Over the past year, Ask.com (formerly AskJeeves) has run two heavy TV campaigns. The first was September 2005 and the second March 2006 (and they're in the midst of another fall campaign now.)
Ask.com, which is the fourth most-used search engine in the US, was hoping to lure users from the big three: Google, Yahoo! and MSN Search. (The days when AOL Search was one of the big three are long gone.)
Could well-done TV creative broadcast at high-enough saturation move the needle? Is it possible to break Google's stride toward desktop domination? It's a question Microsoft especially would love to know the answer to.
The thin line above shows Ask.com's ad spend. It's pretty dramatic; yet, at first glance, the results don't appear to be. After a fairly major media spend, Ask.com's online market share went from just over 3% to a bit over 4.5% and then subsided a bit.
The answer to the question then is, yes, you can grow online market share, but perhaps only a little if your competitors are heavily entrenched and you won't keep your peak forever.
However a look behind the numbers tells another story. From August 2005 to August 2006, Compete and MarketingSherpa research also discovered that Ask.com was the *only* major search engine to grow market share besides Google. Yahoo! and MSN Search both lost measured market share.
In that light, Ask.com's achievement is a major triumph.
Lesson learned? Google is a juggernaut. Expect MSN and Yahoo! to do heavy TV. And, if you do invest in major TV, be darned sure you've got a must-return-to site or service beforehand. Because one or two TV-driven visits per consumer do not ensure long-term loyalty.
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