“The Algorithm” constantly finds Jesus, is banned in China, and is hated by the Unabomber. Confused? So were residents of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles during the “buzz” phase of Ask.com’s new advertising campaign produced by Crispin Porter & Bogusky. The theme — albeit an oblique one — is the importance of the algorithm a search engine uses to compile results. This spring, the fourth-ranked search engine posted unbranded bright blue and green billboards with the cryptic “Algorithm” messages throughout the three cities.
While the signs were vague, the purpose was clear. “The objective of the ads is to insert an interesting idea into people’s minds,” says Gregg Ott, vice president of marketing at Ask.com. Many people “may not have used the word ‘algorithm’ since algebra way back when.”
But it seems that the public looked past the algorithm, instead focusing on the more puzzling or provocative terms employed by the ads. In particular, “The Unabomber hates the algorithm” raised questions about why the search site would use the name of a terrorist.
Ask.com argued the company wasn’t glorifying his actions.
But in a thread on Cre8asite Forums on the billboard, the user SEOigloo asked about the relatives of the Unabomber’s victims: “How must they feel if they see someone using that tragedy as a marketing ploy?”Whether the advertisements crossed the line or not, they evidently accomplished their mission: Everyone’s talking about Ask.com.