Kayak and the Philanthropist: Bing backlash?

By all early accounts, and granted it is VERY early, Bing is doing well.  The buzz seems strong, the numbers are good, and if nothing else people are taking a look at Bing where they didn’t pay Live Search any mind at all.  But a couple of Bing related events might not be such good news for the new brand, we’ll have to wait and see how they play out.

Wired Magazine is reporting tonight that Kayak.com has sent a letter to Microsoft complaining about the similarities between Bing Travel search and Kayak.  We don’t know enough (read: anything) about copyright law and whether or not Microsoft has anything to worry about here, but the two pages ARE quite similar:

Kayak:

kayak_thumb_6e06cc65 Bing  

Bing:

 bingkayak_thumb_3fafd769 Bing

(note: dates etc are different for the two searches, just wanted to show the UI.  Bing is not returning fares 10x what Kayak returns for the same dates ;) )

The Wired article doesn’t give any particulars on the contents of the letter to Microsoft, but Kayak acknowledged that they had contacted Microsoft:

“We have contacted them through official channels about concerns about the similarities between Bing and Kayak,” Kayak’s chief marketing officer Robert Birge told Wired.com

After the article was published, Whitney Burk from Bing emailed them a response:

“We are discussing the matter with Kayak,” Burk said in emailed statement. “Bing Travel is based on independent development by Microsoft and Farecast.com, which Microsoft acquired in 2008. Any contrary allegations are without merit.”

Slightly less potentially litigious  but perhaps quite a bit more annoying, a number of Twitter users were put off by the latest Bing marketing efforts which apparently took a heavy handed product placement approach to marketing in a new NBC show that aired tonight called “The Philanthropist”.  Here’s a sample of some of the tweets:

These integrated Bing ads in The Philanthropist are gross and not even a little okay, okay?

Okay, I’m weepy over the philanthropist despite the stupid bing insert

I was going to try BING for future searches, but with its obnoxious product placement in the Philanthropist…I am officially boycotting!

Others weren’t quite so put off:

The Philanthropist on NBC has a new type of sponsorship by Microsoft for Bing. Blending show content with paid advertising & logo placment

Bing bringing it big with commercials as addons to the show…u don’t realize at first it’s a commercial on the philanthropist

Microsoft is definitely pushing the boundaries with its Bing advertising. It’s true that even the negative comments are bringing more exposure to the new brand, and maybe that’s the whole idea.