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Angry outburst against frienemy was met with much criticism

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Google Inc. (GOOG) have an interesting relationship.  On the one hand Microsoft languishes with small market shares in the search and smartphone markets, dreaming of being Google.  It's actively sued Google over smartphone patents, and has milked billions in licensing settlements from Android phonemakers.  It's also pushed for tough antitrust actions against Google.  On the other hand, Google still relies on Microsoft Windows for much of its ad revenue, an awkward relationship.

The frienemy's relationship devolved somewhat when Microsoft launched a nasty attack on its search rival accusing Google of "Scroogling" customers.  The ads take issue with Google's scanning of Gmail emails for behavioral marketing, and also tactics involved with Google Shopping.

But this week Microsoft Senior Online Services Director Stefan Weitz told public radio and TV station KQED that the ad campaign "is about finished".  The website and catchphrase will remain active, but the print, web, and television ads will die off.

The online services executive revealed that Microsoft hatched the campaign after a Roper Center for Public Opinion Research (at the University of Connecticut) revealed that people were unaware of the extent of Google's online behavioral monitoring including "reading" (anonymously) emails in Gmail.

He effectively admits, though, that the campaign did not have a major impact, commenting that using Google search is "a habit... it's like smoking. It's hard to get folks to stop doing it."

Here's a few of Microsoft's "Scroogled" ads:




Some of our readers responded positively to the campaign.  Echoing Mr. Weitz's comments tayb writes:

This campaign is not going to convince me to stop using gmail but I do hope it convinces google to stop scanning my emails. I do consider this an invasion of privacy even if I use adblock and never see the ads.

Others were quite upset at Microsoft.  Reclaimer77 writes:

Microsoft is grasping at straws here in this pathetic attempt. Bing is hemorrhaging money to the tune of $1+ billion a year, and they have NO answer to Google's services.

I use a Gmail account and I'm hard pressed to see how my privacy is at stake. I never get spam mails, Gmail has one of the best spam filters I've ever seen. And I never have targeted adds shoved down my throat.

As usual they collect ANONYMOUS data that helps them make add revenue, so we can all enjoy their services free. I think that's a pretty good deal if you ask me.

Also Microsoft is being dishonest in the extreme. They do the exact same thing with their free Hotmail service! It's morally wrong to be this hypocritical in order to smear a competitor.

Ultimately extremely negative advertising campaigns -- including Scroogle can be effective (see "Get a Mac"), but also have the tendency to backfire.  A recent article by Adage discusses some recent consumer market attack ads and their relative successes.

Source: KQED



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