In light of their recent success with the Surface Pro, Microsoft is also making headlines with its anti-Gmail advertising campaign aptly called “Scroogled,” with a tagline, “Have you been scroogled? Try Outlook.com.” An obvious diss to the leading email service at present, scroogle is a portmanteau of the words screw and Google, implying that after all this years, Google’s email service had been screwing us all along. So, what’s the beef? Microsoft’s ad campaign claims that Google goes through every word in every email just to know what ads they can use to target the user. To simplify, the campaign claims that Google reads through all our emails to sell ads.
The initial reaction
For the uninitiated, knowing that someone else is going through your email is like knowing someone has been rummaging through your trash—creepy and disconcerting. The Scroogled campaign can really catch the attention of those who doesn’t know how Gmail works, especially if they think that the big G has been doing this behind their backs. But for those who’ve stayed with the service ever since it was on “invite only” basis, it’s easy to know that Google openly states that they’re really doing this, and that users can opt out of these ad-targeting feature. What the Scroogled ad tells us about the alleged underhanded antics of Gmail is that we should learn more about the services that we’re using, and if we’re not really keen on sharing any information, then we should find an alternate course of action.
What goes around, comes around: possible backlash
The Scroogled ad campaign is a perfect example of FUD advertising. FUD, or fear, uncertainty and doubt, appeals to the consumers’ psyche to incite a negative reaction on a competing service, in this case, Gmail. But Gmail’s successful run and its openness about its ad targeting features (and the ability to opt out of such feature) discredits the Scroogled campaign. After all, y
ou’ll only feel screwed if you’ve found the email service unsatisfactory, and if it had brought you harm after years of usage. No one is crying foul over Google’s practices because no one feels that the email service is ruining their experience. The negative ad campaign approach could effectively add fuel to the fire; unfortunately, Gmail has not burned anything yet.
Because of the Scroogled ad campaign, Microsoft is being called out for its claims. Pundits are wondering why the Redmond tech giant resorted to mudslinging instead of making a name for its own product? No one really knows exactly why they did so, but it appears that the Scroogled ad campaign is their way of introducing an alternative to Google’s Gmail. But, is Microsoft wrong for attempting to discredit Gmail instead of highlighting some of the better features of Outlook.com?
Microsoft can freely do whatever they like when it comes to advertising their product, even if it comes down to a smear campaign against their toughest competitor. After all, Microsoft has been in the receiving end of a similar campaign several years ago (and even at present, on some occasions). Apple’s Mac vs. PC campaign is well known for pitting the Cupertino-based company’s flagship computer to a typical PC, juxtaposing their strengths to the weaknesses of a machine running on Microsoft Windows. People loved these advertisements, and no one really cried foul on Apple’s brand of FUD advertising.
There are innovations that really paved the way for better things in the future. The Internet opened the doors to wireless connectivity, mobile computing, VoIP, and many others. Microsoft’s PC could technically be considered as the predecessor of advanced Apple computers. When we take that perspective and apply it to email services, Gmail possibly paved the way for better browsers, and Microsoft is just taking advantage of its name to promote its product. Tech is a dog-eat-dog world, and we can expect to see more of these occurrences in the near future.