Case Study: Ask.com "You Asked, We Answered" Seattle

Client: Ask.com

PR DAILY 2013 WINNER FOR BEST LOCATION CAMPAIGN

In its 16th year of business, Ask.com went gangbusters, with an upgraded Q&A experience that blends the power of searching for an answer online with the ability to glean insights from real people. The company ended its self-imposed marketing hiatus and kick-started brand investments once again – with the goal of fueling increased consumer awareness around its new and improved Q&A value proposition.

Ask may have gotten some flak in the past for some of its mass marketing efforts, and the team — led by Chief Revenue Officer Shane McGilloway — knew they had to be thoughtful and highly focused this time around. Ask launched a TV campaign in 2011 in multiple markets, which was hugely successful — boosting traffic up to 30 percent in select markets.

But Ask wanted to go further with a hyper-local layer, connecting the brand to residents on a more emotional level to foster goodwill. So Ask.com PR, led by Valerie Combs, worked with DLC to create the “You Asked, We Answered” campaign, aimed at “answering” what was on the minds of local residents.

The objectives for the PR-driven campaign were to increase awareness and site traffic above and beyond the TV campaign, as well as increase attention and goodwill around Ask.com.

The team chose Seattle as the testing ground for the experiment – in large part due to the similar demographic of Ask’s (Bay Area) backyard in terms of income, mindset and tech savvy. After polling dozens of Seattle locals and conducting extensive research on the market, Ask.com identified a handful of top issues that bothered Seattle-ites most: horrific morning commutes, debilitating stadium traffic congestion, and budget cuts impacting Seattle’s public wading pools.

Armed with this insight, PR modeled out a campaign that included several phases, with mediagenic hooks baked in to ensure multiple waves of PR coverage. The first phase of the campaign kicked off with a multi-channel poll designed to incent Seattle-ites to “vote” for what they would most like for Ask to make happen in their city.

Locals were offered the following choices: ease the morning commute with coffee, minimize Safeco Field traffic with rides home from Mariners games, and helping to save wading pools that were threatened with closes. Ask created a multi-channel approach to make voting easy with three touch points: a microsite, a polling app, and a man on the street viral video.

Thousands of people voted in just a few weeks. After an overwhelming response from Seattle residents, Ask decided to surprise residents and “answer” all three requests. This positive news was well-received by local press and consumers, with coverage in Seattle Times, Seattle PI, Puget Sound Business Journal/TechFlash, GeekWire, and more.

In giving away all three “answers,” Ask PR was able to optimize media exposure with a rollout frequency of every two weeks, attracting ongoing local media attention and positive commentary from locals via blogs and social media.

The campaign drove the following results for Ask.com:

  • An increased ~30% lift in Seattle-based site visitors to Ask.com.
  • Following the 2 month PR campaign; almost double the number of Seattle residents said they noticed Ask advertising; the percentage of people who said, “they don’t think to use Ask” dropped notably.
  • Positive earned media coverage blanketed all local outlets with close to 60 unique stories: 17 television broadcast segments, 37 online articles, as well as print and radio, garnering more than 11.5 mm positive local media impressions.

With the “You Asked, We Answered” campaign, it clearly paid off for Ask.com to Think Global…and Act Local.

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