Jeeves makes a comeback
Jeeves, the quirky British butler we used to address questions to is making a comeback. It seemed that while most of us forgot to ask Ask.com, we all remembered dear old Jeeves.
As with Wispa – the chocolate bar that was revived after an online campaign – the danger of messing with a brand is yet again illustrated.
Ask.com research indicated that, three years after his disappearance, 83 per cent of people still remembered Jeeves. This is compared to 72 per cent who knew what Ask.com was.
Cesar Mascaraque, managing director of Ask.com’s European business, witnessed the strength of the old brand at first hand when he joined the company 18 months ago.
“When I told my friends and family I was going to work for Ask, they looked puzzled, but when I said it was the new Ask Jeeves, they suddenly understood what I was talking about,” he said. But he denied the rethink was a last-ditch effort to gain ground on market leader Google. “We have seen a growth of 20% this year, so we are not struggling,” he said.
Ask.com, which on Monday returns to its original name, Ask Jeeves, has a market share of just 2 per cent in the UK, according to Comscore, down from 2.6 per cent a year ago, and far behind Google, the market leader, which commands nearly 77 per cent.
However, Ask has spent the last few years improving its search engine to make it faster and better able to provide more relevant answers. Rather than returning search results at a glacial pace of 1.5 seconds, Ask now gives answers in under half a second. The next challenge is to attract users to the new service.
Jeeves’s return will be publicised by a marketing campaign including TV, radio, press and online advertising in which he will answer questions relevant to content. For example, in a TV break after Channel 4’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, he will ask: “Why do onions make you cry?”
The “new” Jeeves icon has been given a full makeover by Framestore — a company that specialises in animation and visual effects in movies. Jeeves returns as a three-dimensional character, even wearing a suit styled by Savile Row tailors Gieves & Hawkes.
He will also have his own Twitter and Facebook pages, where he will post daily questions, images, videos and a diary.
Ask Jeeves was originally brought to the UK in 1999 through a joint venture between its US creators and Carlton Communications and Granada Media Group, the UK television companies.
Part of the £40m ($59m) that Carlton and Granada invested in Ask Jeeves was paid in the form of advertising, giving Jeeves a great deal of media exposure in the early years of the dotcom boom.
In 2002, after the dotcom crash, Carlton and Granada divested their stakes for less than £2m. However, the Jeeves brand alone could be worth much more than this.