Use Tools, Feel Human – Is Ask’s TV Campaign Working?

I have to admit, I find Ask.com’s “Use Tools. Feel Human” television commercials rather entertaining and humorous. But I find myself wondering if the ads are more than just comical. Are they actually working?

My girlfriend is not the most savvy search engine user. If Yahoo! is the homepage, that is where she searches from. And yes, if she wants to visit the Gap’s website, chances are she’ll type www.gap.com into Yahoo!’s search box, versus plugging it into the address bar or simply searching for the gap. I’ve seen her do the same thing on MSN. I’m not even sure if she has ever used Google to start a search. Why would she? There’s no content. Google won’t tell her that Elliot Yamin was voted off American Idol, or that Eva Longoria topped Maxim’s “Hot 100” List. Okay, so I happen to check out Yahoo! every now and then as well. But this isn’t about me or my fascination with Eva Longoria. This is about search.

So you can imagine how surprised I was to find her on Ask.com searching for… well, God only knows what, but I’m sure it involved some kind of purchase that I don’t understand and, more importantly, have learned not to question.

But I was curious; “Why are you using Ask?” The answer: she had seen the TV commercials and thought she’d check it out. Simple enough. And a simple reminder that consumers are not all that loyal, and can be easily tempted to switch brands.

Jess may not be the most savvy search engine user, but she is a very experienced shopper. And she is a shopper who goes online only when she’s ready to buy. There is no extensive research. Maybe a handful of sites are visited before the credit card comes out. Her online demographic provides proof that any search engine can be an important revenue channel, and that online retailers should try to avoid getting caught in the Google silo.

In terms of numbers, I don’t know how effective Ask’s television commercials have been overall. But if the goal of the campaign is to reach a consumer market that has no loyalty to the Big Three search engines, and could care less about Google’s next Beta tool, Microsoft’s adCenter launch, or Yahoo!’s shares hitting a new low on analyst day, then it’s working.