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Microsoft readies mega-million ad blitz for Kumo/Bing

In an effort to unseat Google (and Yahoo) in search, Microsoft is reportedly launching an $80 million to $100 million ad campaign for its new Bing search engine, formerly known internally as Kumo. Leave it to Microsoft. If it can't build and implement head-turning search engine features, at least it can plaster the airwaves with attention-grabbing ads to siphon off a small contingent of easily swayed users.

Advertising Age reports that Microsoft has hired New York ad agency JWT to handle the multimillion dollar push, which will include online, TV, print and radio spots. It's a huge chunk of change compared with the typical consumer launch, which tops out at $50 million, and especially in light of how it dwarfs Google's ad budget. (Google reportedly spent just $25 million on advertising last year, and $11.6 million of that was earmarked toward hiring, not product pushes.)

And if history is any judge, all those Microsoft ad dollars probably won't make much of a dent in the search engine marketplace, especially since Bing (at least from what's been revealed so far) doesn't look like much of a game-changer. Just look at Ask.com. It relaunched with a glowing review from the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg in 2007, and it spent $57 million that year (and $22 million last year) all for nought. Today, Ask.com's share of search is down 28%, while Google's continues to rise--and that's even when Ask.com had compelling technology to sell.

Microsoft just doesn't get it. While a nifty ad campaign may help it in its fight against Apple in the laptop/desktop market, search is a completely different animal. First, it's free, so telling customers that it provides a service almost as good but cheaper (as it does with almost everything else) can't fly in search. Plus, Google is so far entrenched as the leader in search that anything Microsoft comes up with as an alternative can't just match Google -- it has to significantly surpass Google. And even then, it probably won't win that big a chunk of share.

But rather than spending time (and all that money) building a significantly new and better way to search, Microsoft instead relies on advertising. Because with Microsoft, winning technologies aren't the most intuitive, useful and best in breed. They're just the ones with the best commercials.

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