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So What's With Jeeves? He's Glad You Asked

September 21, 2004|Chris Gaither | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Jeeves is a new man. He's lean and tan, the picture of jaunty self-confidence. This guy looks as if he's giving orders, not taking them.

Apparently, the old butler didn't do it.

As Ask Jeeves Inc. introduces new features today for its Internet search engine, the company's iconic answer man has been given a makeover too.

"He's bringing himself into the modern age," said Jim Lanzone, senior vice president of search properties for the Emeryville, Calif.,-based company.

Or put another way, "it's the metrosexual thing," said Courtney Reeser, a managing director with branding firm Landor Associates, which was not involved with the redesign.

Jeeves' new look was orchestrated by his creator, in-house illustrator Marcos Sorensen. It's the butler's first restyling since the company's launch in 1997. (His arms were adjusted slightly in 2000.)

Jeeves has had his hands full since then. The company has rebounded from a near-death experience after the dot-com crash to become the No. 5 online search engine. Among companies that use their own search-engine technology, Ask Jeeves ranks third behind Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.

Besides Jeeves' new look, the nearly 11 million people who visit Ask.com each month will see several technical improvements. The company is unveiling MyJeeves, which lets users save queries and results in folders on the Web. Ask Jeeves executives also are promising more relevant results for many searches and localized content, such as restaurant reviews from Los Angeles-based Citysearch.

But from a marketing perspective, Jeeves' upgrades may be too subtle for most Web users to really notice.

"This is pretty much a haircut," Reeser said.

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