The Microsoft advertising assault on Google began with a print ad that Microsoft is running in major national newspapers this week, including The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. The ad, entitled “Putting people first,” states candidly:
Google is in the midst of making some unpopular changes to some of their most popular products. Those changes, cloaked in language like “transparency,” “simplicity,” and “consistency,” are really about one thing: making it easier for Google to connect the dots between everything you search, send, say or stream while using one of their services.
But, the way they’re doing it is making it harder for you to maintain control of your personal information. Why are they so interested in doing this that they would risk this kind of backlash? One logical point: Every data point they collect and connect to you increases how valuable you are to an advertiser.
Ironically, even though Microsoft’s ad blasts Google for selling out its users to advertisers, Microsoft seems perfectly content to use Google’s massive online advertising platform — AdWords — to its own advantage. Microsoft was the sixth largest client of Google’s advertising program in terms of sheer spending in the first three quarters of 2011, as Advertising Age reported.
Still, far be it from Microsoft to restrain from kicking its enemy while they are down. In fact, Redmond is only amping up the campaign against Google. On Thursday morning, Microsoft bombarded its social media accounts — Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (a Google product) with slapstick video called “Gmail Man,” mocking Gmail for serving up advertisements to users based on the keywords they type into their personal correspondence.
“Beware the peeping eyes of the Gmail man!” the description of the video reads, with the video itself showing a sketch of a fictional “Gmail Man,” opening and reading customers’ physical snail-mail letters only to serve up mis-targeted advertisements for “Miracle Ointment” for their burning sensations, when all they were writing about was burning sensational lasagna.
“Your email is your business. Google makes it theirs. Microsoft Office 365,” the ad concludes. It’s actually been in the can for over half-a-year, as ZDNet obtained a leak of the ad in July 2011.
The ad has not been received well on Microsoft’s Facebook Page, where, at the time of this post, the majority of the 200 plus commentators have defended Gmail and instead begun bashing Microsoft’s Hotmail.
“Gmail works better than all the email clients Microsoft has tried to build over the years,” wrote one commentator.
“Gmail and Google Apps are the best web services for businesses,” wrote another. “So Microshit is trying to make popular hotmail through criticising Gmail ? C`mon….”
Google, for its part, has also not taking the new advertising campaign lying down. In response to the print ads, on Wednesday afternoon, Google policy manager Betsy Masiello posted an entry on the Google Public Policy blog attempting to debunk what she said were “myths about our approach to privacy.” Five of the seven “myths” come from Microsoft.
As Masiello wrote:
As for which company’s claims are actually correct, that’s something of a matter of interpretation. However, Search Engine Land’s search guru Danny Sullivan did a thorough line-by-line fact check on the claims of the Google rebuttal and concluded: “Short story? They both seem about the same on the privacy front.”
More to the point, Google and Microsoft have (along with Yahoo) were all accused in 2010 of violating European data privacy laws with their search engines by retaining users’ IP information for longer than 6 months. All companies have since agreed to delete this data within 6 months.
And Microsoft’s history with privacy has been spotty at best:
Microsoft settled a year-long privacy investigation with the Federal Trade Commission in 2002 following complaints over its “Passport” online password keyring system, which, ironically enough, was designed to allow Microsoft to better track users across multiple products and servers and treat them as “one user.” Sound familiar?
(H/T: The Verge)