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Ask Jeeves Gives "Castaway" Home

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In what could be an online advertising first, Ask Jeeves is changing its entire homepage to accomodate an ad for the movie "Castaway."

The movie arrives today on DVD and video, and Ask Jeeves will help promote it for the next few days with a redesigned homepage. Users should expect to find the search engine and all the other elements they rely on. But "Jeeves the butler" now stands on a sandy beach with the ocean stretching to the horizon.

Borders around links now look like sticks lashed together with vines. And thanks to Ask Jeeves' Branded Animation advertising unit, "Wilson," the volleyball, bounces across the screen, resting next to the DVD and video covers.

"With a slowdown in Internet ad spending, we are looking for new ways to attract advertisers," said Peter Hershberg, vp of targeting and acquisition for Ask Jeeves, in Emeryville, Calif. "A lot of [Internet sites] are trying to think outside the box. And publishers are trying to outdo each other. But you never want to diminish the value to the user.

"I think our users will respond favorably to it, since it's fairly static," and won't interfere with their searches.

This is the first time Ask Jeeves' has changed its homepage into an advertisement. And Rob Lancaster, an Internet market strategies analyst with the Boston-based Yankee Group doesn't think it is the last for the industry.

"People use search engines to find what they are looking for, not because [the search engine] has a certain look or feel," said Lancaster, who doesn't think Ask Jeeves users will be turned off by the advertising.

Ask Jeeves was the 16th most visited site, the week of June 3, according to Nielsen NetRatings, with 3.74 million unique users.

From Adweek's Technology Marketing Magazine