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Microsoft turns Scroogled into 'Schoolgled' in new anti-Google attack ad

Gregg Keizer | Aug. 22, 2013
Picks up the pace with today's offensive less than two weeks after the last.

Microsoft today stepped up the pace of its "Scroogled" attack ads, launching a new one just 12 days after the last.

The latest wave in the Scroogled campaign, timed to coordinate with the announcement of "Bing for Schools," slammed the Google search engine's practice of placing advertisements on results pages.

As an alternative, Microsoft has offered schools an ad-free version of its Bing search engine and let parents apply Bing Rewards credits -- earned for using the company's search service -- to schools, which can redeem them for free Surface RT tablets.

In conjunction with the official launch of Bing for Schools, Microsoft kicked off another round of Scroogled.

"When students use Google for searches in school, they are shown ads that can distract from their studies," Microsoft argued on the Scroogled website.

Along with the usual blizzard of marketing copy and statistics, Microsoft posted examples of the likely ad placements on Google for searches of "chemistry" and "stock market," then compared them to ad-free pages on Bing.

A 30-second television spot was also planted on the page. In the ad, a teenager boasts that she learned about "how to refinance my mortgage" and "how to get a deal on vitamin supplements" while researching ancient Mesopotamia on Google.

Microsoft has been attacking various parts of Google's ecosystem since November 2012, but today's school-oriented ad was notable because it followed the previous by less than two weeks.

Earlier Scroogled campaigns ran much further apart. Microsoft launched the third attack two months after the second, and the fourth four months after the third.

Microsoft pulled out a new trick for the schools-are-Scroogled campaign, too; it offered parents a sample script to use when calling their children's school district CIO, and a sample letter to send to its technology coordinator, expressing their displeasure with Google and advocating for Bing.

"Well it is really important to me that my SON/DAUGHTER has a safer, ad-free experience with enhanced privacy protections at school and I know Google doesn't offer one and Bing does," the phone-in script read.

"Advertisements in the search experience can be distracting for our students, and Google search continues to show them in the school context," the stock letter stated.

The script and letter were new examples of what one expert has called advocacy tactics in the Scroogled project. Advocacy initiatives, like those used in political or activist campaigns, often include boilerplate letters that voters can send to their legislators, and simple calling scripts to use when phoning in an opinion.

Microsoft's advocacy angle likely stemmed from Mark Penn, a longtime political and media strategist, who was hired by Microsoft in mid-2012 to head a strategic special projects group. Penn, who worked as an adviser to former President Bill Clinton during his administration and on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign, has been credited with creating Scroogled.


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