There’s not a great track record for search engines running TV ads to increase market share. Let’s see, some of the ones who have tried it include Snap.com (when they were NBC), Go.com (courtesy ABC and Disney), Altavista and most recently, MSN. It’s yet to be successful. In Microsoft’s case, market share actually shrunk by 3 points, while Google, sans ads, increased their market share in the same time period by over 6 points.
Ask.com is unveiling a new campaign in the U.S. Pundits (what makes a pundit a pundit anyway?) are already casting aspersions on the strategy. But I think there’s one key difference that should be noted. The purpose of the campaign is to get people to try the search engine..once. After that, it’s up to the search engine to keep them coming back. In every previous case, the advertised search engine just wasn’t very good. And nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.
Ask is different. It’s pretty good. Some might say it’s damned good. At least, it’s good enough that it has a fair shot at getting people back.
Ask’s problem is that it isn’t a huge leap forward. I tried it right after the butler was whacked. I liked it. But it wasn’t a earth shaking experience.It didn’t register strongly enough with me to shake my Google habit. And a lot of us have a Google habit. It’s just what we do. As I write this, I can offer no better reason why I haven’t used Ask more than the fact that I just didn’t think of it.
If this campaign doesn’t work, it won’t be the fact that Ask is running TV ads that will be the downfall, it will be that Ask didn’t up the user experience ante enough. Time will tell.