Feb. 7, 2013 — -- "We don't go through your emails to sell ads," a narrator says in Microsoft's latest "Scroogled" advertisement. That's the thrust of Microsoft's second major advertising offensive against Google.
A year ago Microsoft launched a Scroogled campaign attacking Google's growing Google Docs word-processing service. With a corny song and character named Googen Apperson, Microsoft said that in comparison to its own Microsoft Office programs, Google Docs were unreliable and dependent on an Internet connection.
Now Microsoft is trying to attract users to its Outlook.com email service, which it says beats Google's popular Gmail.
"Google goes through every Gmail that's sent or received, looking for keywords so they can target Gmail with paid ads. And there's no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy," Microsoft's Scroogled.com site says. "Outlook.com is different -- we don't go through your email to sell ads," Microsoft goes on to state on that site.
Microsoft has also started a petition on thepetitionsite.com, urging people to ask Google to "stop going through your emails to sell ads." The petition, which was put up today, has garnered over 1,000 signatures. It has a goal of 25,000. Microsoft claims that 88 percent of Americans disapprove of email services that scan your messages to target ads.
Google has fed ads to users, based on what it sees in their inboxes, since 2004. "If you've recently received a lot of messages about photography or cameras, a deal from a local camera store might be interesting," Google says on its "Ads in Gmail" page. The ad targeting is automated (a Google employee isn't sitting there reading your emails).
Google, reached by ABC News, said its advertising allows many of its services to be free. "Advertising keeps Google and many of the websites and services Google offers free of charge," Samantha Smith, a Google spokesperson, told ABC News. "We work hard to make sure that ads are safe, unobtrusive and relevant."
Microsoft points out that you cannot opt out of the advertising in Gmail. However, you can use the HTML view or use another email client with your account so you don't have to see the ads -- or you can pay for an ad-free Google Apps account for $50 a year.
Of course, the big point here is that Microsoft says it doesn't do this in its Outlook.com webmail offering. When Outlook was introduced in July 2012, Microsoft highlighted that as one of the major differentiators for the service.
"We don't think personal conversations should be advertised against," Chris Jones, head of Microsoft's Windows Live Group, told ABC News at the time the service was released.
But while Microsoft does not feed ads to users directly on their email messages, it does show ads on the Outlook.com inbox page. Microsoft told ABC News that it does not sell or target ads based on subject lines in emails, however. It said its ads are based on broad demographic information -- including gender, age, and ZIP code -- that users provide when they sign up.
Microsoft's new advertisements are viewable at Scroogled.com.