One of the original search engines, Ask Jeeves has since been overshadowed by mammoths Google and Yahoo but hopes to find a way to cash in on the boom in search-based advertising.
It faces a daunting challenge. Google dominates the category with revenues of $2.08 billion, or 54% of 2004 U.S. search revenues of $3.84 billion, according to eMarketer, a New York-based research company. Yahoo, which doesn't break out revenues from search advertising, has an estimated one third of the marketplace, said David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer. The remainder of the market consists of a number of second-tier players, Ask Jeeves, Alta Vista, and Lycos among them, Mr. Hallerman said.
Microsoft Corp.'s MSN has also launched its own search engine, increasing competition even further.
"Ask Jeeves is a good search site," Mr. Hallerman said. "The key is to get more people to use the site," and the new ad campaign is a step in the right direction, he added.
Tools and acquisitions
Ask Jeeves in the past year also has taken a number of steps designed to strengthen its site, particularly in the desktop search arena. Among those moves was the launch of new search tools as well as a new business unit, Ajinteractive; the acquisition of a number of companies, including Tukaroo, Interactive Search Holdings' MyWay, Excite and iWon; and the acquisition of Bloglines, a blog-tracking firm.
Greg Ott, vice president of marketing for Ask Jeeves, said a recent Keynote study found a "significant" jump in customer experience ratings for the site. Keynote Systems is a San Mateo, Calif.-based firm which measures and monitors e-business performance.
Ask Jeeves' strategy is to use a TV marketing campaign as a way to chase market share.
The ad effort consists of six humorous commercials of individuals who need information going to the wrong source. For example, in one spot, an elderly Asian man sits on Santa's lap and says he wants information about arthritis medication. In another, American Idol castoff William Hung, at a recording session, is interrupted by a man wearing shorts asking about the weather in Cancun. Mr. Hung, a University of California Berkeley engineering student, takes off his headphones and asks the man if he'd like to buy an album.
Each 15-second spot ends with the tagline "Ask Jeeves. And get what you're searching for."
Mr. Ott said the new campaign will run on network prime-time, syndicated and cable TV. Other elements include a national print campaign in magazines such as People, Sports Illustrated, Rolling Stone and Newsweek, as well as online and out-of-home ads.
Ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, part of Omnicom Group, created the campaign.
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