Ask Jeeves Revives Marketing Efforts

SAN FRANCISCO Ask Jeeves launches a new outdoor advertising campaign today aimed at re-engaging users for its search services and promises more advertising going forward.

The company is poised to announce the hiring of a new advertising agency in the next few weeks for a broader marketing and advertising campaign. The Emeryville, Calif.-based Internet firm registered more than $20 million in advertising expenditures in 2000, according to CMR, but its ad spending has been on the decline since then.

A national review of agencies was quietly conducted in-house and the company is approaching a final selection, said Heather Staples, Ask Jeeves’ chief marketing officer. She declined to provide details about the scope of that review or additional media spending but said television is not in the budget. Ask Jeeves’ last agency of record was Grey in San Francisco, which worked on a print campaign for the company in 2001.

The company’s financial situation played a part in its advertising move, Staples said. In January, the company announced it was cash-flow positive and had achieved profitability for the first time in its seven-year history.

“Ask Jeeves did quite a bit of marketing in its early days, but over the past two years it has been relatively quiet on the marketing front,” said Staples. “Instead, we’ve been aggressively improving the experience at Ask Jeeves, including the acquisition and integration of the Teoma search technology.”

The new marketing and advertising efforts are also being driven by the value of search engine advertising, which is proving to be a strong segment of the advertising market, Staples said. Ask Jeeves no longer serves banner or pop-up advertising on its site, instead concentrating advertising as premier or branded listings.

The new outdoor advertising campaign, created in-house and launching today in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, attempts to remind users of the company’s strength as a basic search engine.

Advertisements on bus panels, transit shelters and phone kiosks use messages such as, “The first place you search will be the last place you look.” The work continues to feature the drawing of the Ask Jeeves butler. The tagline: “Search for it. Find it. Ask.com.”

“Many people think of us as a great place for questions. While that is true, we’re also a great place for people to do everyday searches,” said Staples. “This campaign aims to generate awareness of Ask Jeeves as a powerful search engine.”

The campaign will run through April 24. Staples noted that the company did a smaller test run of similar messages around the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade last November. That offline campaign drove an uptick of 20 percent more traffic from the New York area to the Web site.