Character to be turned into a 'pop icon'

The iconic answer guru behind AskJeeves Inc. is going Hollywood, partnering with Michael Ovitz’s Lynx Technology Group and Artists Management Group to leap from the Web into other media, including starring in his own weekly animated series.

As part of the pact, AMG, Artists Television Group and AMG Animation will act as consultants for Emeryville-based AskJeeves.com to transition Jeeves, who resembles a British butler on the Web, into his own line of books, toys, games, live public appearances and animated Internet and TV shows.

Jeeves already is skedded to bow as the first Internet character to have a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a move that was set up prior to the deal with AMG.

The Ovitz camp is not investing in AskJeeves.com.

The goal is to turn Jeeves into a “pop icon,” a “highly recognizable” personality for children and adults by positioning the character as a “trusted, friendly adviser who is synonymous with exploration, learning and fun,” said Ted Briscoe, senior veep and general manager of the Consumer Question Answering Service at Ask Jeeves.com.

“We’re going to use all opportunities to reinforce a powerful brand and move it into American households,” Briscoe said. “The objective is to build a powerful business through a great identity that heightens awareness and traffic for Ask.com and AJKids.com.”

Through Ask Jeeves.com, Netizens pose questions for Jeeves to answer or use the site to instantly find information, products or services online. The site has been attracting more than 4 million unique users per month.The branding effort could prove lucrative for Ask Jeeves.com, in an industry where brand identity matters most. The character could propel the site into one of the most recognized Internet brands off the Net, similar to portal Yahoo! Inc., which ironically does not have an icon, itself.

“It’s an interesting and challenging opportunity,” Ovitz told Daily Variety. He sees Jeeves becoming a major icon for the Ask Jeeves.com service, similar to the Coca-Cola Co.’s polar bears, which Ovitz helped market while at CAA.

“The common thread among memorable butler characters in film and television like Lurch in ‘The Addams Family’ and Benson in ‘Soap’ is their ability to win the hearts of audiences of all ages,” Ovitz said. “Like so many before him, Jeeves has the potential to grow his fan base and branch out into the many worlds we have to offer in this new age of media.”

A valet named Jeeves was a key character in books by British humorist P.G. Wodehouse.

Ovitz’s Lynx Technology Group is an investment and consulting arm which has invested in ‘Net firms Scour.net, GameSpy Industries, Dimension Music and launched e-tailing site CheckOut.com. Ovitz heads the company with partner Peter Levin, who is in charge of Internet and technology investments.

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