Yahoo has always seemed like such a nice place. The sort of place where, if you happened upon it by chance, the inhabitants would sit you down, give you a cup of tea and a cookie, and ask you what brought you to its parts. They'd even ask you how to pronounce your name.
So how odd and strangely refreshing to see Yahoo roll up a little ball of competitive spit and blow it in the direction of Google.
In a new video described by public-relations firm DKC as "possible creative for Yahoo's upcoming campaign," Yahoo suggests that Google has it all wrong. Home pages aren't for being dull and lifeless. They aren't for sending people on their way as quickly as possible. They're for being your all-purpose online bedside table. You know, the one where you keep your aftershave, your eyebrow pencil, your deodorant, several books, your nasal hair remover, your BlackBerry (office issue), your iPhone (personal use) and your various medicines and loose change.
Naturally, I paraphrase. For the tagline of this new spot, posted to the Yahoo Yodel Anecdotal blog, is, "Your favorite stuff all in one place. Make Yahoo your home page."
What a thoughtful strategy this is, albeit one that is being pursued by Facebook with all the straightforwardness and vigor of a direct-mail lawyer.
Perhaps the highlight of this piece is the part when a home page that looks mightily like that of Google (sans the Google logo) is accompanied by the words: "When you look at this home page, nothing looks back at you. You come to this place so you can leave."
Yahoo contrasts this with its own approach. It claims that Yahoo "doesn't hustle you out the door. It's a place that gets to know you, a place that finds things for you." How true. There are so many for whom the clean, simple, welcoming design of Yahoo is the home for news of sports, finance, and other vital things.
"Yahoo's mission now is to convince consumers that Yahoo is the place where you go to navigate the entire Web," Jeff Goodby, the co-founder of the ad agency responsible for this piece, told The Wall Street Journal.
This is a worthy quest. But one only wishes that it could be presented in a manner that was just slightly less redolent of a large cup of chamomile.
Watching little Scrabble-like tiles with logos on them waft across the screen merely suggests a small wardrobe change for some of these poor logos after their shoot for a Windows Mobile campaign of late last year.
I know there will be some who might wish that if the idea was to present a serious contrast between Yahoo and Google, there might have been a slightly greater attempt to create a little more, well, drama. As it is, this may feel like little more than a small child tweaking its great uncle's bottom.
Update, Thursday at 2:20 p.m. PDT: Public-relations firm DKC says "the featured video is not a TV commercial...It will only exist on the Yahoo Yodel Anecdotal blog." This has been clarified.