Ask.com algorithm campaign to reveal secret behind search

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Ask.com has launched a campaign that features online, print, television and outdoor advertisements of "The Algorithm."

Created by the Crispin, Porter + Bogusky advertising agency, the campaign represents the initial phase of a yearlong effort to promote Ask.com's search algorithm as the secret ingredient that powers the site.

Algorithms, the core component of search engines, combine with other search features and tools to determine search results.

Ask.com's algorithm takes a unique approach to relevance ranking. The algorithm is called ExpertRank and provides a different view of the Web for searchers, helping them find what they are looking for better and faster, the company claims.

Most Web searchers, however, do not give much thought to search technology, according to Greg Ott, vice president of marketing at Ask.com.

The campaign aims to inform people that all search engines are not the same, and that the algorithm being used is important.

Beginning May 2, two television spots will run on major networks and cable during morning, prime-time and late-night programming.

One spot, titled "Daddy," shows a child telling his father about a classmate who was teased in school because her parents use a "lame algorithm." The father reassures his son that he has nothing to worry about because, he says, "your mom and I get everything we want with the most powerful algorithm on earth."

The boy then proudly whispers to himself, "I knew it."

Another spot, "BBQ," shows four friends standing around a barbecue grill. Three are telling stories about their experiences with the algorithm, when the fourth friend jumps into the conversation with his own but clearly has no clue what an algorithm is or does. The other three shame him into admitting his lie.

The outdoor campaign began in April to build initial buzz and awareness. It features thought-provoking lines including "The Algorithm Killed Jeeves" and "The Algorithm Is From Jersey."

Ask.com has ads on billboards, bus shelters and transit stations in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Ask.com logo is being added this week.

The online component of the campaign features creative similar to the out-of-home ads and will run on a number of sites, including CNET, MySpace, NYTimes.com, Salon.com, Slate and YouTube.

Ask.com hopes to get people talking about the algorithm and get them wondering what it is. The company also wants to spark additional interest in Ask.com and the search concept.

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