Client: Ask Jeeves UK
Campaign: Launch of Ask.co.uk
PRTeam: Joe Public Relations
Timescale: 20 Jan - 13 Mar
The ’question and answer’ internet service Ask Jeeves (ask.com) has
proved to be a great success in the US. The brand has garnered a
reputation as a quick and easy means of asking questions on-line. Unlike
search engines, Ask Jeeves enables the user to key in questions in plain
English, rather than using key words. The user is then presented with a
series of possible answers, including links to other sites.
Ask Jeeves UK was set up in December 1999 in a deal between its US
parent and television groups Carlton Communications and Granada. It
launched on 28 February this year.
To generate an awareness of the Ask.co.uk address, driving high levels
of traffic to the site upon its launch. To create an image of Ask Jeeves
as synonymous with the idea of service, through a targeted campaign in
the national and regional media. To support the advertising and other
Strategy and Plan
The US version had already created a base of UK users so there was
established brand awareness on which to build.
The plan was to communicate the concept of fast and friendly service to
as broad a range of people as possible, both long-time users as well as
newcomers to the internet.
A pre-recorded radio package was produced with the Princess of Wales’
former butler, Paul Burrell, talking about the concept of butlering in
the UK, emphasising the concept of good service and relating it to the
ease with which Ask.co.uk can be used. This had a series of interviews
with Burrell and Ask.co.uk’s chief executive officer, Andrew Hart. In
the four days leading up to the launch a series of teaser cards - in the
form of visiting cards traditionally collected by family butlers - were
distributed to key press and 20,000 flyposters were strategically placed
in media centres and commuter terminals around the country.
On the day of the launch 50 butlers in tails and white gloves handed out
promotional cards on silver trays at London mainline stations.
Regional areas were targeted with photocalls at stations - butlers
ironing newspapers were photographed at Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds,
Birmingham, and Bristol. Butlers also visited Virgin and Liberty radio,
taking breakfast in for the morning crews. A late breakfast was served
to consumer and IT correspondents on all the nationals.
Companies were targeted via business print and broadcast media to
promote the service to potential advertisers.
Measurement and Evaluation
Coverage was achieved in four national newspapers - the Mirror, the
Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, and the Scotsman. The Paul Burrell
interview was run on 21 regional radio stations, and butlers serving
breakfast to presenters gained coverage on Virgin’s and Liberty’s
The story was covered by 16 regional newspapers, many running
photographs and details of questions frequently asked on the site.
Andrew Hart was interviewed by Sky News, CNBC, Bloomberg, Reuters and
The story ran on PA, Reuters, Telecomworldwide and the Industry
Media Week awarded the campaign ’Stunt of the Week’.
Within the first week of its launch Ask.co.uk was answering half a
million questions a day. By 13 March it had received 40 million
The campaign was a great success, with Ask.co.uk managing to become one
of the top ten most visited sites in the UK within a fortnight of its
launch. The statistics undoubtedly prove that the ’question and answer’
service is proving popular with the public. Paul Burrell’s participation
ensured a strong human interest angle and a radio-friendly way of making
the abstract concrete.