Microsoft Advertising to Aim $80 Million Blast at GOOG

May 25, 2009

Abbey Klaassen’s “Microsoft Aims Big Guns at Google, Asks Consumers to Rethink Search” signals an escalation in the contention between Microsoft and Google. The money–$80 million—strikes me as a hefty chunk of change for the search and content processing sector. In fact, only a few companies engaged in search have annual revenues in that range. The subtitle of her story makes the view of the ad community clear: “Here’s why an $80M ad effort for a search engine, Bing, makes some sense.” You can read the story here.

For me, the key comment in the Ad Age story was this passage:

Consider that Google has conducted internal tests, according to people familiar with them, in which the company put its logo and treatment on another engine’s search results. Users still prefer the results with the Google logo, even if they’re not Google results. Or consider that a revamped made its debut in 2007 to a glowing review from The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, who said it “holds its own with Google, and even beats the champ on some searches.” Two years later? Ask’s share of search is down 28%.

The last paragraph of the Ad Age article put a key point in the mind of this addled goose. The story said:

It doesn’t take a lot to switch people from one type to another and usually it’s a unique feature that gets people excited,” said David Karnstedt, CEO of Efficient Frontier and former head of sales for Yahoo. He reflected on his days at AltaVista, which Google supplanted. “Google got people excited because it got people and places right early on. That got people to really start to switch, and once developed the habit of using Google, it was hard to get them to switch back.”

My thoughts on this ad campaign reflect my view from the polluted pond in rural Kentucky in which I paddle; to wit:

  1. Brand has power. A new brand whether Bing or Kumo has to be built. That takes time. Time is running out because Google continues to increase its grip on the Web search market. Its brand is still quite strong despite the hassle over copyright and other issues.
  2. Google’s been plugging away at search for more than a decade. Microsoft has made numerous runs at the GOOG over the years. Now consumer advertising is the “solution”. Last time I checked, traditional advertising was losing its oomph because of demographic shifts, the decline of certain mass media, and the lousy economic climate.
  3. Google works. When the company experiences a glitch, the outage becomes a major news story. Google is now like a utility, and I think that a free utility that has become a habit may be tough to displace.

Google is, therefore, in the cat bird seat because it is good enough, has a 70 percent market share, and is free. Ads can’t change those facts even for $80 million. Microsoft needs to leap frog Google, not send messages to the same audience that chases with its “search engine of NASCAR” promotion.

The addled goose’s prediction: great for agencies who get the $80 million in business. No substantive impact on search share. More is needed and quickly.

Stephen Arnold, May 25, 2009


2 Responses to “Microsoft Advertising to Aim $80 Million Blast at GOOG”

  1. lita on May 25th, 2009 9:31 am

    I am very excited about this and in fact just picked up 1000 shares of Microsoft stock in anticipation of this ad campaign. I’d love to see MS take a gouge out of Google’s market share.

    Case in point, the perception change of Apple vs Microsoft.

    Apple value perception plummeted (like goog will?) following its first competitive ad campaign.

    Bing is a happier name than google and I think people will have fun with it.
    Time will tell I guess!

  2. Dave Hucker on May 25th, 2009 11:45 am

    Lita, you’re not alone. Microsoft (and Yahoo! somewhat) has become the ‘underdog’ of Search and there is always a popularity factor in being a redheaded stepchild of Search… Tech savvy search followers are always more than willing to check out a site which poses a risk to the top dog. Deep down, we all love a good tussle.

    While Brand is king, Buzz can also be a powerful factor in building brand…if (IF!) there is some actual gravitas behind the buzz. If not then it actually becomes a liability as there is an endless list of bloggers and critics lined up to pound reality into the heads of the great pretenders.

    One thing that Google does that I’m not particularly fond of is the rapid change of its search results display. They’ve changed localsearch algorithm which has effected the way local serps show up in the 10 pack. They’ve added the “options” feature giving the ability to refine the search results on a page. Thanks but if I want to refine my search, I’ll do it the old fashioned way. but I guess not everyone knows how to refine a search, so its kinda like ‘search for dummies’ 🙂

    thanks for bringing us the news Stephen

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