Microsoft’s last blitz of anti-Google attack ads, which coined the curious portmanteau “Scroogled,” didn’t do much to alter the landscape of the web search market. But today, Microsoft is bringing back its negative ads while refocusing them on Google’s email service, Gmail, which may be a more promising line of attack.
This latest campaign promotes Microsoft’s Outlook.com—its new web-based email service and a replacement for the once-dominant Hotmail—by raising alarm over privacy. Specifically, Microsoft is highlighting Gmail’s practice of scanning the text of users’ emails to serve targeted advertising. “Your email is nobody else’s business,” says Microsoft on the website for its campaign. “But Google makes it their business.”
Microsoft’s first wave of attack ads focused on the integrity of Google’s search results. But since the ads debuted, in November, Google’s take of the search market actually increased, to 83.4%.
Given that the market for web-based email is far more evenly divided than the search market, going after Gmail makes a lot more sense for Microsoft.
Gmail only recently became the biggest webmail service by number of users, surpassing Microsoft’s Hotmail in November. According to ComScore, Gmail has 287.9 million users, Hotmail has 286.2 million, and Yahoo has 281.7 million. (In the US, Yahoo actually leads the other two services with 76.7 million users.) Microsoft has a far better chance of taking back its email lead with a revamped Outlook than it ever had of reclaiming the search market.