Ask Jeeves Launches Outdoor Ad Campaign

Search engine Ask Jeeves is taking the wraps off an advertising campaign Monday that skips the expensive TV commercials it used in its early days in favor of more sensible guerilla marketing and outdoor advertising.

The company’s dapper butler, Jeeves, might no longer be a TV star, but he’s still larger than life. In a new ad campaign, Jeeves will grace billboards and phone booths around the Upper West Side in Manhattan from Monday until Dec. 18. The outdoor campaign, produced by Ask Jeeves’ in-house artist Marco Sorenson, is a build-up for his third appearance as a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, where a 70-feet long and 25-feet wide Jeeves will loom large on Broadway.

Ask Jeeves will also target the West Coast with a deal to run a variety of advertising at the Staples Center during Lakers basketball games. Each game will feature an AskJeeves trivia game, and the Jeeves logo will be placed at the scorer’s table and on the scoreboard.

The ad campaign is the first for the company in a year, after a furious marketing push in the late 1990s.

“We’re looking to market through events in major Internet markets and to leverage major events, like the Macy’s parade and sponsorships with the Lakers, to generate awareness and visibility in those markets,” said Heather Staples, Ask Jeeves’ chief marketing officer. “We’re looking to complement the large events with other marketing vehicles to expand our visibility.”

Other initiatives include having the Jeeves character take on one or two new personas at the Ask Jeeves Web site,, and the release of the sixth AskJeeves book, scheduled for early 2003.

“We’re able to extend the value of our spend and generate the highest reach for our dollar,” Staples said.

The scaled-down marketing stands in sharp contrast to AskJeeves’ aggressive, and expensive, push to make a name for itself in the go-go days of the Internet boom. The company spent an estimated $100 million establishing the Jeeves brand, rivaling the likes of, which also participated in the Macy’s parade with a float-balloon that featured its then-ubiquitous sock puppet.

Staples said the company’s lavish marketing expenditures paid off in an established brand that Ask Jeeves can now market more frugally and effectively.

“The marketing that we did was very successful in building a strong brand,” she said. “We believe the marketing we have done in the past has allowed us to grow to that place over the last several years.”

As the No. 2 most-visited search site, behind Google, AskJeeves is in a crowded market that might grow fiercer with the reemergence of early search engine star AltaVista. Earlier this week, AltaVista re-launched its site with a stripped-down look and buffed-up search applications.

Staples said Ask Jeeves will ramp up more marketing efforts in 2003, as the company battles with rival search engines for users.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the economics of the search business are very good,” she said. “The value is now going toward those companies that own traffic.”

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