The centerpiece of the awareness campaign is a three-day event in Times Square, where a two-story brain-shaped hut will house 22 "brainiacs" answering questions online and from passers-by. Brainy celebrities such as political columnist Arianna Huffington and holistic medicine guru Deepak Chopra are scheduled to make appearances. And once 50,000 answers have been tallied, Yahoo will donate $50,000 to the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
A full-page ad in USA Today, plus seven space ads throughout the newspaper, marks the beginning of a monthlong campaign in print, radio, online and outdoor media. Yahoo's marquee billboards in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles, as well as available corporate sponsorships and placements, will promote Answers.
The online campaign will extend beyond Yahoo's network of sites -- including its home page -- to include iVillage, nytimes.com, Slate, GameSpot and others. Rich-media ads running on those sites will pose questions targeted to their unique readerships.
It's no mistake that Yahoo is pushing Answers rather than its other Web 2.0 properties, such as photo-sharing site Flickr or bookmark-sharing service del.icio.us. While each is proving popular, Answers is perceived inside and outside the company as a potential threat to Google's search dominance.
"Answers is central to our future and the way we think about search and the democratization of knowledge," said Patrick Crane, VP-marketing, Yahoo Search. "Putting a really good campaign behind Answers means more people joining the community, which increases its value for everyone."
In a note to investors earlier this month, Lehman Brothers analyst Douglas Anmuth said Answers gives Yahoo the edge over Google in the area of "knowledge search." Google's product takes a different approach to answer generation, will questions being fielded by 500 trained researchers who charge for their services.
Answers drew 7.2 million unique visitors in April, according to comScore Networks, compared with the 3.9 million it attracted in March. What's more, page views nearly doubled from 22 million in March to 40 million in April. Google Answers, by contrast, drew 1.4 million unique visitors in March, according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Of note, Microsoft's MSN just launched a "social search" tool of its own.