

This is how Ask.com is making me feel lately.

Their release of Ask 3D was awesome. I was super excited when Ask.com’s Michael Ferguson gave me a private demo during SMX. Ask.com was out being innovative again and I was psyched. But no one outside of our little search bubble knows that Ask.com has done anything new because Ask is the king of failed advertising.

I don’t mean to harp on Ask.com, but good heavens, who is reviewing these TV ads and giving them the green light? Who does Ask think they’re audience is?

There’s a brand new chorus line Ask.com ad out called "Kato" that features exactly everything you hoped it wouldn’t — a woman searching for beefcake-a-licios photos of the creepy Kato Kaelin. I’m sorry, but Kato Kaelin? Who in their right mind is searching for Kato Kaelin? He’s "just what you’re looking for"? Really?

I’ve seen the ad twice so far. Today Nathan Weinberg was kind enough to embed a video of it so you can see it too. Go visit Nathan and then come back here. Please.

Okay, so Nathan calls the video "way better" than the now infamous "Chicks with Swords" video, and he’s right, it is way better, but only better because it doesn’t objectify women. [I hardly thing objectifying men is a step forward. –Susan] — But it wasn’t a real man. It was Kato Kaelin. He’s made a career out of objectifying himself. It’s not better in that it’s actually clever or witty in any way. It’s still Ask depicting their users as vapid idiot searchers only interested in getting their kicks by ooh’ing and ahh’ing photos of the opposite sex. We’re not intelligent people, we’re just lonely and on the Internet. That’s…sweet.

I get that they’re trying to be funny and lighthearted and warm and fuzzy-inspiring, but they’re failing. They’re failing so bad that they’re insulting the people they’re supposed to be attracting. Instead of me becoming an outspoken brand evangelists telling you how great Ask.com is, I’m sitting here fuming over their ads. When do Ask.com users get to search for something intelligent? Do we always have to be idiots?

And things may be getting even worse. Over at ClickZ, Zachary Rodgers tells us that Ask.com has paired up with Ask A Ninja for some new ads. Now, I’m a fan of Ask A Ninja but the idea behind these ads is worrisome. Zachary says that in one of the spots a ninja asks viewers to use Ask.com to find videos around made-up words like "ningiants", "ninjuice", and "nonja". Here’s a brief synopsis:

“This episode was brought to you by Ask.com,” screeches the ninja as a search term appears below his face in the video frame. “Go to Ask.com, type in this ninja word twice as fast as you physically can, and you’ll either get a cool ninja video treat or a sword in your head. That’s a pretty good deal. I’d take that risk, but I’m a ninja.”

Great, now we’re searching for made up words and we’re talking about swords again. Why?

I miss the old Ask ads that encouraged users to use tools and feel human. Smart people search with tools. Search with Ask.com and be smart. Those ads were about making search better and empowering users with a better search experience. They weren’t about "instant getification" or half-naked chicks. [And they had Eli which made them a hundred times better than any other ad out there! Team Eli!–Susan]

I really think Ask.com needs to stop releasing ads that show their users as a bunch of idiots incapable of searching for anything but pretty pictures of pretty people. (And if we are going to search for "pretty" people can they at least be pretty? Kato Kaelin? Why not Tom Brady? Or Joey McIntyre. I’d totally get behind an ad campaign about Joey McIntyre.) Ask needs to find itself some powerful brand evangelists to spread their message for them and get users talking positively about them again. Right now they’re just a bad joke where the punch line is always about swords.

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13 responses to “Ask.com Thinks You’re An Idiot”

  1. Jordan McCollum writes:

    Oh, oh, oh. This is bad. Just when Kato was making a comeback as host of Eye for an Eye.

    No, seriously, he’s on one of those lame court shows. Only this one has “Extreme Akim” for a judge. A judge with a bat of justice. Seriously.

    At least it’s not hurting Kato’s career as badly as he is himself. Ask itself is another story.

    Why did you have to go and post this? Now I don’t have anything to say about it!

  2. Janna Berg writes:

    I just saw that Kato ad last night & i actually thought I was seeing things. I can not believe that they are HIM for their ads. Apparently no one higher than a D-list actor would agree to their commercials. The BBQ one I thought was good & I agree that the commercials referencing using your tools cuz your smart was good.
    I personally do use ask for some stuff…i like their photo search!
    I am really glad to know that the Kato commercial earked someone as much as me!

  3. Commercialized writes:

    If you are a top tier, established, A-level company, you can use a D-list actor in your commercials, and you come off as coolly ironic; maybe hip.

    If you are a low tier, unestablished, B-level company, and you use a D-list actor in your commercials, everyone is going to assume you couldn’t afford Gary Coleman.

  4. Chuck Olsen writes:

    I thought it was funny… precisely because they used Kato. I mean c’mon, who on this planet doesn’t realize he’s a shallow D-list joke of a celebrity?

  5. oOoOo writes:

    whatever… tons of guys loved that ChicksWithSwords ad.. no more objectification here than what starlets and celebutantes do upon themselves every night.

  6. Jeremy writes:

    The worst part is the end where they accentuate:
    “The Algorithm”
    From a marketing standpoint, does any Joe Blow really care what AN algorithm is (much less Ask’s algorithm).
    I actually LOVE using Ask.com, but I agree that their ad agency needs a beating.

  7. Matt Bailey writes:

    I’m with you, Lisa. I really want Ask.com to rise up and compete with the big boys, and I want them to get the respect they deserve. Really, I love their technology and what they have been doing lately is amazing.

    So why do their ad campaigns fail so miserably? It reminds me of being in high school and secretly having a crush on someone that you would never tell your friends about, as you would be ridiculed endlessly. I hate that it is embarrassing to tell people you really like Ask.com when people can’t stand the ads. Especially when that “viral” UK campaign flopped earlier this year, that was miserable.

    Great points – the example of fumbling the ball and running the wrong way is all too real. Here’s wishing for better days . . .

  8. seekzap writes:

    At least look on the bright side, if that game did happen, you’d know what it was like to be a red sox fan between 1918 and 2004…

  9. Lisa writes:

    Below the belt, Seekzap! ;)

  10. Matt Bailey writes:

    That game does happpen – In Cleveland every year. Red Sox fans know nothing of suffering compared to those of us from Cleveland. We know the pain of “The Fumble”, “The Drop”, “The Interception”, “The shot”. . . . ;)

  11. Lisa writes:

    Oh, if only that were true, Matt. Red Sox fans know plenty about suffering. In fact, in order to become a true Red Sox fan you have to sign something that says you will expect to have your heartbroken and/or stomped and will not sue the Red Sox organization for emotional neglect.

    At least Cleveland isn’t cursed. We have a fat dead guy mocking us.

  12. Matt Bailey writes:

    Wait! You won the world series just a few years ago, you have the Patriots, and you are still talking about suffering?
    Cripes. At least we all can agree that we hate the Yankees.
    Thought you might like this – Ask.com’s commercials could be listed a few times here.
    http://bitterfans.com/ShowArticle.asp?CategoryID=1&ArticleID=425

  13. vindencore writes:

    Google is best… my friend is an Ask.com person and he kept seraching thier and couldnt find what he wanted, we finally made him go to google, and then he found it!



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