Yahoo Campaign Search Leads to ‘Meeting Place of the World’

Yahoo Inc.’s new ad campaign for its revised search engine is not hard to find.

The use of television, radio, outdoor and print ads, as well as online and guerilla marketing to promote Yahoo Search a month into its relaunch is nothing unusual. But what about an Internet-connected billboard in New York’s Times Square?

“It’s the meeting place of the world and it helps to reinforce the association people already have of Yahoo and search — all over the world we help people find what they’re looking for,” said Andrea Cutright, director of North America brand marketing and advertising at Yahoo, Sunnyvale, CA.

The billboard spans 7,000 square feet, or 22 floors, of the Reuters Building. It features searches with a 20-minute delay on 11 screens. Live search terms will scroll across the screen for 15 minutes every hour through July. The searches will be queries from users in cities like Honolulu, New York, San Francisco, Muncie, IN, and Savannah, GA, as well as general searches nationwide.

Yahoo claims that it is the first Internet-connected billboard in Times Square. The gimmick is supported by two 30-second TV spots called “Subway” and “Anthem,” airing on networks like Fox and cable channels like MTV, f/X and USA Networks.

The spots show people carrying five-foot search bars with search terms reflecting their everyday needs as they go through daily motions of life like subway riding, corporate meetings or classes.

Handled by Yahoo agency Black Rocket Euro RSCG, San Francisco, the campaign includes high-frequency mid-traffic-report radio spots of 10 seconds each. They will air during morning- and evening-drive time in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco.

Print ads in publications like BusinessWeek and InfoWorld will complement the spots as will online ads across the Yahoo network and on, and CBS Marketwatch. The television spots will be available for online on Yahoo.

In other outdoor buys, Yahoo is running ads on high-traffic, commute-heavy billboard sites in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. There also are placements on phone kiosks, downtown walls, office building lobbies and bus shelters.

All ads are taglined “Faster. Easier. Bingo.”

Guerilla marketing will mirror parts of the TV campaign. Hired “searchers” will walk around popular areas in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston carrying a five-foot search bar. This is meant to illustrate the importance of search in each of their lives.

Search certainly is important in Yahoo’s life. The company was founded as a search engine and then branched off into a host of services such as news, e-mail and sports. Along the way came search engines AltaVista, AOL, LookSmart, Ask Jeeves and Google, all vying to find answers to online users’ queries.

According to comScore Media Metrix, an estimated 790 million searches are conducted each week in the U.S. In that report, Yahoo accounts for 26 percent of those searches and Google 23 percent. Google, however, claims more than 200 million searches a day and 100,000-plus advertisers.

This campaign, the first for Yahoo Search, is meant to draw attention to the new search page, improved interface, the ability to search by product or image and short cuts to eliminate clicks and steps.

Yahoo Search was relaunched in early April, a month after Yahoo closed its acquisition of algorithm-led search technology provider Inktomi, Foster City, CA. Google too acquired companies around the same timeframe: San Francisco-based Blogger maker Pyra Labs in February and Santa Monica, CA-based Applied Semantics in April.

“Search is the biggest and most ubiquitous part of the Web,” Cutright said. “Almost 80 percent of the online audience searches online [according to Nielsen NetRatings]. This is the core of what Yahoo has always been about.”

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