Ask Jeeves plans revamp as mainstream search site…

Ask Jeeves’ UK website is relaunching, with a new look, new functions and a facelift for Jeeves, the butler character who gave the search engine its name. The revamp will bring the UK site into line with the US version, which is also relaunching.

The changes are being promoted through a &£2m television and online campaign, breaking in the first week of October and running for six weeks. Two 30-second animated ads have been created by TBWA/London, with media buying by MPG.

One simple but fundamental change is that visitors will now click on a “search” button instead of an “ask” button, underlining Ask Jeeves’ repositioning as a mainstream search engine company.

When Ask Jeeves launched in the Nineties, it sold itself on the fact that site visitors could phrase their queries as questions, which the underlying software would interpret and answer. The Jeeves character was meant to personify that human touch.

Ask Jeeves UK & Ireland vice-president of marketing Aylin Savkan says: “Jeeves the character is slimming down and being made more contemporary.” Savkan admits the company has looked at a wide range of options, including ditching the brand character altogether: but research found that Jeeves signified that “we do things differently, we have a more human face”.

Ask Jeeves UK handles 40 million searches every month, from 6 million unique users. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ask Jeeves Inc, a US company quoted on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

The UK operation was originally launched in 1999 as a joint venture with media giants Granada and Carlton, which invested &£50m for a quarter share each. In February 2002, Ask Jeeves Inc bought them out for &£1.8m.

Savkan confirms the company is still looking to replace UK marketing director Giorgia Longoni. Longoni resigned to return to her native Italy (MW July 29). Separately, the company has cut seven jobs as part of a restructure that has merged Ask Jeeves’ direct client and agency sales teams.

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