Are You Getting Scroogled?

Beginning March 1st, Google will be implementing a new privacy policy which will affect all of its products/services offered in order to gain a better perspective of their consumers and give them a more personalized experience. With the new privacy policy, Google will be able to gain more access to personal information by pulling material from all Google-operated services/products, such as E-mail, and using that information to create personalized advertisements to the user. This idea is similar to the one discussed in our earlier blog post titled “Not to Burst Your Bubble….”. With a better understanding of their users, Google will better be able to sell advertising, which in fact, is a main source of revenue for the company. Also, advertisers will be willing to spend more money with Google, if Google is bringing them more customers.

This privacy policy change has certainly upset a number of people, but it might be safe to say none like Microsoft, a competitor of Google’s. Within recent weeks, Microsoft has released a number of advertisements via print and YouTube blatantly attacking Google and its new privacy policy. With the headline, “Have you Been Scroogled?”, and the advertisements tearing the privacy policy to shreds, it’s hard for one to not compare these advertising campaigns to those of the presidential elections.  It is unclear what the purpose of the advertisement is until the very last couple of seconds in which the Microsoft Outlook logo is revealed. There is even a website dedicated to the campaign. Upon visiting, the user is given the option to sign a petition against Google and the option to try Microsoft Outlook. The irony behind this whole situation is prevalent in several ways. First, Microsoft is placing these anti-Google advertisements on YouTube. Second, when searching for “Microsoft anti-Google ads” through the Google search engine, the websites provided where splattered with banner/marginal ads for Microsoft. When performing this same search through Bing (a search engine owned by Microsoft), the websites provided had shown ads sponsored by Google. This pattern resembles the concept of a “strange loop” within the Coordinated Management of Meaning theory. According to Littlejohn (1999, in Theories of Human Communication), these occur when “the rules of interpretation change from one point in the loop to another, causing a paradox, or strange loop, in which each contexts disconfirms the other”.

As of now, a little less than 10,000 people have signed the petition, which is only a small fraction of the G-mail users, and the YouTube advertisement have received far more “dislikes” than “likes”. Maybe this strategy isn’t as successful as Microsoft had hoped it would be. With Google being the most popular search engine, it is going to take more than that to persuade its users to up and switch to Microsoft. What does this say about Microsoft as a company? Will this be the new advertising technique of the future? Will we no longer see companies like Coke and Pepsi beating around the bush but rather taking deliberate stabs at one another? Only time will tell, but it will be interesting to see where the rest of Microsoft’s campaigning takes us.

Callie Fenlon