NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ask.com, the Internet media unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp IACI.O, is set to spend $100 million this year on marketing to woo users unfamiliar with its revitalized search services, officials said on Monday.
Acquired by IAC two years ago for $2 billion, Ask has struggled to gain wider attention for a series of new services that have met with rave reviews by experts and have helped Ask.com surpass AOL and become the fourth-largest U.S. Web search provider.
“We have a number of ways to tell people about Ask, its tools, and why it should be used (and) why you should make a change from Google,” IAC Chairman and CEO Barry Diller said at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York.
“We’ll spend this year probably, on media, close to a hundred million dollars to promote Ask,” he said.
Last week, Ask geared up a major television advertising campaign, which it expects to spend heavily on in June — normally the season that most Internet services scale back promotions as Web use typically softens in the summer months.
The marketing budget planned for Ask includes not only television advertising, but a range of media as well as development of related services, said Jim Lanzone, chief executive of Ask.com, who joined Diller at the Reuters Summit.
The campaign also includes a shock billboard strategy begun in Britain, Ask’s other major market, and now expanding in U.S. markets that is meant to challenge viewers to give Ask.com a second look.
It’s the biggest marketing campaign since Ask retired the personal valet symbol that the company saw as too tied to the original dot-com start-up Ask Jeeves, which provided search in the form of questions and answers supplied by human editors.
Last Friday, the company introduced a new search service, featured on Sprint Nextel (S.N) cell phones, the first mobile search service among major Internet brands to offer location-based services. Late in 2006, the company unveiled a new local Web search service for computers that ties together IAC properties ranging from Ask to Citysearch to Ticketmaster.
Ask.com held 5.2 percent of the U.S. Web search market in March, up 0.2 percentage points over February, according to audience measurement firm comScore Inc.
A year ago, Ask introduced a redesigned home page that Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Mossberg hailed as “scor(ing) big points against search rivals.”
“In general, Ask’s search-results pages are richer and better organized than typical Google results, and they give greater priority to content over ads,” Mossberg wrote.
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