Is Microsoft's 'Scroogled' Ad Campaign Inspiration or Desperation?

Microsoft's Scroogled ads are clever and thought-provoking, but going negative against a dominant competitor like Google is risky business.

Microsoft latest word on its Google-slamming Scroogled campaign is this: I can't quit you.

The company is denying rumors that it is shuttering its ad campaign that tries to instill fear in the hearts of gmail users. According to a Microsoft statement, we should "stay tuned for the next chapter." (The company has confirmed, however, that the television portion of the campaign is done for now.)

The "Scroogled" ad campaign that has run across TV, the Web and newspapers for the past few months is an unsubtle attempt to get gmail and Google search users to switch to Outlook.com and Bing. Why? Because your privacy is under attack! Google robots match ads to keywords found in your emails!

This kind of black-and-white scare tactic can be effective. Here's the pitch: Outlook.com is simply an email delivery service, but Gmail is an email delivery service that spies on your private emails to sell ads. Bing delivers honest search results, but Google search results deliver what are basically paid ads.

While none of this is totally true --- Outlook.com also displays ads, but Microsoft contends the ads are not based on scans of users' private emails, and Google has vehemently denied that its scanning technology invades users' privacy --- the Scroogled campaign has still driven 3.5 million people to visit Scroogled.com, and nearly 115,000 people signed a petition asking Google to stop going through their Gmail, according to Microsoft.

Yet there's no indication so far of the real desired effect of the campaign: to reduce the amount of gmail users and reduce Google search market share. Web metrics company comScore has Google owning 67 percent of search market share, and it has been sitting pretty at that number for years, despite the persistence of Microsoft Bing, which debuted in 2009. With "Scroogled", Microsoft seems set on pointing out a dominant rival's flaws over emphasizing its own strengths, a strategy that didn't work for Mitt Romney's presidiential bid and probably won't work for Microsoft here.

Here are a few recent stories from around the Web covering the Scroogled campaign, including a column on ReadWrite by former Microsoft executive Joachim Kempin accusing his former employee of ugly smear-campaign tactics. Don't expect to see Mr. Kempin at any company events anytime soon!

Microsoft Forges Ahead With Its Anti-Google Scroogle Campaign

Reports that the software giant's persistent assault on Google is winding down aren't correct. "Scroogled will go on as long as Google keeps Scroogling people," Microsoft says. (CNet)

Why Microsoft Shouldn't Have Bothered 'Scroogling' Google

The Scroogled ads show that Microsoft is returning to its innately competitive, if not exactly pleasant, roots, writes former Microsoft executive Joachim Kempin, adding that smearing a competitor might work in politics because in that universe the truth does not hold a lot of water, but the software business is quite different. (ReadWrite.com)

Three Sides to Every Scroogled: Microsoft's, Google's, and the Truth

Microsoft is gunning for Google with their new "Scroogled" campaign, but what does Google actually do with your emails? (Hint: Not exactly what Microsoft claims.) Also, here's how to opt out of email-driven ads in Gmail. (ZDNet)

Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies