Thanksgiving Turkey, Image Search, and Missed Opportunities

Thanksgiving is a major holiday for my family. With the first changes of color in the foliage, I begin the counting the weeks until the family gathers at my cousin’s for this event. So, with Thanksgiving less than a week away, I decided to share my mounting enthusiasm with one of my siblings by sending a note with a picture of what I hoped would be a gorgeous roasted turkey. I fully expected that finding such an image would be as simple as firing up my browser turning to either Google or Yahoo image search and selecting a choice roasted turkey. To my surprise this was not to be.

Here is what I found when I went turkey tracking. An image search for “turkey” at both Google and Yahoo! yielded differing, but unsatisfactory results. Google’s included live turkeys, some turkey humor, maps and images of the country Turkey, but no succulent roast turkeys on page 1. On page 1 of the image search results Yahoo! had a number of live gobblers, no maps, some images of Turkey and Turkish people, and lone image of a roast turkey – not quite what I had in mind. Both search engines suggested that I narrow my search to include “Thanksgiving turkey.” I took the suggestion, and the results were somewhat better. Google offered up more turkey clip art and a few images of roasted turkeys. Yahoo! had similar results.

As I reviewed the results, I got to thinking – a dangerous activity – where are the large purveyors of turkeys? Why are there no images from Butterball or Perdue, two large poultry producers or even the food magazines that every year have many gorgeous images of roasted turkeys within their covers? I thought initially that my mistake was not searching correctly so I gave image search another try using “butterball turkey” and “perdue turkey.”

Now we’re cooking, I thought. The results in Yahoo! for “butterball turkey” were short on images of cooked turkeys, long on displays of the logo. There were also disturbing images of maimed and dead (not in grocery settings) turkeys and images chronicling a turkey “offal to oil” initiative. With Yahoo! it wasn’t until the second page of results that a search for “butterball” turkey yielded a beautiful cooked turkey.

A search for “perdue turkey netted on Google netted a wide variety of images including some appetizing pictures of turkey sandwiches. On Yahoo! the results were startling, for I could have filled a grocery bag with raw turkey parts in neat packages, but no beauty shots of roast turkey.

Still not satisfied, I made one last try using “roast turkey” as my image search term. Google offered up lots of images of roasted turkeys, but curiously not a single one on the first page was from a turkey producer or packer. On Yahoo! there were lots of roasted turkeys some with a more homey touch since they were from Flickr, but again not a single one on the first page from a turkey producer.

Just to get a rounded picture I searched for “thanksgiving turkey” in the main “web results” pages for Yahoo! and Google. Lo and behold, Google offered a lovely cooked turkey, from a family advice site, not a turkey producer. Yahoo! had turkey clip art but no roasted turkey.

Is this a missed opportunity? Surely, I am not the only person searching for a beauty shot of a roasted turkey? Were my searches that defective? My persistence at least should have been more easily rewarded. I even took the help that the search engines offered. I’m left with the conclusion that image search has been neglected. A visit to the turkey sites reveals very sophisticated marketing programs for assisting the consumer in preparing the ritual bird. There are hotlines, chat rooms and podcasts, but alas, lowly image search appears to be overlooked. With the advent of universal search, businesses must be found in all the right places. (Note: this is the title of the workshop that I will be giving at SES Chicago along with Greg Jarboe.)

Oh! When all was said and done, I decided not to send a beauty shot, but instead to go with the image of the roasted turkey in a bikini – an effect that can be achieved with creative use of foil and the tanning effects of oven roasting.

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