Don't Ask the question, you might not like the answer...
A couple of times recently my eye has been caught by ads for the Information Revolution. You may have seen them...they're designed as guerilla-style posters for a campaign or movement...you know, all black marker pen raised fists and loud hailers...but clearly being positioned on proper poster sites immediately makes them stand out as having commercial backing. One of the posters I saw called for an end to the information monopoly, the other (more obviously hinting at their source) highlighted the fact that the vast majority of people use just one search engine to find stuff on the internet.
I managed to remember the URL from the poster (which is unusual for me) and visited the site earlier today. I figured that I'd be able to dig around and somewhere find out who was behind the campaign...but actually it was very easy, as the Ask logo is featured on the homepage. It kinda struck me that they've bottled it a bit...I actually do think that it's a decent enough issue to raise in people's minds...but Ask was obviously a bit worried about the criticism that might come its way if it tried to hide its identity too much, and therefore made its involvement very obvious.
The problem is, of course, that by doing that the campaign loses its effectiveness. When you realise that the site is being driven by another search engine, then you question the motives (or, more likely, understand the true motives). After all, Ask's commercial objective, presumably, is to steal lots of search share from Google...in fact, it'd love to have the information monopoly itself.
For me, though, the campaign truly shoots itself in the foot with the main feature on the homepage; the opportunity to test four of the most-used search engines. I decided to do just that and, oddly enough, chose "the world's leading blog" as my search term.
So, how did they all get one? Well, on Google we came up as the first and second results...which I'll take any day of the week, thanks very much. On Yahoo! we were second - which is OK too - but on both Ask and MSN (sorry, Live Search) we didn't pop up on the first page...or the second...and, frankly, I didn't bother going any further than that because nobody else will.
So unfortunately, Ask's no doubt expensive advertising campaign has simply demonstated that there are at least two search engines that I'd use before Ask...and, to be honest, I only need one.