Microsoft can go and Scroogle themselves

13 Feb

Avid users of Facebook may have thought that there was no greater digital indignity than being fraped. Well, you may want to look away, as the chances are you’ve been scroogled. You may even be the subject of a jolly good scroogling as you read this.

Microsoft has launched a new marketing campaign that (not so subtly) cuts to the core of what they believe to be Google’s lack of respect for users’ privacy. The debate focuses on ads that appear when you log into your Gmail and are served as a response to the type of emails you’ve been receiving (something which Microsoft Outlook claim not to do). The Gmail ads service is also related to your Google searches and behaviour across other Google services. The perceived invasion of privacy is the issue.

The Scroogle Campaign

Firstly let’s take a look at what cynics have been saying about the Microsoft Scroogle campaign, via Twitter:

James Young‏ @welcomebrand is unimpressed with the new Microsoft website (so much so that he pluralises “lol”):

#Scroogled will go viral not because it’s about privacy but because people will lolz at the design work
& copywriting?

DCUInstituteOfEthics ‏@DCUEthics is an ethical man who can’t spell “campaign”, but we know what he means:

Microsoft fair and unbiased campagne against @Google #scroogled what
about governmental access to Skype/Hotmail?

Ross‏ @Hypn sounds both saddened and disappointed: is without a doubt the most desperate and pathetic marketing attempt ever. Bad
Microsoft, so so bad. #scroogled #fb

Juan Marquez ‏@jmquez thinks Microsoft are desperate:

What do companies do when their competitors are more innovative and offer better services?
#scroogled is a good example of this #fail

Over at (don’t make the mistake I did and miss out the d), there is a video in which a man is being served “full service bankruptcy” ads after his friend emails him to say “Hey Jeff I’ve been to that new pie place so many times we may have to take out a second mortgage”.

See the video here.

I’d be more concerned about the nosey lady looking over his shoulder and the physical health of his friend (don’t spend all your money on pies kids).

Are keyword ads really that tenuous?

Being a modern man I often receive emails from my mum that end with the sign off “love mum”… Why am I not being served ads about loving mums? (Probably because only family-safe ads appear in Gmail… thanks a lot Google!)

I rarely receive an ad that hones in on particular keywords however. Most are relevant to a broader theme. The email below is about a marketing summit and the ads are generally about digital marketing services

Most email providers are able to search through the keywords in your emails anyway – it’s how they check for spam. It doesn’t mean that there is a crack team of email-peepers, sitting in a darkened room and cackling deliriously as they absorb all of your inner-secrets.

As Google says “Ad targeting in Gmail is fully automated, and no humans read your email or Google Account information in order to show you advertisements or related information.” That’s not to say it isn’t all being stored in a massive data warehouse, ready to bite you on the bum when judgement day comes – but life’s too short to be worrying about judgement day.

And let’s not forget, if you don’t like receiving ads, you can also change to the HTML reading version or change your preferences.

Websites have long been able to track user movements across the web. The EU cookie law implemented last year made way for slightly more transparency, but how many internet users truly know how their behaviour is being monitored and what it is being used for?

Paul Rubin, a professor of economics at Emory University in Atlanta argues that internet users are richly rewarded for their personal data and that ultimately the data is used to help make a better internet experience.

What does this mean for marketers?

An Experian report in November 2012 showed that Google’s market share in the UK had dropped below 90% of all searches for the first time in five years (to 89.33%).

But before you go closing your Gmail accounts and ripping up those “I heart Google” tee-shirts, the gap between Google and its competitors is still colossal. The closest challenger is Microsoft’s Bing, up to around 4.71% market share. Google still has 18 times more searches than any other search engine in the UK.

For digital marketers, this means that the vast majority of your customers will continue to trust Google if the ads they are served are relevant. It’s therefore in Google’s best interests to make sure that the most relevant ads are displayed.

The reality is that for businesses using Google as a marketing tool, the challenge continues to be one of relevance. How do you attract relevant traffic? The data is there to help you to do this and (as a by-product) the majority of web-users experiences will also be one of relevance – from finding cheap flights, to discovering products and services they never knew they needed.

We’re all adults here, thanks Microsoft… which is why I’m off to look at some mother-loving websites.

How relevant are the ads you see in you Gmail? Do you care?



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