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Cognitive Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White

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Microsoft Should Look To Ask.com For Commercial Ideas

Who needs Jerry Seinfeld when you’ve got a pole-dancing babe? Ask.com, the search engine formerly associated with a butler named Jeeves, is running an advertisement that features a voluptuous young woman doing acrobatic moves on a stripper pole under the heading “What are the best aerobic workouts?”

The ad may tell me nothing about the site’s technology or give me any reason to use it over Google, but it worked - I obediently ventured over to Ask.com to see if they had somehow managed to make search sexy (they didn’t). The results were just as mundane as they’ve always been, but the ad still drove me to the site.



Contrast this with the “edgy” ad campaign Ask used last year that was headed by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which incorporated bizarre references to the Unibomber and urine-themed ads. The campaign failed to drive any traffic, and was abandoned only $15 million into the $100 million contract.

The same firm was in charge of Microsoft’s recent botched campaign featuring Bill Gates and Seinfeld. Microsoft has since shifted the campaign in a more successful direction (many think the shift occurred ahead of schedule, though the company maintains it went as planned), but should Microsoft ever decide to bail on Crispin it can rely on the same mantra that Ask has fallen back on: sex sells.

Ask.com is no stranger to displaying scantily-clad women in its ads - last year it ran one featuring a line of women promoting (but totally unrelated to) The Algorithm. We should also note that while Crispin has had its share of ill-received ad campaigns, it has also had some strokes of genius, including the Subservient Chicken.

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