Lycos, Inc.

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Lycos, Inc.

100 5th Ave.
Waltham, Massachusetts 02451
Telephone: (781) 370-2700
Fax: (781) 370-3415
Web site:



Lycos, Inc. was founded in June 1995 and quickly grew into a vast Internet hub with services that included a search engine, comprehensive directories, personal home pages, E-mail, communities, and shopping functions. To help spur its growth, the company hired New York agency Bozell Worldwide to create an advertising campaign. The "Go Get It" campaign, which had the goal of attracting both new and experienced Internet users to visit, made its debut in November 1998 and continued into 1999. The $25 million campaign included television and print advertising.

In "Quick and Easy," the only 30-second spot in the campaign, a man showed a drawing to a black retriever and shouted, "Lycos, go get it!" The dog zoomed off and quickly returned with a frogman's flippers. The man showed Lycos another drawing, and this time he returned pulling a yellow sports car with his teeth. The voice-over said, "Unleash the new Lycos, and the Internet is at your command. So no matter what you're looking to retrieve, Lycos will hunt it down quicker and easier." In the final scene Lycos was shown a picture of fashion model Claudia Schiffer. The dog streaked off again, and viewers heard the voice of a woman saying, "Hi, I'm Claudia," as the Lycos logo appeared with its search button labeled "Go Get It."

The campaign included a 15-second version of "Quick and Easy" and two additional 15-second spots. In "Dinosaur" Lycos sped off in a black streak and returned with the skeleton of a dinosaur. A computer showed the Lycos search engine screen with the word "dinosaur" in the window. After the word changed to "investments," the spot ended with the company logo and search command key. The viewer heard the sound of coins and a voice saying, "Jackpot!" The other spot, "Earthquake," showed Lycos coming back apparently without anything until the scene shook, a rumble was heard, and a switch to the search engine screen revealed that the word being searched for was "earthquake." Next the word changed to "hockey," and the spot concluded with sounds of a stadium crowd and the voice-over saying, "Nice shot!"

A full-page print ad showed a stylized version of the dog, with one paw help up in an attentive, here-to-serve-you pose. Below appeared the headline "Now the fastest retriever in cyberspace." The ad copy read, "No matter what you're searching for on the Internet, from biographies to body piercing, you'll find it faster and easier when you unleash the new Lycos. All you have to do is log on to the Internet and say, 'Lycos, Go get it!'" The ad ended with the company logo, website address, and yellow search command key with the words "Go Get It!" in blue.


Jan Robert Horsfall, vice president of marketing for Lycos, said that the name came from a Latin word for a particular type of spider. Unlike most spiders, this one did not use a web to trap prey but instead left its web to hunt. The spider's unique approach and its aggressiveness fit the Lycos style.

In 1995 Lycos became one of the first companies to provide in-depth search services on the World Wide Web. Lycos became a publicly traded company on Nasdaq just 10 months after it was founded, making it the youngest company ever to go public. To grow, the company decided to expand by offering full services, with the aim of becoming one of the major destinations on the Web.

In early 1998 only 20 percent of Web users visited Lycos, but by the end of 1998 it was one of the most popular hubs on the Internet. A major reason for the growth was that Lycos bought up a stable of Internet properties. By 1999 it had built a network of linked sites that included Tripod, Who Where, Angelfire, MailCity, HotBot, HotWired, Wired News, Webmonkey,, and Lycos had evolved from a search engine into an Internet hub that people could use not just to find something but also to chat, shop, send and receive E-mail, get news, and more.


"Go Get It" aimed to attract both people who were new to the Internet and those who used other search engines. It also sought people who had not used the Internet but were considering doing so. Lycos kept an eye on category leader Yahoo! and, as it gained audience size and market share, was quick to compare itself to the larger company.


In April 1996 Yahoo! launched its "Do You Yahoo!?" campaign in the New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles markets. The $5 million television, radio and print campaign first aired on TV programs such as Saturday Night Live, Star Trek, Seinfeld, The X-Files, and Late Night with David Letterman. "Do You Yahoo!?" sought to convey both the benefits of getting on the Web and the irreverence and fun of the Yahoo! service. A 1997 spot, for example, poked fun at a young man's attempts to cover his baldness with a few remaining, lonely strands of hair. After conducting an Internet search, he was shown confidently bouncing down a busy street and turning heads with a bushy, three-foot-high Afro. Through 1998 Yahoo! remained the category leader, with the most recognized name and highly valued property on the Internet.

In July 1998 the NBC-owned portal Snap! began a campaign with the tag line "Don't suffer from information overload. Snap! out of it." One Snap! ad centered on a hearing-impaired boy who signed good-bye to his mother as he boarded the school bus. A classmate who witnessed the incident went on-line to look up sign language, and the next day he introduced himself using the signs he had learned on the Web.

Another competitor, Excite, which boasted strong search features, was the Web page for buyers of Dell computers. In October 1996 Excite introduced a $10 million campaign from Foote, Cone & Belding that featured the Jimi Hendrix song "Are You Experienced?" In December 1998 Excite premiered a new network and cable television campaign. Six 30-second ads showed people botching common activities in embarrassing, humorous ways. One spot told viewers that the woman pictured could send photographs to friends around the world using Excite. She then walked through a screen door she had just closed. In another spot a man was all thumbs as he installed an air conditioner, only to watch it plummet from his window. The spots ended with the suggestion that, if these people can use Excite, "you can too."

By 1998 the competition for Lycos had broadened beyond other search engines and portals to include major on-line services such as America Online (AOL) and Microsoft. The latter was spending $61 million on television ads built around the theme "Where do you want to go today?" Trying to outduel Microsoft, AOL spent $66 million on television advertising. AOL, with billions in Internet user fees, 15 million subscribers, and the longest track record as a content aggregator, had distinct advantages.


Lycos positioned itself as a network. Its mantra was that users could go to Lycos and find anything they wanted. The company differed from Yahoo! in that it did not put all of its properties under the same brand identity. Instead, Lycos built a system of distinct yet interrelated Internet services. According to an article in the Boston Globe, Lycos chief executive Bob Davis credited this cross-linking of sites for much of the company's rapid growth. Bo Peabody, a Lycos vice president and founder of the Internet community site Tripod, said, "We decided the best way to catch Yahoo! was to pursue a network of branded sites, rather than one megasite." The theory was to get people to use Lycos for its search capabilities and then to keep them there for the free Web pages. "This is the whole point about multiple brands. We don't care if we lose the user if they come to someplace we own," said Peabody.


A Lycos news release in June 1999 showed that the audience for the portal had grown dramatically during the period from May 1998 to May 1999. Lycos had grown in audience reach from 39.4 to 48.4, an increase of almost 23 percent. Even though it remained the largest portal, the audience reach for Yahoo! had decreased 4.5 percent, from 53 to 50.6. Excite had an even more dramatic drop, of 16 percent, in audience reach, from 33.1 to 27.8.

Every Lycos site had links to the others woven into its fabric. From anywhere in the network a person could search the Lycos index. At the bottom of every Lycos search page viewers had the choice to run the same search on HotBot, another Lycos property that appealed to more experienced surfers. Viewers could not miss the many offers to sign up for free E-mail, do on-line shopping, look up phone numbers, or explore another Lycos service.

The company cast its net even wider and broke a written rule that portals only hosted, and did not develop, stores. In December 1998 it launched the Lycos store. This megastore offered a broad selection of consumer items from more than 200 brand name retailers, making Lycos the first major portal site selling directly to consumers.

The wide range of services helped make the "Go Get It" refrain ring true. In the "Go Get It" ads the black Labrador retriever named Lycos found anything the user was looking for and did so at speeds that made the search fun and easy. An earlier campaign had starred a Sherpa mountain guide, but Lycos decided that Sherpas were associated with dangerous situations. Danger might have been appropriate in the early days of the Web, when many users were concerned about getting lost and confused, but by 1998 people no longer viewed the Internet as a forbidding place. Lycos had considered using a bloodhound in the campaign, but focus groups showed that speed and friendliness were not considered traits of a bloodhound.

It was finally decided that a Labrador retriever gave the essential image—friendly, lively, fast, and great at going and getting what the master wanted. "I was worried initially about the dog," said Horsfall in USA Today. "You can bore people by using metaphors that are too basic. But from the first day the ad started airing, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It has given our brand real personality."

Speed, completeness, and fun rang through each spot. The dog found things fast. The items retrieved varied widely, from swimming flippers to investments to hockey to earthquakes. And the humor was evident. After retrieving the swimming gear, for example, the dog paused to shake the water out of his coat. At another point the dog appeared confused until the man realized that the drawing he was showing Lycos was upside down.

The basic theme of the campaign was to show people that there was more on the Web than they realized. Lycos tied the ads and its site together by using its search command key (yellow with the words "Go Get It" in blue) as the campaign tag line and as a signature element in all of the spots.


In November 1998 Business Wire called Lycos's jump in audience reach (percentage of Internet users who touched down on the site) "unparalleled." A week after the campaign launch, Lycos experienced a 41 percent increase in traffic on its home page. Two months into the campaign Davis said that about 50,000 people were signing up for various Lycos Internet services every day, compared with a few hundred a day in early 1998. Lycos attributed much of the increase to the advertising campaign. USA Today, for example, reported that the first commercial was popular with consumers, with 22 percent of people who had seen it several times saying that they liked it "a lot."

On May 18, 1999, Lycos reported that revenues for the preceding quarter had been $35.1 million. This was a 132 percent increase over the comparable period from the previous fiscal year and a 15 percent increase over the quarter ending January 31, 1999.


Bray, Hiawatha. "Eyes Are the Prize: For Now a Transformed Lycos Looks to Boost Its Profile Not Profits, As It Seeks to Become a Destination for Net Users." Boston Globe, January 17, 1999, p. H1.

"Lycos Network Audience Reach Soars to 44.5%." Business Wire, November 18, 1998.

"The Lycos Network Launches First-of-a-Kind Program to Distribute Its Traffic-Building Services." Business Wire, December 13, 1998.

Reidy, Chris. "Lycos Unleashes $25 Million Ad Campaign." Boston Globe, November 2, 1998, p. B8.

Sparta, Christine. "Lovable Lab Takes Lycos Places." USA Today, May 3, 1999, p. B11.

                              Chris John Amorosino