In these days of digital goodness, I’m sure I’m not alone in noticing more and more brands using the phrase: ‘search for us online…’ in their ad campaigns. But this strategy has failed many, many times, so why do brands take the risk?

A quick scout around the digital media press, and obviously the
obligatory question posted on Twitter, revealed many examples of brands
using search in ads:

  • Orange and MTV both asked people to search for their brands rather than using a web address;
  • SonyBMG asked Dido fans to search for various taglines to promote her ‘Safe trip home’ album in their bizarrely unbranded posters;
  • The NHS encouraged users to type “Change for life” in to search boxes – presumably to save them having to remember a complicated NHS address;
  • The government were at it again with ‘Act on CO2’, another address;
  • Posterscope used the power of search in multiple (confusing) ways with their “Oohgle” poster campaign;
  • Even channel 4 are at it with their campaign for their More4 channel – one has to assume this was mainly driven by their not owning the domain!

But as we all know, this can easily backfire on a brand if they’re not completely watertight on their SEO/PPC coverage – that’s why I like to call it ‘Search Arrogance’. Orange demonstrated this to great effect with their ‘I am’ campaign: users were told to search ‘I am’ rather than typing in an address.

But as a quick search on ‘I am’ in Google will now demonstrate, the first result that comes up is ‘I am bored’. Orange do come up first (and now, only) in the PPC results, but at the time even this wasn’t a guarantee.

This was brought home to me in even more spectacular fashion a couple of weeks ago whilst driving in my car around my native Berkshire. The previous examples I’ve given were mainly driven in print or TV forms, but the Bracknell Forest Council have taken this to a new confusing high!

Their radio ad for their ‘Happier and healthier life’ campaign encourages users to search for ‘Three by thirty’, which is a tie-in with their push for people to do three lots of 30 minutes of exercise a day.

I was struck by the bravery of this at the time, so once I got home I duly typed ‘Three by thirty‘ into Google. Results? Not good for BFC, and not a mention of them on the first page even, and no PPC spots.

How about ‘3 by 30‘? Slightly better, but still not inspiring – 5th position for BFC. The final thing I tried, and this was evidently the search term they were hoping people would type in,  was ‘3 x 30‘.

But as any seasoned Googler will know, the first result this will usually bring up is the mathematical sum ‘3 times 30’, and sure enough it does. But even more embarassingly for BFC, they don’t even come up first for this. A rival health-site does, which is not good.

Whilst I’m probably being a little harsh highlighting Bracknell Forest Council’s error here, it does prove the point quite nicely, relying on a search term to be stable enough for you to completely eshew web addresses in your adverts is a very risky business. I dread to think of how many more calamities we’re going to see before people realise this…!